The End of the World as We Know It
Not about a football game.
by Everett Wilson
October 17, 2010
It is Saturday evening. At about eight o'clock I went out to put the car in the garage.
We live on the edge of a village, on a hillside. Directly across the street from us is a cornfield recently harvested, so our view to the south from our front door and driveway is panoramic. Below is the shallow Rock Creek valley, about four miles across, and beyond it is another ridge of hills. After them, less than twenty miles from where I sit, is the Salt River valley, Interstate 80, the capital city of Lincoln, the University of Nebraska, and Memorial Stadium, where 80,000 spectators had this afternoon watched the Nebraska Cornhuskers, nationally ranked number 5 and heavily favored, lose to the unranked Texas Longhorns.
Day or night, I always take note of the view. After dark we see the headlights of the cars coming north from Lincoln on US 77. Tonight there is a steady stream, moving slower than usual. The slow progress and the headlights remind me of a funeral procession.
In a way, it is. A great many of those cars contain people going home from the game. Emotionally, I am in the procession too, as I stand here watching it from three miles away.
It was only a game, of course, and games are only as important as we make them. If we make them too important, that's our problem to deal with. After all, the Texas fans driving south have no problem at all with what happened today.
We hoped the game would give us a break from bad news. That happened for the winners, but not for the losers. So let's get to the bad news that is not about a game.
The end of the world as we know it was announced last week. Did you notice? It was on Sixty Minutes, and you can follow it up on the Internet. The gist of the story is that a huge percentage of the trading on Wall Street is programmed by computers, not by specific human decision, at a speed far faster than a human mind can process.
Common sense tells us that any day now we are going to be robbed blind in ways impossible to trace. Forbes reports, "this huge non-transparent electronic system of buy and sell orders could cause further sudden meltdowns or even melt-ups due to the arithmetic formulas that give orders to computers." If those formulas are manipulated by thieves, and it is only a matter of time before they will be, we are in for it in a way that will make the real estate crash look petty.
Many pension funds rely on the stock market for their best returns, I hope my pension fund has no contract with anybody who participates in this loony process. If it has, I am probably broke already.
About the Author:
Everett Wilson may not know much about football or supercomputers, but he knows more about human depravity than he wants to.
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