Many of the questions being raised by discussing 'the long now' of money and finance at SIBOS are existential ones. Unfortunately I am not convinced that many if any banks are willing to consider existential problems; despite that being the elephant in the rather big room that is SIBOS.
It is hardly surprising, seeing how the most of the banks present at SIBOS seem to be feeling somewhat existentially challenged; reduced as they are to considering mainly short term issues of liquidity, capital (or lack of it), risk (see the previous two issues) and focusing on making money from the bread and butter of banking (payments). The Long Now team will be prefacing their summary to the plenary session today with a video which points out how and why banks are doomed in the style of Hitch Hiker's Guide, only without the "Don't Panic" reassurance that there is a manual of 'how to get out of this hole".
I am not sure that this will elicit 'engagement' as such from an audience of bankers, which is a shame because asking these sort of questions might help them see beyond the present crisis and work out what sort of banks we need in the future - based on the binocular hindsight of the long now approach.
Our own long now conversations, detailed by the ubiquitous Chris "I know where the next party is" Skinner on his blog, shifted the emphasis back to what is happening "in the real world". As individuals, we are looking for institutions who can make money solid and tangible, not merely in terms of seeing cold hard cash (although that is a start), but in terms what we do with money and constructed in a way that fits with its Long Now role of being a function of its social utility rather than its narrow economic definition and usage.
By framing wealth in terms of concepts like legacy and immortality (or at least of guarantees of succession) which expanded what we thought really constituted 'wealth' in a world of uncertainty, our discussion began to look at the motivations of individuals to use money for good works (one form of legacy).
The problem here is that modern money in its current incarnation cannot adequately convey the 'spirit' of a gift. Modern Money reduces a transaction to a question of economic value (like leaving the price tag on a birthday present) which leaves no legacy or lasting imprint - it merely reflects the price of a thing at a particular time (it does not signify for example whether I was generous in the price I offered or stingy).
If banks are to maintain their position as the 'producers' of money (as opposed to just the pipes it flows and is stored within) then they need to work out how to construct money products which can confer permanence and legacy on the giver and communicate that also to the receiver. Which I guess is one million dollar question coming out of the long now (for me at least).
Perhaps a bit frustratingly one of the best ways of thinking about money in the long now was presented by Paul Saffo who in 90 seconds summarised the concept of the legal 'long now' and raised questions of whether the crisis was the prelude to a change in schema (i.e. a new money akin to a new common law), constitution, legislation, regulation, enforcement regime or merely fashion (i.e. will this be solved by bloody revolution or a marketing refresh at the extremes)? You might argue that neo-liberal capitalism has been regulation masquerading as a schema or constitution and as such should expect competing forms of regulation of markets (and therefore different forms of market) to emerge from the crisis and challenge its claim to natural hegemony as merely a function of legal precedent and entrenched power relations.
In other words, who are the barons who will force the signing of a magna carta for money?