My only magazine subscription is to Wired, a slick publication that appeals to society-aware geeks who are interested in science and technology and how they can make the world a better place. It features everything from product reviews to well-researched articles on topics ranging from politics to medicine to open-source software. The writing can be a bit sensational at times, but I think it makes it more enjoyable to read, and really conveys a sense of optimistic excitement over the potential in modern technology. I don’t read the issues cover-to-cover, but there are frequently articles that I find very interesting.
One such article that I think well represents well the kind of varied and important subjects often featured in the magazine was in last year’s February issue. Titled “The Truth About Autism,” it was a fascinating look at autism research and how our opinions of the condition have changed, with the aid of technology such as blogs and YouTube.
This month featured two articles that, despite following financial reporting on Yahoo! Finance and other similar sites, offered explanation and even a solution to the economic crisis that I hadn’t heard before. The first is about the Gaussian copula formula that is at the heart of much of the terrible risk-analysis and inaccurate bond rating that led to much of the financial anguish we’re experiencing today. It’s a fascinating and enlightening read if you’re interested, and doesn’t get too bogged down in technical details.
The second article has a more optimistic tone and proposes a decidedly Web 2.0 method of regulating the financial sector, without lots of costly government intervention. Simple concepts like standardized financial reporting practices and public websites which aggregate and organize the data in a meaningful fashion could revolutionize the accuracy with which investors and analysts determine the risks of various investments. Although the facts of American politics unfortunately mean that it will likely be a long time before we get close to realizing the potential of concepts like this, the article nevertheless presents a refreshingly simple and relatively easy way to avoid similar financial crises in the future. If only our political representatives had a clue about modern technology, the inefficiency of Washington bureaucracy might actually be lessened.
For more analysis of the economic situation, Yahoo! Finance’s Tech Ticker video blog tends to be a good place to get a variety of insiders’ opinions and analysis of Wall Street and where it’s headed. Naturally, it’s full of speculation, but I find hosts Blodget and Task to be more level-headed than the blowhards on CNBC and the like.