For years we have had stories and novels about battles being fought in a digital virtual world. Some notable examples include Tron, The Matrix Trilogy, Star Trek: A Taste of Armageddon etc. I fondly remember transfixedly watching Tron at the American Center Library in Kolkata and the Star Trek episode earlier to that while I was in high-school hacking on the BBC Microcomputers and IBM PC-ATs. In another instance many would have read A.K. Dewdney’s glorious Armchair Universe which among many things details computer programs fighting each other, the beginnings of computer viruses.
Anyway but all these are either for fun, fiction or malice. However imagine an entire industry humming on using some of these concepts in practice and raking in major buck – and this is not in the computer industry, not the antivirus people. This is the Financial industry, the world of high-frequency trading. Automated trading software using the latest in digital wizardry, mathematics and devious algorithms pitting their electron-soaked brains in titanic microsecond battles to rake in that extra trade, that extra moolah. The fortunes get built in the financial markets of the world and the current state of the computer art get exploited to their limits generating ample bucks and ample controversies in their wake. Some tidbits: