Quantification Machines and Artificial Agents in Global Finance

Subtitle:Historical-Phenomenological Perspectives from Philosophy and Sociology of Technology and Money
Authors/others:Coeckelbergh, Mark
Abstract: ABSTRACT: This paper raises questions regarding the societal, cultural and ethical significance of finance, mathematics, and financial-mathematical technologies, discussing in particular the phenomenon of quantification as mediated by contemporary electronic information and communication technologies (ICTS). It first relates the history of mathematics to the history of financial technologies, and argues, inspired by Simmel and Marcuse, that from ancient times to now there seems to be an evolution towards increasing quantification not only in finance, accounting etc., but in modern society in general. It shows that scientific and technological changes have social and ethical consequences, as quantification creates more distance between people. The paper then analyzes and discusses current shifts of financial agency that exemplify what seems to be a moment of hyper-quantification through the use of ICTs: experiences of “the market” as an independent agent and money machines as artificial agents in high frequency trading—perhaps the only agents still able to cope with the data-loaded and hyper-quantified world we live in. Under these conditions it becomes more difficult to exercise responsibility. The paper concludes that while we must acknowledge the human character of finance and mathematics, there are real human and social consequences of quantification, in ancient times and today, for society and responsibility. It is therefore misleading to assume that financial technologies and mathematics are ethically neutral; more analysis of ethical and societal aspects is needed, also from an “outside” perspective.
Number of pages:10
Date of publication:2017
Publication Series:Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics, Springer, vol. 34, 2192-6255,
Publication Type:Chapter
Host publication's title:Methods and Finance
Host publication's editors:Ippoliti, EmilianoChen, Ping
State:E-pub ahead of print