On the topic of humans using computers to perform extraordinary tasks. I read about a rogue computer rebelling against his human masters and kicking them where it hurts the most; right in the wallet. According to the New York Times, a group of High Frequency Trading (HFT) machines went out of control yesterday.
High Frequency Trading (HFT) has become popular the last few years. By using statistical analysis and market prediction, the HFT-machines are able to predict (with a margin of error) which stocks are worth buying, and which should be sold for a profit. The HFT-machines can make thousands of trades each minute, some are kept for a few hours, some for only a few seconds. Based on computer algorithms, the value of the trade is determined and either kept or discarded. At the end of the day, there are no stocks kept, only the profits remain.
The trading group Knight Capital lost $440.000.000 (that’s over three billion SEK) in about 45 minutes. Due to a glitch in a software patch, the machines suddenly felt an urge to
kill all humans purchase bad stocks such as RadioShack, Ford and American Airlines. When the error was discovered, it was already too late.
I think that the take-away from this is twofold. First, check your damned code (seriously)! Secondly, at the rate we’re developing as a technocratic society, I really can’t see any other future than one where machines one day (say 200 years from now) glitch up and starts killing all the humans. 10.000.000.000 dead in 45 minutes.
Maybe we should take a breather and ask ourselves: is this the way we want to go? Is technological advancement always beneficial? What do we wish future generations to endure because of our constant hunger for progress?