Frankenstein Wrecks the Dow


One of Western culture's most enduring stories is that of Dr. Frankenstein's monster -- dreamed up in the 19th century by an English novelist, Mary Shelley, and borne through the decades by movies, cartoons, and parodies, becoming (like Google, Xerox, and Kleenex) a word in the common language.

"Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus" to use its full title, is (among other things) a critique of technology gone wrong -- technology pursued without regard for consequences.

I thought about Frankenstein the other day when it was revealed that a monstrous meltdown in the stock market was caused not by concerns over Euro-debt or economic fundamentals, but by computerized trading operations run amok.

These high-speed shops are opaque to regulators. They distort markets by executing trades that no regular investor could hope to make -- one major player tends to hold positions for something like eleven seconds. They can make a lot of money for their owners, but the overall cost may not be worth it.

There's a lesson in all of this for IT -- about technology for technology's sake, and about technology that works well in a narrow sense but carries with it costs to the business or society that make the investment of questionable value.

Anything like that in your laboratory?


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