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Felix Salmon on High-Frequency Trading

15 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 05 October 2012

This week's Essays present five reflections on what's been called 'liquid modernity' - the ways today's more or less instantaneous digital communication are affecting the managing both of events and ideas.

With work under way to develop a new sub-Arctic cable that will carry data faster across the world and reputedly shave microseconds off the time taken for computers in stock markets to respond to trades, in the final Essay of the series, New York-based financial journalist Felix Salmon uncovers the world of high-frequency trading and its part in the current financial crisis.

'Nowism', the fleeting nature of the processes and 'micro-events' that populate contemporary life are difficult to escape. The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman calls it, eloquently, 'liquid modernity', but the term simply captures some very real and yet tricky aspects of contemporary culture. In these five talks, by leading thinkers in the field, we explore different aspects of this present tense existence. How much does immediate and ubiquitous access to information affect the way we retain knowledge - do we actually know less? - and how is this re-calibrating the idea of wisdom? With pop-up stores, restaurants and theatre spaces a growing phenomenon of urban living, the appeal of the fleeting, of the easily missed is being realised economically and creatively. And to what extent do the machine-driven algorithms of the trading floors drive and modify the way money flows and international economies operate?

Producer: Ian McDonald.



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