Blockchain: The Future of Money Is Borderless, Autonomous, and Transparent
Imagine a world where governments compete for your citizenships. Bitcoin and Blockchain expert Toni Lane Casserly explains how this technology could anoint people over institutions. How Blockchain Can Empower Migrants and Refugees
Toni Lane Casserly is an American tech entrepreneur, artist and thought leader. She is a Young Star of Bitcoin and the co-founder of CoinTelegraph, the largest media network in the bitcoin and blockchain industries. She is a partner at BitNation.
As a philanthropist, Casserly co-founded Kids Compassion Charity when she funded a village to survive Ebola using bitcoin. As part of this endeavor, she put 14 children through school and has provided 14 orphans with a home.
Casserly currently works toward establishing digital currency economies, mesh internets and peaceful seasteads to help free citizens from the hands of war-torn, oppressive and corrupt leadership while preserving the planet. She serves as an advisor and/or board member to 6+ companies and funds as she simultaneously works in the field of human rights to establish digital currency economies, mesh networks and alternative governance structures in countries ruled by oppressive leaders and corrupt jurisdiction. She has been affectionately entitled “The Joan of Arc of Bitcoin” by her peers and various publications.
In the art sphere, Casserly is a recording artist and the founder of the “immateralism” (post art) movement, where she uses consciousness and lucid dreaming as a medium.
Toni Lane Casserly: We live in a distributed Pangaea. I mean we're all one continent once and what is a border? A border is like someone walking into your house with a can of gas and a gun and setting the can of gas down and looking at you and saying this is my house. And you're like what? Me and my indigenous family have lived here for centuries, like this is our house and colonialism says no, this is my house and if you don't want to go and like warship our deities and all these things then like you have options. And one is the gun, which could be for you, or the other is kick over the can of gas. I can just burn this down and you would have nothing left and then it would be much easier for it to be mine. And I have no capital issues rebuilding it after I destroy it. That's how we created borders. What?
What kind of a world do we live in where that's acceptable? And that still acceptable all over the world today, it's just a generally not as public. But it's nuts. And do I think that we will live in a fully borderless world? That's going to take a lot of change or a lot of time and we'll see what happens with the effects of climate change, which could fundamentally have some massive impacts as far as creating what I would call a civilized refugee crisis. But the way that we're starting to think about living in a borderless world is actually through one of my technologies. And it is founded by Suzanne Tempelhof and I'm a partner in the company it's called Bitnation. And Bitnation is essentially the idea of Facebook for governance or DIY government. And we start out creating a borderless society by actually working on a human rights platform for people who have been disenfranchised. So we use blockchain technology to give refugees a global identity, a one-world citizenship.
And we also do all of the E-identity for the government of Estonia. So we work within systems of government who are interested in using these technologies but in a way that fundamentally empowers every person on earth to exist to have the right to live, to exist and to be and to be recognized. So that's how we're starting this world that has the potential to at least for the time being have more fluid borders. And in the future I personally believe that the idea of government should be market based. People should be able to opt in and to opt out of systems of governance in the ways that they are able to provide for their people. So governments are actually what a concept, competing to be better, to take care of their people more than any other government. That is so deeply humanizing and I think it's absolutely necessary if we are to live in a world that is going to have any kind of autonomous self-governing organization. So yeah, our whole world is creating new holocratic systems of government and we start by giving it to people who need it more than anyone because those people should not be forgotten.
There are so many brilliant things and incredible things that distributed ledger technology can provide for generally the benefit of our entire human race. Like allowing people who are financially disenfranchised to have access to services that they would've never of had before like owning their own land titles, owning their own identity, being able to create contracts without third party interference. And in that way there's so much magic. I mean giving people who live in economies where their currency is so over inflated, and that's just out of their hands and out of their control. If you live in Venezuela, for example, and the exchange rate and the amount of inflation is so high that a bag of flower costs $313, that kind of a technology, distributed ledger, Bitcoin, the Internet of money, that's huge for those people.
And I think the serious cons of this could be, one, that a lot of institutions who are building distributed ledger technology are building in a way that doesn't necessarily expand the way that they're looking at this technology. A lot of people they're spending like millions of dollars building massive Excel spreadsheets not actually blockchains. And I think that's a very current issue. But in the long term if we are living in a world where all of that information is transparent or public and you're never able to delete something that you do and all of that information is not owned by the system that is the technology and you can't mask your identity or have your own privacy and everything you do, every step you take is monitored and held in the hands of a public organization, that's apocalyptically threatening. And I think that we have to make sure that this technology, and honestly based on the ethic and the ideology of which the technology is invented, it's very unlikely that it's going to be able to go in that way because of the impact, the positive benefit that it's actually going to bring to people around the world.
That's genuinely scary for everyone because it's not like you can go in and one person randomly, because they have a position of power, can edit something in or out, that's not how it works. So you have to preserve the integrity of the technology, which is that blockchain technology is borderless, it is voluntary, it is decentralized and it is immutable. And in being immutable it's extremely important that the technology remains pseudo anonymous. Because let's say you're living in an area where you are under the forces of a corrupt and violent government and let's say you are doing something, you are trying to lead a liberation and if you are cataloging your information in a way that is going to be forever capable of being seen and in a way that your identity is not owned by the individual but is owned by an institution, that's terrifying. That is a dystopian future and we cannot live in that kind of a world. So with these kind of technologies you have to realize that we're just at the beginning of what is about to be this balloon and blossom. And this is why it is so important for people to begin to practice and to own their own autonomy in a fundamentally different way.
There's not just one blockchain, and this is the beauty of the blockchain ecosystem is that you have a blockchains like the Bitcoin Blockchain, which fundamentally is like the most secure – it's the original blockchain. And the Bitcoin Blockchain is particularly interesting because the creator of the Bitcoin Blockchain, who goes under the moniker Satoshi Nakamoto, is invisible. And so you have actually from within the system no general singular point of authority. You don't have a benevolent dictator in Bitcoin because the creator, understanding the value system of what he was doing, or she, removed themselves from the project and essentially became invisible to the Internet, dropped off the face of the earth. Satoshi Nakamoto has had one last little bit of communication in 2011 to tell everyone that Dorian Nakamoto, who is this innocent Japanese man that was accused of being Satoshi and all of a sudden was thrown into the media to say that Dorian Nakamoto was not actually Satoshi Nakamoto please stop harassing him people from the press.
And so that's actually the beauty of the Bitcoin Blockchain and the way that it is not only ideologically constructed in practice but in action from the founder. But the Bitcoin Blockchain isn't the only blockchain, in fact there are many blockchains and there will probably be many more blockchains. And it's a healthy robust ecosystem for a lot of these blockchains to have interoperability. For example, there is the Ethereum Blockchain. And Ethereum is primarily used for smart contracts. And you essentially have people that are capable of creating apps like in the Apple App Store, except that those apps can have their own independent crowd sale and can be independently monetized by the people who use those applications and who believe in the ideas. So essentially instead of having a big VC funding around, someone can come in and say I really think that doing a blockchain based prediction market is fascinating and it's something that has only become possible because of blockchain technology. So instead of going adventure route I'm actually going to open up this idea, this technology that I built on the Ethereum platform, which is a blockchain, to the community. And I'm going to allow the community to fund this idea with something like Either, which is the currency of Ethereum. And in doing that we not only have the money to build but people also had the ability to become monetized as they interact on our platform and our system.
And so I think the future for blockchain technology is fundamentally because you have opt in principles it's like would you, if you had the choice, would you opt in to a restricted Internet? No. And so I think that generally people are going to move toward the ideas that inherently and fundamentally give them the most opportunity and the most freedom. But in my personal opinion it's healthy to have this robust ecosystem of ideas where many people can create, and fundamentally and the true nature of this technology being a market based invention people are able to choose. They're able to choose which blockchain provides the best services for them, what matches with their ideology how they believe and how they want to carry out their life. And so fundamentally it's not necessarily - I would like to believe that the wisdom of the crowds will guide us in the right direction for this technology because what is the value of something like this if it is not for the people participating in the system?
As a partner in BitNation and the founder of CoinTelegraph, entrepreneur Toni Lane Casserly is starting to think about a world with more fluid borders. Whether it’s through what she terms a "civilized refugee crisis" as a result of climate change, a refugee crisis as a result of continued war and conflict, or the progression of humanity's mindset (which admittedly will take much longer, if it happens at all), a technology is being cultivated to support such a world: Blockchain.
In the future, Casserly pictures something revolutionary: a market-based government. "People should be able to opt in and to opt out of systems of governance and the ways that they are able to provide for their people. So governments are actually – what a concept – competing to be better, to take care of their people more than any other government." In the video above, Casserly runs through the ways Blockchain and distributed ledger technology can empower individuals who are financially or politically disenfranchised, or whose identity and human rights are infringed upon by the government they were allocated upon the geographical accident of their birth. It’s a beautiful ideology at heart – whether it will fully materialize remains to be seen.
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For some reason, the bodies of deceased monks stay "fresh" for a long time.
It's definitely happening, and it's definitely weird. After the apparent death of some monks, their bodies remain in a meditating position without decaying for an extraordinary length of time, often as long as two or three weeks.
Tibetan Buddhists, who view death as a process rather than an event, might assert that the spirit has not yet finished with the physical body. For them, thukdam begins with a "clear light" meditation that allows the mind to gradually unspool, eventually dissipating into a state of universal consciousness no longer attached to the body. Only at that time is the body free to die.
Whether you believe this or not, it is a fascinating phenomenon: the fact remains that their bodies don't decompose like other bodies. (There have been a handful of other unexplained instances of delayed decomposition elsewhere in the world.)
The scientific inquiry into just what is going on with thukdam has attracted the attention and support of the Dalai Lama, the highest monk in Tibetan Buddhism. He has reportedly been looking for scientists to solve the riddle for about 20 years. He is a supporter of science, writing, "Buddhism and science are not conflicting perspectives on the world, but rather differing approaches to the same end: seeking the truth."
The most serious study of the phenomenon so far is being undertaken by The Thukdam Project of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Healthy Minds. Neuroscientist Richard Davidson is one of the founders of the center and has published hundreds of articles about mindfulness.
Davidson first encountered thukdam after his Tibetan monk friend Geshe Lhundub Sopa died, officially on August 28, 2014. Davidson last saw him five days later: "There was absolutely no change. It was really quite remarkable."
The science so far
Credit: GrafiStart / Adobe Stock
The Thukdam Project published its first annual report this winter. It discussed a recent study in which electroencephalograms failed to detect any brain activity in 13 monks who had practiced thukdam and had been dead for at least 26 hours. Davidson was senior author of the study.
While some might be inclined to say, well, that's that, Davidson sees the research as just a first step on a longer road. Philosopher Evan Thompson, who is not involved in The Thukdam Project, tells Tricycle, "If the thinking was that thukdam is something we can measure in the brain, this study suggests that's not the right place to look."
In any event, the question remains: why are these apparently deceased monks so slow to begin decomposition? While environmental factors can slow or speed up the process a bit, usually decomposition begins about four minutes after death and becomes quite obvious over the course of the next day or so.
As the Dalai Lama said:
"What science finds to be nonexistent we should all accept as nonexistent, but what science merely does not find is a completely different matter. An example is consciousness itself. Although sentient beings, including humans, have experienced consciousness for centuries, we still do not know what consciousness actually is: its complete nature and how it functions."
As thukdam researchers continue to seek a signal of post-mortem consciousness of some sort, it's fair to ask what — and where — consciousness is in the first place. It is a question with which Big Think readers are familiar. We write about new theories all the time: consciousness happens on a quantum level; consciousness is everywhere.
So far, though, says Tibetan medical doctor Tawni Tidwell, also a Thukdam Project member, searches beyond the brain for signs of consciousness have gone nowhere. She is encouraged, however, that a number of Tibetan monks have come to the U.S. for medical knowledge that they can take home. When they arrive back in Tibet, she says, "It's not the Westerners who are doing the measuring and poking and prodding. It's the monastics who trained at Emory."
When Olympic athletes perform dazzling feats of athletic prowess, they are using the same principles of physics that gave birth to stars and planets.
- Much of the beauty of gymnastics comes from the physics principle called the conservation of angular momentum.
- Conservation of angular momentum tells us that when a spinning object changes how its matter is distributed, it changes its rate of spin.
- Conservation of angular momentum links the formation of planets in star-forming clouds to the beauty of a gymnast's spinning dismount from the uneven bars.
It is that time again when we watch in awe as Olympic athletes perform dazzling feats of athletic prowess. But as we stare in rapt attention at the speed, grace, and strength they exhibit, it is also a good time to pay attention to how they embody, literally, fundamental principles that shape the entire universe. Yes, I'm talking about physics. On our screens, these athletes are giving us lessons in the principles that giants like Isaac Newton struggled mightily to articulate.
Naturally, there are many Olympic events from which we could learn some basic principles of physics. Swimming shows us hydrodynamic drag. Boxing teaches us about force and impulse. (Ouch!) But today, we will focus on gymnastics and the cosmic importance of the conservation of angular momentum.
The conservation of angular momentum
Much of the beauty of gymnastics comes from the spins and flips athletes perform as they launch themselves into the air from the vault or uneven bars. These are all examples of rotations — and so much of the structure and history of the universe, from planets to galaxies, comes down to the physics of rotating objects. And so much of the physics of rotating objects comes down to the conservation of angular momentum.
Let's start with the conservation of regular or "linear" momentum. Momentum is the product of mass and velocity. Way back in the age of Galileo and Newton, physicists came to understand that in the interactions between bodies, the sum of their momentums had to be conserved (which really means "does not change"). This is a familiar idea to anyone who has played billiards: when a moving pool ball strikes a stationary one, the first ball stops while the second scoots away. The total momentum of the system (the mass times velocity of both balls taken together) is conserved, leaving the originally moving ball unmoving and the originally stationary ball carrying all the system's momentum.
Credit: Sergey Nivens and Victoria VIAR PRO via Adobe Stock
Rotating objects also obey a conservation law, but now it is not just the mass of an object that matters. The distribution of mass — that is, where the mass is located relative to the center of the rotation — is also a factor. Conservation of angular momentum tells us that if a spinning object is not subject to any forces, then any changes in how its matter is distributed must lead to a change in its rate of spin. Comparing the conservation of angular momentum to the conservation of linear momentum, the "distribution of mass" is analogous to mass, and the "rate of spin" is analogous to velocity.
There are many places in cosmic physics where this conservation of angular momentum is key. My favorite example is the formation of stars. Every star begins its life as a giant cloud of slowly spinning interstellar gas. The clouds are usually supported against their own gravitational weight by gas pressure, but sometimes a small nudge from, say, a passing supernova blast wave will force the cloud to begin gravitational collapse. As the cloud begins to shrink, the conservation of angular momentum forces the spin rate of material in the cloud to speed up. As material is falling inward, it also rotates around the cloud's center at ever higher rates. Eventually, some of that gas is going so fast that a balance between the gravity of the newly forming star and what is called centrifugal force is achieved. That stuff then stops moving inward and goes into orbit around the young star, forming a disk, some material of which eventually becomes planets. So, the conservation of angular momentum is, literally, why we have planets in the universe!
Gymnastics, a cosmic sport
How does this appear in gymnastics? When athletes hurl themselves into the air to perform a flip, the only force acting on them is gravity. But since gravity only affects their "center of mass," it cannot apply forces in a way that changes the athlete's spin. But the gymnasts can do that for themselves by using the conservation of angular momentum.
By changing how their mass is arranged, gymnasts can change how fast they spin. You can see this in the dismount phase of the uneven bar competitions. When a gymnast comes off the bars and performs a flip by tucking their legs inward, they can quickly increase their rotation rate in midair. The sudden dramatic increase in the speed of their flip is what makes us gasp in astonishment. It is both scary and a beautiful testament to the athletes' ability to intuitively control the physics of their bodies. And it is also the exact same physics that controls the birth of planets.
"As above so below," goes the old saying. You should keep that in mind as you watch the glory that is the Olympics. That is because it is not just athletes that have this intuitive understanding of physics. We all have it, and we use it every day, from walking down the stairs to swinging a hammer. So, it is no exaggeration to claim that the first place we came to understand the deepest principles of physics was not in contemplating the heavens but moving through the world in our own earthbound flesh.
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.
- The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
- It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
- Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
David Schmidt, a geology professor at Westminster College, had just arrived in the South Dakota Badlands in summer 2019 with a group of students for a fossil dig when he received a call from the National Forest Service. A nearby rancher had discovered a strange object poking out of the ground. They wanted Schmidt to take a look.
"One of the very first bones that we saw in the rock was this long cylindrical bone," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "The first thing that came out of our mouths was, 'That kind of looks like the horn of a triceratops.'"
After authorities gave the go-ahead, Schmidt and a small group of students returned this summer and spent nearly every day of June and July excavating the skull.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College
"We had to be really careful," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "We couldn't disturb anything at all, because at that point, it was under law enforcement investigation. They were telling us, 'Don't even make footprints,' and I was thinking, 'How are we supposed to do that?'"
Another difficulty was the mammoth size of the skull: about 7 feet long and more than 3,000 pounds. (For context, the largest triceratops skull ever unearthed was about 8.2 feet long.) The skull of Schmidt's dinosaur was likely a Triceratops prorsus, one of two species of triceratops that roamed what's now North America about 66 million years ago.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College
The triceratops was an herbivore, but it was also a favorite meal of the Tyrannosaurus rex. That probably explains why the Dakotas contain many scattered triceratops bone fragments, and, less commonly, complete bones and skulls. In summer 2019, for example, a separate team on a dig in North Dakota made headlines after unearthing a complete triceratops skull that measured five feet in length.
Michael Kjelland, a biology professor who participated in that excavation, said digging up the dinosaur was like completing a "multi-piece, 3-D jigsaw puzzle" that required "engineering that rivaled SpaceX," he jokingly told the New York Times.
Morrison Formation in Colorado
James St. John via Flickr
The Badlands aren't the only spot in North America where paleontologists have found dinosaurs. In the 1870s, Colorado and Wyoming became the first sites of dinosaur discoveries in the U.S., ushering in an era of public fascination with the prehistoric creatures — and a competitive rush to unearth them.
Since, dinosaur bones have been found in 35 states. One of the most fruitful locations for paleontologists has been the Morrison formation, a sequence of Upper Jurassic sedimentary rock that stretches under the Western part of the country. Discovered here were species like Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, Apatosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Allosaurus, to name a few.
|Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons|
As for "Shady" (the nickname of the South Dakota triceratops), Schmidt and his team have safely transported it to the Westminster campus. They hope to raise funds for restoration, and to return to South Dakota in search of more bones that once belonged to the triceratops.
Studying dinosaurs helps scientists gain a more complete understanding of our evolution, illuminating a through-line that extends from "deep time" to present day. For scientists like Schmidt, there's also the simple joy of coming to face-to-face with a lost world.
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "You don't ever think that these things will ever happen."
How the British obsession with tea triggered wars, led to bizarre espionage, and changed the world — many times.
- Today, tea is the single most popular drink worldwide, with a global market that outstrips all the nearest rivals combined.
- The British Empire went to war over tea, ultimately losing its American colonies and twice beating the Chinese in the "Opium Wars."
- The British desire to secure homegrown tea resulted in their sending botanist Robert Fortune on a Hollywood-worthy mission to secure Chinese tea plants and steal horticultural secrets.
After water, tea is the most common drink in the world. It is more popular than coffee, soft drinks, and alcohol combined. 84 percent of Brits enjoy a daily "cuppa," but this is a mere bagatelle against the Turks, who drink on average three to four cups every day. The tea industry is worth $200 billion worldwide and is set to grow by half by 2025.
Tea is such a huge part of many cultures, that it even has origin myths. For instance, one involves the Buddha waking up after falling asleep during his meditation. Disgusted at his lack of self-discipline, he cut off his eyelids and threw them to the ground. These lids then grew into tea plants to help future meditators stay awake.
Tea really matters to a lot of people. And, it mattered so much to the British and their empire that it directed their entire foreign policy. It also inspired one of the most incredible and ridiculous tales of 19th century espionage.
A spot of tea
When the European powers of the 16th century first traded with, then militarily colonized, various East Asian nations, it was impossible not to come across tea. Since the 9th century, the Tang Dynasty of China had already popularized tea across the region. Tea was already firmly entrenched when the Portuguese became the first Europeans to sample it (in 1557), followed by the Dutch, who first shipped a batch back to mainland Europe.
Britain was relatively late to the tea party, not arriving until well into the 17th century. In fact, in Samuel Pepys' 1660 diaries, he makes reference to "a cup of tee (a China drink) of which I had never drunk before." It was only after King Charles II's Portuguese wife popularized it at court that tea became a fashionable societal drink.
After the Brits got going, there was no stopping them. Tea became a huge business. However, since tea was monopolized by the East India Company and the government imposed a whopping 120 percent tax on it, an army of smuggler gangs opened back channels to get tea to the poorer masses. Eventually, in 1784, Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger got wise to the popular cry for tea. To stamp out the black market, he slashed the tax on the leaf to just 12.5 percent. From then on, tea became the everyman's drink — marketed as medicinal, invigorating, and tasty.
A cup, a cup, my kingdom for a cup!
Tea became so important to the British that it even sparked wars across the empire.
Most famously, when the British imposed a three pennies per pound tax on all tea the East India Company exported to America, it led to the outraged destruction of an entire ship's tea cargo. The "Boston Tea Party" was the first major defiant act of the American colonies and led ultimately to ham-fisted and insensitive countermeasures from the London government. These, in turn, sparked the U.S. War of Independence.
Less well known is how Britain went to war with China over tea. Twice.
Credit: Ingo Doerrie via Unsplash
Back then, tea was only being grown and exported from China to British India and then around the empire. As such, it led to a massive trade imbalance, where the largely self-sufficient China only wanted British silver in return for their famous and delicious homegrown tea leaves. This sort of economic policy, known as mercantilism, made Britain really mad.
In retaliation, Britain grew opium and flooded China with the drug. When China (quite understandably) objected to this, Britain sent in the gunboats. The subsequent "Opium Wars" were only ever going to go one way, and when China sued for peace, they were lumped with $20 million worth of reparations — and had to cede Hong Kong to Britain (which only returned in 1997).
The tea spy: on her majesty's secret service
But even these wars did not resolve the trade deficit with China. The attempts to make tea in British India resulted in insipid rubbish, and the British needed the good stuff. So, they turned to a Scottish botanist named Robert Fortune, whose mission was simple: cross the border into China, integrate himself amongst Chinese tea farmers, and smuggle out both their expertise and preferably their tea plants.
Fortune accepted the mission, even though he could not speak a word of Chinese and had barely left his native Britain. (A forefather of 007 he was not.) But not one to let these details get in the way, he shaved his hair, plaited a pigtail that resembled those worn by the Chinese, and then set off on his adventure.
And what an adventure it was. He came under attack by bandits and brigands, his ship was bombarded by pirates, and he had to endure fever, tropical storms, and typhoons. In spite of all this, Fortune not only managed to learn Chinese and travel around the forbidden City of Suzhou and its surrounding tea-farming land, but he also integrated himself into secluded peasant communities. When the skeptical tea farmers challenged Fortune on why he was so tall, he fooled them by claiming that he was a very important state official — all of whom were tall, apparently.
An Indian speciali-tea
Amazingly, Fortune had good fortune and got away with it. Over the course of his three-year mission, he secreted out several shipments of new tea plants to Britain as well as the art of bonsai (previously, a closely held secret). Most of the smuggled tea leaves died from mold and moisture in transit, but Fortune persisted, and eventually the British began to cultivate their own tea plants using Chinese tea farming techniques in their colonial Indian soils.
It was not long until an Indian variant, almost indistinguishable from the stolen Chinese one, began to dominate the market, not least for Britain's huge and growing empire. Within 20 years of Fortune's remarkable mission, the East India Company had more than fifty contractors pumping out tea worldwide.
Today, things have reverted back. China now produces not only substantially more than India (in second place) but more than the top ten countries combined. In total, 40 percent of the world's tea comes from China. But it was British tea — and Robert Fortune's incredible and unlikely mission — which catalyzed the huge global market. Without this overly confident Scottish plant-lover, the world's love of tea might look very different.