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|Clearance To Fly|
by noteworthy at 8:10 am EST, Jan 18, 2011
Behold them entering upon their promised land, their reeking paradise. Eager to arrive, do they drop from the top of the wall? Not they! .... The newborn worms, thanks to a slight viscidity, cling for a moment to the wire gauze; they swarm, wriggle, release themselves and leap into the chasm. It is a nine inch drop at least.... This confidence in the unknown factor of the precipice, with no indication but that of smell, deserves fuller, investigation. From what height will the flesh fly dare to let her children drop?
At the surface of the soil, exposed to the air, the hideous invasion is possible; ay, it is the invariable rule. For the melting down and remolding of matter, man is no better, corpse for corpse, than the lowest of the brutes. Then the fly exercises her rights and deals with us as she does with any ordinary animal refuse. Nature treats us with magnificent indifference in her great regenerating factory: placed in her crucibles, animals and men, beggars and kings are one and all alike. There you have true equality, the only equality in this world of ours: equality in the presence of the maggot.
There are important lessons to be learned from the crisis. But we'll learn them better if we realize that the intellectual and political architects of the system that failed us were not naive at all, but immensely clever and subtle; it was their cleverness and subtlety that undid them. And that is bad news for all of us, for naivete can give way to learning, but cleverness has no obvious higher state.
Above all, like historians assessing the Maginot Line, we must avoid comforting ourselves with the judgment that the system's architects were naive and that therefore we might hope to do much better. Far more important is to be aware that defenses are vulnerable precisely where they are strongest and to be prepared to respond creatively and calmly when they fail, as they surely will again.
For better or worse, the computers are now in control. Over the past decade, algorithmic trading has overtaken the industry. From the single desk of a startup hedge fund to the gilded halls of Goldman Sachs, computer code is now responsible for most of the activity on Wall Street. (By some estimates, computer-aided high-frequency trading now accounts for about 70 percent of total trade volume.)
The Miami-Dade Police Department recently finalized a deal to buy a drone, which is an unmanned plane equipped with cameras. Honeywell has applied to the FAA for clearance to fly the drone in urban areas.