Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve likely been in or heard people discussing the meteoric rise in value of bitcoin/cryptocurrency. You’re also likely now wondering why the topic is being brought up in an education focused blog.
Great question! I was recently in a discussion with Dr. Leroy Chiao, co-founder and CEO of OneOrbit and former commander of the international space station. Dr. Chiao, a STEM education advocate, recently went on record calling cryptocurrency the ‘…currency on the moon and Mars.’ As one of our (Envision’s) STEM enrichment middle school programs has students take on various roles and problem solve the colonization of Mars, it’s interesting to delve one layer deeper than brainstorming ways to ‘simply’ sustain life. Adopting a general use currency, along with other civil systems, would be a requirement in order to effectively build a colony that could thrive 33.9 million miles away (education, criminal justice, etc.) from the nearest financial institution.
During prior waves of colonization on Earth, parent country’s currency (or commonly used precious metals/gems) were used as adequate forms of payment for goods and services. With such an international effort underway to send manned mission(s) into space, to the moon, and to the red planet, no single nation state’s legal tender would likely work as a means of payment.
So again – why call this out in an education blog? Very simply – to engage students in real-(out of this) world problems that their generation will need to wrestle with and ultimately solve for in the 21st century.
Seems like the makings of a great lesson plan in any number of subjects (STEM, history, economics to name just a few). As Dr. Chiao predicts “In the coming years, the current 1,300 or so cryptocurrencies will battle it out, with just a few left standing.” Assuming that’s the case, whether adopting the winner as a universal currency in space or simply as a means for global trade here on Earth, current students will ultimately decide how disruptive innovations like this are adopted and ultimately used.
As educators, it’s our job to start and guide these discussions; building in reference to historical example(s) wherever possible and providing critique of naïve or impulsive thinking. In addition, we should seek to enhance students’ abilities to analyze all aspects of a problem and think critically about effective solution(s) – not simply to pick the easiest or first that comes top of mind.
In the end, our goal should not be to tell students what to think or, worse yet, constrain their thinking but rather to coach, mentor, and develop their skills and abilities so we can feel confident that they will construct effective solutions to challenges (whether they are local, national, global, or even millions of miles away!).