As we all know, letting computers do everything for us will cause them to one day take over the earth and kill us all, or if we are lucky, just make batteries out of us. But some foolish, uneducated people out there have neither watched the Matrix nor Terminator movies and are working diligently toward making computers do people jobs. While someday these robots and programs will become our overlords, in their present crude state they are content to destroy us with their hilarious incompetence.
Here are some things that anyone with a lick of sense would not put in the hands of a computer, and the people who are putting them into the hands of a computer.
Trading stocks is a tedious, mass-number-crunching game. Why not make computers do it for you?
Because they will fuck it up.
On May 6, 2010, the Dow dropped about 1,000 points in minutes, which is usually about the kind of rate that kicks off something like the Great Depression. Stockbrokers barely had enough time to get their office windows open before the word spread that it was a false alarm. The cause? Robots.
"Mr. Raymond? It turns out it was just a computer glitch... oh."
Someone realized that human traders, no matter how sheeplike or pessimistic, couldn't have freaked out fast enough to drive the Dow down 1000 points in 10 minutes. Computers are just designed to do everything faster and more efficiently, including stock panics.
Stock trading algorithms, or "algos," as financial people fondly call them are responsible for 70 percent of trades today, which means that most of the stock market is literally just computers making deals with each other.
"Mr. Vaio? You wanted no cream, right?"
These programs trade in millionths of a second, millions of trades a day, and are even trained to prey on other algorithms by recognizing their patterns, stealing their stock picks, and selling them back to them. They even get names, like, "Dagger," "Barcode" or "Crystal Triangle," that apparently come from the Drug Dealer Brand Name Generator.
Malfunctioning algos have shut down the London Stock Exchange and briefly paralyzed the New York Stock Exchange among others. In one incident, a guy not double-clicking fast enough triggered a bug in the program.
When you're controlling billions of dollars, you don't have time to use an antiquated semi-automatic mouse.
Instead of slowing down to work out the bugs, finance companies keep rolling out bigger and more aggressive algorithms. The bank that crashed the NYSE didn't even know they'd done it until they got a (probably very angry) phone call the next day.
Some firms have gone even further and put the algos in charge. At Rebellion Research, computers and humans have actually switched roles. The program (named "Star") is the boss, analyzing over a decade of stock market data and coming up with a long term strategy, giving humans a list of buy/sell instructions every morning. The humans then make the trades at the computer's command, and are not allowed to modify them in any way.
It's not clear from the article whether the program is named after Star Jones pre or post surgery.
More freaky than the fact they're taking orders from a computer is (1) it's actually working - Star is beating the market and bought "defensively" before the stock market crash, and (2) they've started calling it a "he". The creators (servants?) of the program say things like, "He just loaded up on value stocks," and "I've learned not to question the AI." We will all be batteries soon enough.
First the stock market. Then this.