Yesterday the U.S. stock market experienced a sudden and volatile fluctuation. Dow Jones index has briefly dropped by 10% during intraday trading. The main culprit seems not to be economic issue but suspect to be a glitch in trading. Apparently one trader has entered an exceptionally large trade by mistake, which set off all the automatic trading program to sell-off. There goes the market value.
Watching this episode I see a picture emerging. This is the day when machines begin to rule the world. For all the vigilance put in place after the computer induced 1987 market crash, we are still, or perhaps even more vulnerable due to more reliance on computers.
The conflict of man against machine seems like a sci-fi plot. But I think it is more realistic than most people think. The problem is we are looking for an anthropomorphous entity like HAL, an supercomputer that knows it all, have immense analytic power, and the most frightening part, it has a mind of its own. As far as I know I don't see anything like this on the horizon.
Instead there are countless software agents roaming the net, collecting information, building database, distributing information and in some case taking active roles like trading stock. This global computer network has developed immensely in the past 2 decades, impacting every aspect of our society. Mostly it makes our economy more efficient and keeping us better informed. But does the system also enslave us in some way? Are human truly in control of our destiny. Or are we at the mercy of the system?
I am imagining how the next computer glitch would look like. Think Google Calendar. One day it may suddenly 'recommend' a political rally event to all users, those logic that even its creator cannot explain. And our history may have changed as a result.
2010.05.07 comments -