Thursday, January 06, 2011

Cyberspace Generated Financial Flood Plains

This has to be evidence of the ghost in the machine... I was reading the 'Crop Circles' in Cyberspace article @ the Fortean Times. It occurred to me that these electronic financial 'flash flood' crashes are artificially creating crisis-cyberspace-patterns (out of greed).

The financial trading programs are designed to maximise the profits of their masters any way they can. One could imagine they manufacture financial drought/flood disasters across the market plains as assets are automatically bought and sold at subatomic speed. Researchers are discovering that trading programs are creating their own patterns, as described in the article by Ian Simmons about the trading patterns identified by software engineer Jeffrey Donovan.

Of course, once you release them - these electronic rivers of 'information' are a law unto themselves. Just stop and look at the real world consequences of this kind of trading behaviour dominated by machines... Peoples lives and estates can end up under water or suffering severe drought where they lose everything. The consequences could backfire to destroy the companies and institutions using these system trading options, destroying those who use them.

Crop circles are based on a high level of art, balance and magnetic sacred geometry. So, perhaps it is possible to create this kind of harmonic pattern in trading circles - rather than random forms of chaos. For this to happen the human mind would have to stop lying and cheating out of greed and selfishness. Values would have to deny beggar-thy-neighbour policies in favour of planetary co-operation. Perhaps a 'Heart Crop Circle' will appear in a field in 2011 and show us the way...

Ian Simmons 'Crop Circles' in Cyberspace : Most intriguing, though, is the idea that no one is responsible – that instead, the systems are doing it for themselves. The financial markets’ digital systems are now so complex, and the number of organisations using bespoke trading bots so huge, that the interaction between the programs could well be generating emergent phenomena spontaneously.

That is, these patterns are just weird side effects that come about in much the same way that fract­als come about as a result of chaotic phenomena, emerging fully formed from the ether with no design or overall purpose. But they are nonetheless there, asking for quotes and behaving in ways that every so often have an influence on trading. New behaviours could be evolving from the combination of, and interaction between, the behaviours that the programmers intended.

The question remains, though: how long has this been going on? After all, no one thought to look before May of this year. There already seems to be a huge amount of this kind of activity taking place, and as the markets increase in size and complexity, how will the behaviour of these patterns, now dubbed ‘Algorithmic Crop Circles’, develop? And what will the outcome be? Will they eventually disrupt electronic trading to the point where it is no longer viable? Will they remain creatures of the financial undergrowth, lurking out of sight and rarely interacting with the real world? Or perhaps the rolling financial crisis will eventually render them extinct?

It’s not often you get a completely new phenomenon emerging, and I wouldn’t say that the financial markets are the first place I’d have looked for one. It’ll be interesting to see how this one shapes up.