By Troy L’Hirondelle
With all the talk in the news about the financial troubles now affecting almost every region in the world, it seems worthwhile to discuss how the technologies of the modern communications era may be influencing this economic phenomenon.
To help get some background, I entered the key phrases “Internet and economic crisis” and “technology and economic crisis” in my search engine and looked through a few pages of web and news results to see what the issues were that might be surrounding this topic.
The simple answer to what my query turned up is that there are no issues being discussed, at least not to any great extent, on the topic of the influence of modern technologies on current economic and financial affairs. The articles that turned up primarily addressed the impact of the financial phenomenon on technology companies.
Perhaps this should have been no surprise.
In the early days of the economic downturn, I do remember a radio a commentator bringing up the issue of online trading whereby a large population of average consumers buy and sell stocks without going through a broker.
The point made by the commentator was that this technology created greater market volatility by allowing large numbers of people with little formal training in finance to have a great influence on the markets.
This statement was made before the mortgage collapse really got going, and the big stories about unregulated mortgage and insurance derivatives hit the news and major financial institutions began to collapse.
As the crisis has worsened, there’s been a shift from assessing various influences on the economy, of which technology is one, to zeroing in on the principle problem of deregulation and how to fix the current state of the economy.
I find this to be a profound statement on how technology has influenced society in a broader sense. The communications technologies of our modern age indeed have expanded market participation, allowed the transmission of much greater volumes of data almost instantaneously and greatly integrated world economies to a level that is completely unrecognizable in the context of the 1930s—the time of our worst economic hardships.
Yet in both the ’30s and the present day, the primary issues have come down to policy regarding financial deregulation. In the ’30s it was stocks; in 2008 it is credit default swaps.
And what this speaks to regarding technology and its impact on our culture and society in the modern age is that the fundamental foundation of our society has remained constant in spite of great technological growth.
Technological proficiency will be no replacement for a critically thinking, wisdom, and government policy that influence our everyday lives.
Troy L’Hirondelle is a programmer and systems administrator at Times Web Design.