“Humans cannot compete on speed, it’s as simple as that.”
Ten years ago, John Coates was a trader in Wall Street.
Today, he is a neuroscientist at Cambridge University, and spends his days monitoring traders’ hormones to see what makes them tick.
“There are simple tests you can do. When you see a green light… you click a mouse. The fastest you can do that is 100 to 120 milliseconds. Any basic cognitive processing, figuring things out, then maybe 200 to 300 milliseconds.
“The trouble is, the boxes – last time I looked – they were processing a trade in 10 milliseconds, and today I think… we’re talking about millionths of a second.”
Those “boxes” are the robot traders – computers that make their own decisions about when to buy and sell, but a thousand times faster than any human can.