Sunday, February 20, 2011

Continuous partial inattention

A certain amount of speed is good for news coverage.  But there's no constraint on news organizations to keep them from exceeding the need.  The jury's in, and the current speed of communications technology has proven much better at spreading bullshit than spreading facts.  Yet I too refresh news sites when I should be working or reading a book.  What's the next argument?  I've gotta jump right on it!  Yeah, sure...

The financial markets have a similar demand for unlimited speed, and they also reach a point where speed only helps the fast, not the facilitation of sound deals.  The downside is that haste makes every trader prone to market momentum, and the feedback loop in price moves can destroy perfectly healthy assets or inflate bubbles of bigger and bigger shitpiles (™ Atrios).

Information has to remain free at any speed.  The First Amendment guarantees it.  The only solution I can see is for those of us who read and react to become more immune to bullshit.  Frankly, I'm not that optimistic.  Our culture has become so dizzily fond of bullshit that our grandchildren will look back and wonder how we could possibly have accepted as plausible the obvious lies we ate up.

Financial markets are a different story.  We could slow them down without violating anything other than Ayn Rand's financio-sexual fantasies.  The easiest way would be a tiny transaction tax - and I mean tiny.  I want rational transactions (in the normal sense, not the arbitrageurs sense) to take place.  I want prices to reflect fundamentals.  What I'm tired of watching is investment "professionals" creaming off billions by mastering the psychology of the markets.

I could be talking out my ass on this.  If so, prove it to me.  I'm educable...

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