The article, by Learning Economy's cofounders, was the cover story for the 2018 Diplomatic Courier UNGA magazine.
Published with permission.
Cryptocurrency is ripe for mass adoption, but the complex blockchain story—the technology under the hood that no one needs to know—has hidden this revolutionary movement from the masses. Most people don’t understand any of it, but that doesn’t stop the endless curiosity.
Language is at the root of all this. It always has been.
Language is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. It was the first global currency and mass common agreement. It gave us enough value to form nations and universities and relationships.
Then, around the turn of the millennia, language gave us code, followed by the many digital mysteries that keep all of us up at night (I assume since you’re reading this).
Cue the train of progress...
Then in 2008, when the mysterious and anonymous Nakamoto published their masterpiece white paper, it gave us a new language of decentralized mathematics and calculations. It represented what could be a polar shift in market economies, immersed in an ethos that values great ideas, privacy, and common good.
ENTER BLOCKCHAIN & CRYPTOCURRENCY.
Bitcoin was the first; the pioneer. It shifted the paradigm of money by showing that common agreement is the central mechanism that creates value for a currency and the economy it supports. It proved that ordinary people could take back control of the market economy.
This was all that was needed to compel the world’s developers and academics into a global movement. But for the rest of the world who don’t speak in computer code and economic models, it is still a foreign language.
What was missing in those early days was simple language to synthesize this revolution for the rest of the world. When the masses understand all this, it will be a tectonic shift toward a global commonwealth. The key to this complex language challenge is to understand something curious about gold.
Gold has value because we collectively believe in its worth.
Even national currencies once backed by assets like gold still follow a similar function. Why is gold valuable enough to guarantee a national economy? Why not trees, or pearls, or cats? Yes, gold is a rare precious metal, but what about rare animals? Or rare plants? You could say it’s for its energy properties, but we didn’t know about those until thousands of years after kings lorded gold over their subjects and everyone drooled for it.
So, why does gold have value? It’s an emotional choice more so than anything. Gold is shiny and pretty, it blings. Gold has value because we all agree it has value.
The same was true with Bitcoin.
It took Bitcoin several years to earn enough support to create a semi-stable market, and while it can still be volatile at times and only backed by common agreement, the Bitcoin market has leveled out to support an economy of more than $100 billion.
But maybe Bitcoin was only Satoshi Nakamoto’s seed?
After a spike that began in late 2017 then eventually capped at more than $300 billion, with each Bitcoin priced at nearly $20k each, the market settled and plateaued around$6.5k per coin. This market spike gave the world a shiny new meme that communicated in living color across the global buzz waves what mass agreement is capable of producing.
Overnight, people made millions and billions off of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Even though it was short lived, this mass event showed us what a mature crypto-economy could become if everyone sustainably agreed to buy and trade one specific coin.
But why agree to buy one coin over the other?
We’ve now reached the value crescendo, the point in the story where Ethereum enters the mythology of blockchain lore.
Vitalik Buterin published Ethereum’s white paper a few years after Nakamoto's, and we learned about the codex-like language of smart contracts and decentralized apps that run on the blockchain. We learned that this privacy and people-centered movement was about more than just currency, that there was a second side to the cryptocoin— its utility.
We learned that great cryptomarkets need value.
And so now we are getting somewhere; we are starting to learn the mechanism that can create lasting market stability. Value.
Ethereum’s coin and its platform support a market of blockchain apps, tools and developers, meaning its value is more than just supply and demand like Bitcoin. It pays for something meaningful and contributes to society. This innovative philosophy—that cryptomarkets should be backed by a utility value—was a major catalyst for the great cryptocurrency surge around the first of 2018. Ethereum’s economy peaked at more than $100 billion then settled at around $40 billion. It paved the way for a second wave of utility backed cryptocurrency economies like litecoin, NEO, Stratis, etc, and major innovations like EOS.
Much of this market success was due to trusted exchanges like Coinbase arriving and paving the road for scale, by distributing cryptocoins in a simple, user-friendly way the masses could embrace, regardless of their ability to understand the complex inner workings of the blockchain. Because of this accessibility, the world started buying and selling cryptocoins. They joined the movement.
What has followed is a new gold rush. There is a slew of new crypto common agreements—CryptoKitties, Fomo3D, Augur—which are proving the technology works but have only minimal utility value compared to what is possible. This creates a tricky, yet exciting situation.
We are all sifting through digital pans for gold in the blockchain river of the new world.
Which brings us to today and our position. Common agreement can create shared value, as demonstrated by our impressive ability to create communities of interest around digital cats, internet memes, and prediction markets. But, mass agreement— the kind of force which changes the direction of history—emerges from deep, transcendental values we all share. Values which dollar signs and gold can’t capture. It’s time for a revolution in how we represent, exchange, and understand value.
We can now see both sides of the cryptocoin.
The Learning Economy builds on this evolution of value by awarding regulated Learn Coins to people imbibing in the vast ecosystem of learning, knowledge, and wisdom available on the internet and in classrooms. Education is a foundational and globally agreed upon human value—now and forever. We believe a blockchain economy backed by this new gold standard could support a massive long lasting cryptomarket.
If we back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, we can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket.
If we all join in agreement that education is the new gold standard, together we can create a global commonwealth market that awards people of all ages and circumstances to learn, teachers to create substantive courses and stewards to help grow the new Learning Economy.