MoneyLab: Coining Alternatives
Session 1: Monetization of everything
Bill Maurer (US): Closed Loops and Private Gateways: Money, Technology and the Public Interest in Payment
Conference Day 1 (21 March 2014)
From ancient tallies to coins, cards, and now mobile devices, money has always been a matter of technology interfacing with law, with rights and corresponding remedies embedded in institutional arrangements, and with the material form of money and/or its accounts-keeping. A ‘Cambrian explosion in payments’ is currently taking place – a profusion of business experiments with new technologies for the systems that people use every day in physical and online spaces to buy things. It is raising anew questions about the role of the state and public institutions in warranting the clearance, settlement, and safety of retail payments, as well as, more profoundly, the role of the state in warranting money itself. That this Cambrian explosion comes on the heels of the global financial crisis is no coincidence: the financial crisis put the wind back in the sails of alternative currency proponents, ‘sound money’ advocates and gold bugs, as well as others interested in challenging the state’s monopoly over money. How can we understand the public function of payment as a kind of utility in our digital and data-saturated world, especially as ‘big data’ leads many corporate actors to seek to commodify behaviour and activity in a new way, simultaneously creating and enclosing new commons?