Anthony J. Pennings, PhD

WRITINGS ON DIGITAL STRATEGIES, ICT ECONOMICS, AND GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS

Diamonds are a World’s Best Friend? Carbon Capture and Cryptocurrency Blockchains

Posted on | August 12, 2021 | No Comments

Are we ready for the age of diamonds? Instead of mining gold or even Bitcoin, why not use diamonds from carbon recaptured from the atmosphere? Instead of “conflict diamonds,” why not have “climate diamonds?”

Can we move to a diamond standard? Can diamonds replace gold and back other currencies? Can this be done in an economical and sustainable process? This post examines the processes of biological carbon sequestration and the manufacture of diamonds that can be used in a fintech environment.

The process of creating “industrial diamonds” is well established and has produced impressive results. Diamonds can be “grown” using small ones as seeds and adding to the crystalline structure in two ways. One is using superheated “greenhouses” with pressurized methane and hydrogen. Another uses CVD (Carbon Vapor Deposition), a low pressure, vacuum-based system, that uses heat or microwaves to bond carbon-rich gasses to the diamond seeds.

I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation about money and standards, so I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot. In Symbolic Economies and the Politics of Global Cyberspaces (1993), I examined the social forces that drive us to the use of general equivalents like money and the forces that establish monetary standardization in a digital environment. So, I’m not entirely convinced of my argument so far, but I want to consider available systems of regenerative agriculture and manufacturing that can be mobilized for making climate diamonds and tie them into newer generation cryptocurrency developments.

I was intrigued by a video from “Have a Think.” It presents an intriguing industrial scenario for growing and using hemp to sequester CO2 from the air and use it to produce several very valuable byproducts, one of which can be be transformed into sparking diamonds. Hemp is controversial due to its connection with THC, a psychoactive substance, but that is only present in certain strains. Hemp has a rich history and was particularly important for ropes needed by the sea-faring ships that relied entirely on wind.

Hemp is a dynamic plant that grows quickly. In the process, it can produce several types of industrial products, including lubricants for cars and wind turbines as well as ingredients for cosmetics, soaps, and printer ink. In addition, they have fiber substances that can make products like cloth, paper, and rope. The seeds have positive nutritional benefits and may be a replacement for soy proteins. It can also be processed to produce biochar, a type of charcoal used for fertilizers, graphene products, and the manufactured diamonds mentioned extensively in this post.

Agriculture is going through a technological transformation, with increased use of big data, hydroponics, and robotics. Hydroponics are a way of growing plants on a water-based medium in a protective environment. Hemp farms can remove significant amounts of carbon dioxide (C02) from the air and produce the oils and fibers mentioned above in a clean and economical way. Biological carbon sequestering is probably better then geologic sequestration that injects carbon into underground porous rock formations. Both may be necessary for reducing climate threats, but it is better done by plants that can produce many valuable byproducts.

Can we create a new monetary standard based on climate diamonds? Is it feasible? Is that something we want to do? Globally, we have been on an information standard since the 1970s, anchored by the strength of the US dollar and hedged by multiple financial instruments worldwide. The new diamond market will likely grow within the cryptocurrency environment.

Much of this depends on the future of cryptocurrency platforms and the digital ledger systems that are emerging in new generations. Cardona’s blockchain platform, for example, is evolving to create a peer-to-peer transactional system to trade many types of value like labor and portions of investment vehicles like houses, labor, art, etc. Imagine, for example, going to Home Depot and buying your gardening supplies with informational “deeds” to fractions of your car, your house, your future work, or your diamonds. Diamonds are likely to be another “value” in a chain of intersecting commodities classified on blockchain with dynamic pricing and smart contracts.

Diamonds have utility based on their beauty but also their durability and strength. Most notable is their sparkling effervescence that makes jewelry treasured symbols of relationship and commitment. Their crystalline structure is used in high-tech products like audio speakers as they can vibrate rapidly without affecting or deforming sound quality. Their high heat and voltage tolerance make diamond-based microprocessors an increasingly viable component of digital technologies.

Their hardness also makes them extremely valuable for drill bits. They have practical uses in delicate drilling for art, dentistry, and manufacturing. With a melting point of around 3550 degrees Celsius, they have the durability to drill industrial metals, geothermal wells, and underground tunnels.

Diamonds can also be money. They are portable, durable, measurable, and difficult to counterfeit. For diamonds, size matters, although color and clarity matter as well. Bigger is better and they pack a lot more value per size than gold. Gold has higher storage costs that quickly eat up any profit gains from their appreciated prices. Granted, neither diamonds or gold are generally used as currency, primarily because they lack acceptability by merchants and interoperability between financial systems. Try cashing in your diamonds at Home Depot.

That is why the cryptocurrency environment is the most likely solution to that problem, barring an economic collapse. While the dollar is going digital, officially known as CDBC (Central Bank Digital Currency), it will not be replaced by Bitcoin or other “cryptocurrencies” like Ethereum and Litecoin. Instead, other “values” will line up in relation to the dollar. The Fed will regulate but protect crypto-currencies because it knows that the financial system wants to trade anything, anywhere, anytime. So cryptocurrencies will survive, and diamonds will find their place within their ethereal blockchained cyberspace. In the future, who knows?

This is an exploratory essay stimulated by the “Have a Think” video but also shaped by my interest in fintech, monetary policy, and cryptocurrencies. The reintroduction of hemp in the modern economy and its potential for absorbing carbon dioxide can be a powerful addition to the global economy. It’s not entirely about taking the CO2 out of the air and bonding the carbon to diamonds. Rather, I am hopeful that the green manufacturing of diamonds will help incentivize and stimulate an industrial process with multiple benefits for the economy and the environment.

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AnthonybwAnthony J. Pennings, PhD is Professor at the Department of Technology and Society, State University of New York, Korea. Before joining SUNY, he taught at Hannam University in South Korea and from 2002-2012 was on the faculty of New York University. Previously, he taught at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas, Marist College in New York, and Victoria University in New Zealand. He has also spent time as a Fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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  • About Me

    Professor at State University of New York (SUNY) Korea since 2016. Moved to Austin, Texas in August 2012 to join the Digital Media Management program at St. Edwards University. Spent the previous decade on the faculty at New York University teaching and researching information systems, digital economics, and strategic communications.

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