Chalk another one up for the computer war against city character traits. On Monday The New York Times ran an excellent story on the probable dissipation of the trading floor at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Chicago's Mercantile Exchange and also the former Chicago Board of Trade were landmarks of the city. Indeed, they were distinctive positive aspects of Chicago's renown. But with the merger of the Merc and Board of Trade and relocation
in May to a new trading floor at the board’s Art Deco headquarters. With the consolidation of the two exchanges, the pork belly pit, formerly emblematic of Chicago’s open-outcry commodity trading, will close and begin operating only by computer.
It's better for business, that's for sure; and crucial for the Merc to survive. Still, a major historical locale of the Windy City is being gobbled up by technological efficiency. Chicago is a city in transition. A lot is going on, being built, moved, changed, renewed, remodeled. Now there's Millennium Park with its gaudy Bean, both of which will probably become famous as a symbol of Chicago, unfortunately.
Everywhere the technological computer juggernaut is improving operations. In the journalism world not only have computers and the internet helped minimize spelling errors but also hasten the exchange of information for literal up-to-the-minute and up-to-the-second reporting. Updates are faster than they ever could be by phone. The other day a Michigan student explained how although there is a pleasure in reading newspapers, "I want to know that what I'm reading is the latest news." That limits the appeal of newspapers though and exposes where its capabilities fall short. Like so many other areas of society, newspapers and the traditional trading floor just can't keep the pace with faster computers.
The offices of these institutions are converging in similarity as well: the same desks, same computers, same white collar workers staring at them. That's the trade off, an infamous economic scene of Chicago for a set of computers.
It's more efficient.