Newsweek, via The Daily Beast
Vale a pena ler todo o artigo, apesar de longo. Dá um retrato impressivo do que são e como apareceram os "traders" de Wall Street que já não estão em Wall Street, mas espalhados em vários lugares.
O estilo de Tom Wolfe, octogenário, é o mesmo de sempre: sarcástico, impiedoso e inteligente. O artigo retoma o tema do seu romance de há vinte e cinco anos, a Fogueira das Vaidades e os "masters of the universe", os correctores que ganham fortunas em transacções bolsistas efectuadas em segundos. Ou seja, agora em milésimos de segundo...
Onward! Onward! Faster! Faster! At a thousand, two thousand, three thousand banking operations, investment funds, and exchanges, quants kept adding computers and servers and servers and computers row above row above row on floor-to-ceiling racks that stretched on infinitely like the stacks of the biggest library in the world… wrapped in miles of white fiber-optic cables that interconnected the machines… But these stacks were by no means quiet as a library’s. There were aisles between the stacks so that someone, presumably someone from IT, could get to any machine, every cable connection, if he had to. But any human being who entered, even an IT guy or a quant, was engulfed, oppressed, unnerved, spooked out by an overwhelming droning sound and an X-ray-blue fluorescent light that made your skin look posthumous. The droning seemed to create a pressure upon your skull. Sometimes the drone would rise slightly, then lower… and rise… and lower. It made you think this enormous robo-monster was breathing… If you were knowledgeable enough even to be allowed to enter one of these huge server rooms, you knew that most of the droning came from air-conditioning units high as a wall… that ran constantly to keep this concentration of machines from auto-melting because of their own ungodly heat. In some gigantic facilities they let the heat rise into plenums and piped it from there to heat the entire building. You could know all that, but the robo-monster would ride your head so hard, you would turn anthropomorphic in spite of your superior brain… The robo-monster—it’s breathing… it’s starting to move… it’s got me by the head… it’s thinking with its CPU (Central Processing Unit) mind, thinking in algorithms, sequences of programmed decisions along the lines of “If A261, then G1432, and therefore B5556 or QQ42—” spotting discrepancies, making buy-sell decisions, even deceptive looks-like-a-buy feints to trick competing robo-brains into making foolish calculations. The monster’s human… No, he’s not human… No human brain could possibly think or act as fast, as accurately, as cunningly as a robo-brain.
Thorp’s 10-second transactions during the Bell breakup would have been an eternity in the robo-world. The investment banks, funds—and exchanges—began adding acres of robo-racks in the race to spot mispricing opportunities first and execute transactions in the same instant. It was no longer a matter of oldfashioned split seconds. It came down to millionths of a second. This became known as High Frequency Trading.
The robo-monster accounted for 10 percent of all trades in 2000. Thereafter, the number rose in a steep, steady climb to a peak of 73 percent in 2009, close to three of every four trades—and nobody in the outside world, not even the press, had ever heard of it! The first mention of it in the press was not until July 23, 2009, in the New York Times.
The majority of men working full-time right here on Wall Street didn’t know much more. They were as innocent as the suckers, the guppies, the muppets. They learned in such tiny steps, they didn’t get the whole picture until very late in the game. Their first inkling came when the investment banks’ trading floors began to calm down… fewer and fewer traders yelling at each other or into the telephone or at Fate. Before long they were sitting at desks behind banks of computer screens and communicating with each other by text message. (...)