Interesting Notes about Wall Street and Your Street

In the October 5 issue of Economics Magazine, an article claims that the role of automation and now Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken over Wall Street. Note the following excerpts:

  • Funds run by computers that follow rules set by humans account for 35% of America’s stock market, 60% of institutional equity assets and 60% of trading activity. New AI programs also are writing their own investing rules, in ways their human masters only partly understand.
  • A final concern is corporate governance. For decades company boards have been voted in and out of office by fund managers on behalf of their clients. What if these shares are run by agnostic computers or worse have narrow objectives such as paying high dividends at any cost?
  • Hey Siri, can you invest my life savings?

In the eighteenth century, one showed superiority by wearing machine made, unfitted, uncomfortable shoes made in Europe instead of the commoner’s choice of a locally made, measured and fitted, comfortable shoe from solid, inexpensive materials which were easily reparable. While this seems incredulous, this practice dominates all retail today. Given the turn in international economics, ‘made in America’ AKA ‘Made by me’ as a personal experience doesn’t mean much anymore. Try to find a shoe repair store today. Try to have a shoe repair store make the reader a pair of personally fitted shoes. Alas, past his time, mariner remembers a local shoemaker who made shoes.

Mariner is old enough to remember the old days when Mothers, Aunts, Grandmothers and even Great Grandmothers made, knitted, repurposed, patched and otherwise sustained the family wardrobe. That was before inexpensive replacements could be bought from some Asian country or replaced by cheap but irreparable rayon and other -ons. Similar observations are visible in other disciplines: appliances for task-based jobs, automobiles instead of public transportation, accepting uncertain information from TV and YouTube instead of reading fact-checked and vetted newspapers and books – not to mention the greedy, life-controlling munchkins hiding in the smartphone.

Before the non-romantics rise up about preferring to not darn socks and make clothes, shoes, chop wood or make pasta from scratch or canning apples or other day-to-day self-rewarding activities, mariner understands the role and benefit of progress. He doesn’t want to darn socks either. But. But. How does an individual sustain personal value and satisfaction? How does an individual feel personal competency and life achievement within one’s daily life? How does an individual sustain an ethic centered on one’s psyche?

The most common metaphor from mariner’s posts is, “How does an individual feel about achieving intimacy and bonding with a spouse offered up by a corporation?” A whole segment of life experience and the exercise of emotional discipline are traded for spouse shopping with a spouse-salesman. Are trade-ins next? Mariner’s mind leaps to the phrase, “She’ll make a good first wife”, or “He’ll make a good first investment.” What happened to investing one’s libido and aptitude? As a realistic metaphor, many retirees develop hobbies that reflect personal achievement – perhaps for the first time in their lives. Mariner knew a judge from Baltimore who retired and learned to weld and repair trucks. Many folks actually drop a career to pick one that provides personal value, e.g., charity work, community leadership and the arts.

Individually, mariner understands the desire to improve the time/work/result ratio. What comes to mind, however, is how eager humans are to trade for the easy life by surrendering personal accomplishment at the existential level.

With AI, there is a new relationship: just as humans defer to corporate perceptions about life, humans don’t set the rules for computers anymore either. It may be that the only color available for clothes will be unbleached fiber – whatever color that is – because AI says it’s the cheapest solution for corporate profit.

As to Wall Street, J.G. Wentworth may become the largest lender in the nation if Siri won’t allow a withdrawal from the savings account to pay for a vacation in Acapulco.

Another down home decision that’s disappearing: personally meaningful, moralistic voting.[1]

Ancient Mariner


[1] In case the reader doesn’t notice commercials, J.G Wentworth will buy an individual’s structured accounts, e.g., insurance policies, so one can say, “It’s my money! I want it now.” Of course, one takes a financial hit when the smoke clears.

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