Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Algorithms in Action

"The so-called algorithmic trading mechanisms, which buy and sell stocks based on news headlines and earnings data, were responsible for roughly a quarter of NYSE trades in the last week of August." -- from WSJ article, B3, Sept 10, 2008. Now, I don't think these are algorithms and analyses we grapple with (say, sparsest cut, fractional cascading or factoring), and I am sure there is thresholded logic, information retrieval, machine learning, adaptive control, even some hearty heuristics embedded in these mechanisms. But if there were to be a certified, bonded, insured algorithms-engineer ever, this would be their responsiblity. Wow.

Below is an anachronistic quote from Hoover:
"The great liability of the engineer compared to men of other professions is that his works are out in the open where all can see them. His acts, step by step, are in hard substance. He cannot bury his mistakes in the grave like the doctors. He cannot argue them into thin air or blame the judge like the lawyers. He cannot, like the architects, cover his failures with trees and vines. He cannot, like the politicians, screen his shortcomings by blaming his opponents and hope that the people will forget. The engineer simply cannot deny that he did it. If his works do not work, he is darned. That is the phantasmagoria that haunts his nights and dogs his days. He comes from the job at the end of the day resolved to calculate it again. He wakes in the night in a cold sweat and puts something on paper that looks silly in the morning. All day he shivers at the thought of the bugs which will inevitably appear to jolt his smooth consummation."


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