Friday, August 3, 2012

Singularity Watch

There's something about that odd little cataclysm that struck the stock exchanges yesterday:
An automated stock trading program suddenly flooded the market with millions of trades Wednesday morning, spreading turmoil across Wall Street and drawing renewed attention to the fragility and instability of the nation’s stock markets.
While the broad stock indexes quickly recovered and ended the day slightly down, it was the latest black eye for the financial markets. The runaway trading suggests that regulators have not been able to keep up with electronic programs that increasingly dominate the supercharged market and have helped undermine investor confidence in stocks.
It brought me back to that idea of the socioeconomic Singularity, where it's the corporations, aggregates of employees and shareholders and equipment and value, that begin to acquire an independent consciousness—not that corporations are people, my friend, but that they might, under certain yet to be determined conditions, become monsters, if you will, superorganic Creatures with appetites and abilities of their own.

When we last visited it, we got slightly hung up on the question of how the Creatures would communicate, if they attained that second-order consciousness, the ability to see themselves as the center of a narrative, and ultimately to see the Other seeing them the same way. Corporate speech is money, right? Would they speak by cutting checks?
From NPR's Planet Money.

Today's story suggested a totally different approach, one that works better from a strictly scientific point of view: that the voice of the corporation could be the movement you see on the charts: the throb of sales, the crooning of prices, going up and down, up and down, with the kind of linear structure that is necessary for the classic (or Saussurean) sign.

When we look at a graph, we're looking at a very limited kind of pattern—trends and associations—in the aim of predicting: will it go up or will it go down? Sharp jerks and outlier numbers are ignored, because they aren't part of the pattern. When you're parsing a sign, it's exactly the opposite: it's the sudden swoops and spikes that have information value, the predictable part of the sequence is just white noise.

In this way events like Wednesday's flood of trades or the flash crash of 2010 might be not so much communications as the first cries of infants just beginning to recognize their separateness from their surroundings...

1 comment:

  1. The article is well written and very much informative, thanks for the updates of such kinf od trading information.

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