Few tools of the modern world are as necessary as money. At its simplest, currency makes exchange possible by overcoming the inefficiencies of barter.

Money also permits individuals the time and space to specialize and create diverse products that can be converted, through the abstraction of value, to the items they need but don’t specialize in making.

Money is a form of communication that allows for the operation of fundamental structuring processes in an economy – including at one end the invisible hand of the market and at the other end the regulatory powers of government.

Money connects local decision making to the global order.

Markets and market prices emerge through individual competition for products and sales.

Thus, currency underlies human economic cooperation and, to a large degree, social complexity, putting money “squarely in the domain of complex systems science,“  says SFI President David Krakauer, who is co-hosting this year’s SFI Business Network and Trustee Symposium – Money and Currency: Past, Present, and Future – November 12-14 in Santa Fe.

The meeting will explore the history of money, from cowrie shells used for centuries in the trade networks of Africa, South Asia, and East Asia to the diverse and highly regulated currencies of today.

Because modern currencies touch a number of concepts familiar to SFI – emergence, networks of exchange, scaling theory, decision theory, the theory of inequality, communication theory, encryption, and computational complexity – the meeting will explore the mechanics of money through the insights of complexity science.

It will then examine how money functions as a mechanism of exchange in the emerging world of cryptocurrencies, peer-to-peer markets, and bitcoins and their implications for business.

Krakauer conceived the topic for the meeting with SFI Board of Trustees Chair Emeritus Bill Miller. They are co-hosting the event with SFI Board of Trustees Chair Michael Mauboussin and SFI VP and Director of the Business Network Chris Wood.

Miller, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of LMM, LLC, will chair an expert panel discussion on “Money, Currency, and Finance.” SFI Journalism Fellow Kevin Allison, a global resources columnist with Reuters Breakingviews, will chair a panel on “The World of Peer-to-Peer Exchange.” Speakers and panelists include experts in the history of money, investing and finance, digital and cryptocurrencies, and economic theory and public policy.

“This meeting offers an important and timely vehicle connecting ideas central to complexity science with the world of business and finance and the fast-evolving technologies of peer-to-peer communication and exchange,” says Krakauer.