The SEC will soon require machine readable reporting of all financial data, using an XML based markup language known as XRBL (the eXtensible Business Reporting Language). Holy crap. Yes, this could have been done a decade ago in theory, but apparently it takes some serious mess to get anyone thinking at the SEC. Probably bad for Morningstar‘s financial-data-silo business model, but good for just about everyone else. Will spur a lot of financial transparency, as machines can be easily utilized to find patterns and irregularities in corporate and mutual fund reports, in near real time. I don’t think most people give this kind of development the credit it deserves. Long term, machine readability of all law and legal requirements will change the face of regulation, democracy, and ultimately, law itself.