The Singularity is Near

Tom Vanderbilt, author of the excellent Traffic, has a very good piece in the latest NYTimes Magazine on data centers.   

The specter of infinitesimal delay is why, when the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, the nation’s oldest, upgraded its trading platform in 2006, it decided to locate the bulk of its trading engines 80 miles – and three milliseconds – from Philadelphia, and into NJ2, where, as Thomas notes, the time to communicate between servers is down to a millionth of a second. (Latency concerns are not limited to Wall Street; it is estimated that a 100-millisecond delay reduces Amazon’s sales by 1 percent.)

…It seemed heretical to think of Karl Marx. But looking at the roomful of computers running automated trading models that themselves scan custom-formatted machine-readable financial news stories to help make decisions, you didn’t have to be a Marxist to appreciate his observation that industry will strive to “produce machines by means of machines” – as well as his prediction that the “more developed the capital,” the more it would seek the “annihilation of space by time.”

I like the quote but doubt that Marx is the best guide to this new world. try Charlie Stross instead.


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