Monday, February 25, 2008


David Louis Edelman wrote a really good short story called mathralon.

Along the way [possible spoiler] he became excited by the idea behind the story ..

So what was this idea I got so excited about?

I believe it started with a friend of mine who writes mathematical models for automated stock trading. There’s no human being there reading the Wall Street Journal and making informed decisions about what to buy and sell on any particular day; it’s just a computer program making these decisions based on past performance and current market conditions and the arrangements of chicken entrails and who knows what else. Thinking about this, I wondered: what if all the entities on the other end of these transactions were automated computer programs too? Hell, what if the actual companies represented by these stocks were run by automated computer programs?

Take this out to loony, science fiction extremes and you start to reach some very interesting philosophical territory. You could have automated General Motors factories building cars, based on specs determined by automated computer programs that study market trends. They glean those market trends by reading publications that are also generated by automated computer programs, based on purchases by companies who are also run by automated computer programs, and so forth and so on.

What if over thousands of years you built an automated economy that functioned so well that it outlasted the people who built it? Eventually you would get to the point where the remaining human cogs are servicing a machine that’s become more important than the thing the machine was built for.

Interesting because a lot of our jobs have automated components to them - computer models, inventory ...
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