Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.”. . Cree Prophecy

Research suggests that too much money causes a person more misery than poverty. Enough money to get by seems to work best - not too much and not too little.

what is money?
Money is an amazing and powerful invention. A financial system makes complex society possible. But like most inventions and genetic adaptations it will eventually facilitate a civilisation so adapted to its technology that will not survive the inevitable internal and environmental changes.

Permanent power loss in a subsistence village will be inconvenient, In a city of high rise homes it will be life threatening when it takes out monetary and maintenance systems.

Our money is infinitely complex. Theories of money like theories of matter hold great promise but dissolve into chaos when examined too closely but until a monetary system breaks down most people know exactly how to manage it just as they can rely on stone age physics.

Money is promises. Possession of it records its owners entitlement and worth - what they are owed. A bank deposit is promise of money. In one of its many forms the bank has your money and you hold a derivative – a call on the bank which you hope it will honour.

Our monetary system is sufficiently opaque and corrupt for there to be no way for any one person to know how it all works. All sorts of real estate, hedges and insurance contracts now appear on balance sheets as if they are money. Commodities have become money and money has become a commodity.

In different countries or places or at different times money is subject to different laws, habits and regulations. It is not the same everywhere all the time.

The monetary system is complicated by fraud, theft, manipulation, and black marketing by banks, individuals, corporations and governments. Bankers and Governments don't just keep score. They play too and manipulate its value and how it can be used.

One proposed trigger for the 2008 Global Financial Crisis was that an FBI investigation of a major bank froze the drug money it was laundering which reduced liquidity and exposed a card-castle of debts, some backed by misrepresented derivatives. The money system began to shut down that evening when banks lost the confidence to lend to each other or complete daily inter-bank settlements in case they were defaulted on. No-one was sure who was exposed to what.

where did money come from?
The more complex the chatter and murmur of a monkey species the larger the tribe that can coexist together. Gibbons have the largest tribes, sometimes into the thousands. Their communities resound with the loud hum of continuous communication maintaining networks of family and tribal obligations.

Human chatter crystallized into drawings, writing and money. Our transactions and the value we placed on them were recorded with shells, clay tablets or knotted ropes so they didn't disperse in the wind in the way conversation does.

Before that, we knew our status by the memories of the feelings we had about each other. Gratitude, affection, anxiety, hope (the list is endless) recorded our transactions in emotional balance sheets of entitlements and obligations held in minds in the community. They guided how to approach each other and what to expect. Status could be seen in mood and demeanor.

But now these records are partly externalized as money has taken on a life of its own outside of us.

What we do for each other and the objects we exchange are now recorded by money instead of arising from our relationships. Money frees us from having to remember interpersonal transactions, status and mutual obligations.

Money allows jobs and roles to be infinitely specialized. Complex cooperative activities are possible and human society can expand beyond the size of a small community where everyone knows each other.

loss of awareness
Emotional interactions in the community give us feedback as to our status. They are sidelined when feelings about money displace memories of feelings about each other. Our awareness of ourselves changes as money replaces them. Money becomes a measure of status and a value of objects and activities.

What was done for love and loyalty is now done for money but money is not as subtle and flexible. When objects and activities are valued by feelings and emotions they are more grounded in reality.

whats next?
currency is a collection of laws and customs. At first glance it may seem a stable part of the scenery. But it changes. Not just its value changes but also its quality - how and when and where it can be used, as governments and regulators vary the rules that channel its generation, storage and distribution.

Each change redistributes wealth and power and because the richest can manipulate the game, inevitably the rich get richer and the poor poorer to the point of social and financial collapse. Then the industrial machine runs short of consumers and the starving have less to lose. Violence, police and armies replace money if alternative ways to interact and share resources don't emerge.

Money is a card-castle of stories that is worthless without public confidence. Most of us are utterly emotionally entangled in its web of buying power and indebtedness and strive to collect it beyond our immediate needs and even beyond what we would ever need. But that changes in an eye blink if the stories are no longer believed and trust vanishes.

Tribal economies may have a head start if it collapses and we have to learn how to keep our own accounts again. Cooperation may rest on friendship, kinship, emotions, awareness and connecting.