Cryptocurrencies, Global Governance, and Our Collective Future

A cryptocurrency tied to world democracy, sustainability and poverty alleviation could save the world. The bitcoin rise decentralizes power and represents a shift in loyalties from governments to technology. Millennial enthusiasm for virtual currencies and the upcoming $30 trillion intergenerational wealth transfer could make a major shift possible. Change may be inevitable, the question is how painful or beneficial it will be.

Government fiat currencies are problematic when mismanaged or controlled by corrupt leaders. Cryptocurrencies are problematic when used by criminals. These two systems – governments and blockchains – could work together and we may need them to. Our system of global governance suffers from a democratic deficit and is failing. The UN has limited power, the Paris climate agreement is unenforceable and we have an accountability vacuum that permits carbon emissions to rise, putting us all at risk. We need new systems.

Let’s imagine a theoretical cryptocurrency called the World Future Coin, backed by a new system of global governance based on the Internet. Why the Internet and not the UN? Some conflicts do not see justice in the UN, while the Internet has an effective and functional form of governance. Some contested territories, for example, are not recognized by the UN but are granted domain names.

In the Future Coin system every human being could be granted an online Future Coin account, with citizenship, a passport, and financial assets, as a birthright. Partnerships with Aardhaar, Facebook and others together with in-phone cameras could capture biographic and biometric information to recognize unique individuals and prevent fraud. Users could vote in global elections and referendums using the Future Coin blockchain to guarantee security. As the Future Coin currency and passport grow to become global standards, asset seizure and cross-border travel prevention could serve as a new basis for international law enforcement.

The opportunity to create a new system of economic value is real. Cryptocurrency entrepreneurship is a form of wealth creation unlike anything seen before. Valuations are driven by speculation and the story behind each coin. A new coin with a good story can become very profitable. One cryptocurrency rose from $200 million to $150 billion in a year. As a system for global citizenship and finance the Future Coin could do even better. It could offer to pay for the education of needy citizens through participating online schools. It could also pay a guaranteed minimum income each week to all active users in a situation of economic need thereby eliminating extreme poverty. Costs could be recovered by charging a small financial transaction fee for commerce. A loyalty program could incentivize merchants to switch to the Future Coin. Early adopters would receive free coins and select partners would offer customers lower prices if they pay with Future Coins. B Corporations could be taxed less, incentivizing all corporations to go green. The divest-invest movement could accelerate growth.

A new coalition of groups like NEXUS, the World Economic Forum, and online networks could invite members to participate in the ICO, both an Initial Coin Offering and an Initial Citizenship Offering. As a wealth creation process, we could use the opportunity to realign historic injustices and consider our “carbon debt.” The key measuring stick would be how much carbon dioxide nation states, citizens and their ancestors emitted into the atmosphere since the start of the industrial revolution. Indigenous tribes from the Amazon would earn a lot, Americans less. Africans more, Europeans less, etc. After the ICO, an ongoing analysis of fossil fuel extraction and satellite images of forest cover could be measured to govern how many Future Coins to pay out each year to governments, corporations, non-profits and individual citizens. All stakeholders could be financially incentivized to plant more trees, halt unsustainable logging, and keep fossil fuels in the ground.

We would need a constitution. The smart contract system of the Ethereum blockchain could be used to codify policies and make them enforceable. A global consultation process could engage many all over the world. Admired leaders like Malala Yousafzi could be invited to co-chair the process. The Global Challenges Foundation, with its focus on global governance, could rally funders.

One question is how to create democratic structures that don’t polarize. Randomly selected citizen juries could be used to tackle the most thorny issues and a new political process based on the celebration of diversity could fundamentally change the way that we collectively look for answers.

On his deathbed in 1954, Einstein asked a friend to start two projects to help prevent World War III, a “movement” to unite religions and a “world youth parliament,” a system for all young people to have access to and influence on global decision-making. Those who see their stake in the future political welfare of the earth would choose policy instead of violence to solve their problems. If the Future Coin works, perhaps we’ll reduce terrorism as well.