Our radar has failed

Once again, our radar has failed.

The current financial meltdown is much more than a serious financial crisis. It’s even more than a crisis of confidence. It’s no less than a fundamental abuse of information and its pivotal role in our economy.

When our economy started in pre-historic times, we bartered for goods and services. Then money was invented—first stones, then metal coins, then paper—and finally, ledger entries. No less an expert than Walter Wriston (then president of Citibank) said over twenty years ago that the fundamental financial resource is now information.

Modern information technology long ago dwarfed earlier record-keeping methods. A typical teenager now carries with her several times the amount of data contained in the Encyclopedia Britannica. And these technologies gave us assurance that, to paraphrase the Who, “We could see for miles and miles.” With modern technology and record keeping methods, the story went, we could undertake transactions of far greater scale, scope, and complexity than ever before. And the “systems” would warn us if anything was wrong.

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