Trading Humans for Trading Algorithms
The economic system and profit motive has been a driving force that steers and even dictates social change. Investors and stockbrokers have been a major influence to these social changes, as they decide where money is allocated to serve a specific function. The reason why money is invested in some rather than other businesses isn’t always related to evidence that any given company will do better than the other. Rumors and trading floor gossip sometimes fuel speculations that reap major profits for some and painful losses for others. Losses that could mean the termination of jobs. Of course investment and successive financial gains can also lead to job losses, mostly due to automation where machines replace human workers.
Now in a strange yet somewhat satisfactory twist of irony, the people who have been making money out of money, have a growing chance of being replaced by faster and cheaper algorithms that can do their jobs better.
“The Foresight Project” by the “Government Office for Science” of the United Kingdom produced a report called “The Future of Computer Trading in Financial Markets” which investigates the trends of computer trading and its effects on financial markets. One of these effects is the replacement of human speculators by algorithms. Thus far about a third of UK trading is done by computers compared to three quarters in the United States.
Drugs are Nuts
Thinking about Next Nature can sometimes result in a feeling of vertigo. Normal standards are eroded and slowly replaced by next natural ones. A bewildering example can be found in a letter the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent to a manufacturer of walnuts.
“Based on claims made on your firm’s website, we have determined that your walnut products are promoted for conditions that cause them to be drugs because these products are intended for use in the prevention, mitigation, and treatment of disease. The following are examples of the claaims made on your firm’s website under the heading of a web page stating “OMEGA-3s … Every time you munch a few walnuts, you’re doing your body a big favor.”
Why Handwriting Must Die
Associate professor Anne Trubek argues that handwriting will soon be history, because writing words by hand is a technology that’s just too slow for our times, and our minds. A copy-paste summary from her essay:
“Handwriting has been around for just 6,000 of humanity’s some 200,000 years. Its effects have been enormous, of course: It alters the brain, changes with civilizations, cultures and factions, and plays a role in religious and political battles.”
“Most of us know, but often forget, that handwriting is not natural. We are not born to do it. There is no genetic basis for writing. Writing is not like seeing or talking, which are innate. Writing must be taught.”
Street View of the United States
Back to the Tribe
Traditionally, technology is seen as a force that diminishes our instincts and puts us at a distance of nature. Increasingly however, we realize technology can also energize and amplify our deepest human sensibilities – even some we had forgotten about. Propelling us not so much back to, but rather forward to nature.
Almost two decades ago, Brian Eno – artist, composer, inventor, thinker – gave an interview in which he stated the problem with computers was that there is not enough Africa in them . “Africa is everything that something like classical music isn’t. Classical – perhaps I should say ‘orchestral’ – music is so digital, so cut up, rhythmically, pitch wise and in terms of the roles of the musicians. It’s all in little boxes.”… “Do you know what a nerd is? A nerd is a human being without enough Africa in him or her. I know this sounds sort of inversely racist to say, but I think the African connection is so important. I want so desperately for that sensibility to flood into these other areas, like computers.” … “It uses so little of my body. You’re just sitting there, and it’s quite boring. You’ve got this stupid little mouse that requires one hand, and your eyes. That’s it. What about the rest of you? No African would stand for a computer like that. It’s imprisoning.”
An Ecstatic Dialogue with Richard Doyle
When techno–optimist and fellow at the Hybrid Reality Institute, Jason Silva, meets with Richard Doyle, author of Darwin’s Pharmacy: Sex, Plants and the Evolution of the Noosphere, we must buckle up for an Ecstatic Dialogue on language, reality, ancient Internets and how psychedelics make us human.
JASONSILVA: Your new book Darwin’s Pharmacy talks about the relationship between psychedelic plants and the accelerating evolution of the “noosphere”, which some define as the knowledge substrate of reality, the invisible, informational dimension of collective intelligence and human knowledge. Is this more or less accurate?
RICHDOYLE: The book features a set of nested claims about the evolution of mind, psychedelics (or, as I prefer and propose, “ecodelics”), and the evolution of the noosphere, but all of the claims can be understood via two claims:
(1) Ecodelics have been an integral part of the human toolkit, so suppressing them is like suppressing music, jokes or other aspects of our humanity. (Here I am following Samorini, Siegel, and others)
(2) As integral parts of the human toolkit, ecodelics are best modeled as part of sexual selection – the competition for mates and the leaving of progeny. A careful look at Charles Darwin’s writings on sexual selection will show that sexual selection works through the management of attention – what we would now call “information technologies.” Think birdsong, bioluminescence ( the most widespread communication technology on the planet), poetry. The peacock is managing and focusing peahen attention with his feathers, so what we have called “mind” has been involved in evolution for a very long time. Mandrilles eat iboga before competing for mates.
The Monsters We Deserve
Recently, a video clip has been circulating the web that purportedly shows a rabbit born earless due to the radiation at Fukushima. BoingBoing has a convincing take-down of the claims of the video: earless rabbits are a fairly common mutation, mother rabbits sometimes chew off their ears of their young due to stress, and no one even knows where the video was filmed.
More interesting than the video is the fact that we want to it to be real. Radioactivity should have immediate, visible consequences. Bodily harm should be made manifest, and any disturbances in the natural order need to be seen to be believed. After the nuclear bomb explodes, we all head to the ocean to watch Godzilla pop out of the waves.