Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Financial Trading and IT

Just been listening to BBC Radio 4's 'Click On' (oddly similar to Click - nee Digital Planet -  though they never mention each other). There was an item about the super intelligent computer programmers sought out and vertiginously paid by the banks to write computer programmes that trade 'financial instruments'. For all the jargon that surrounds finance, what has not one away is the idea of buy low and sell high. Computers can do this very fast and continuously, and the finest brains in the world jusst make them do it that little bit faster. The computer has to do its thing without being noticed, so that the herd mentality doesn't kick in and cause everyone to sell, or buy, or whatever.

This is how we waste our finest brains. Not working to cure disease, save the environment, predict natural disasters, overcome language barriers, digitise the world's off line knowledge and culture, improve communication, put a man on Mars, or anything actually useful - just playing glorified computer games. This is a special case of the 'any job is contributing to society' fallacy in which doing a job is by definition contributing society, irrespective of what job it is. Their job is more socially useful than feeding a slot machine all day - they're just very, very good at it.

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