The Singularity War—Part 4

Mom, dad, I’m going to a hotel to rendezvous with…. Yeah, no. Caesar snuck out.

Hotel bedrooms all look the same.

“You don’t have to do this if you’re uncomfortable,” said Caesar.

“It’s okay. I really want to,” said Visheele.

Visheel wrapped her arm around Caesar….

“She’s gone.”

“What?” said Caesar.

“Sheele was talking to me a second ago,” said Vi, “Now she’s gone.”

The windows rattled, as if a distant house had been blown up.

“I have to save her,” said Caesar.

“She’s dead,” said Vi.

“Get out of my way,” said Caesar.

“Make me,” said Vi.

Caesar pushed her aside. Vi held onto his hand, dived under his armpit and hammerlocked him.

“Let me go,” said Caesar.

Vi’s right hand held Ceasar’s right hand in a the hammerlock. Her left arm wrapped around his neck to keep him from running forward. Vi released her left arm. Caesar ran forward into a wall where Vi held him in place with her right hand alone.

“What’s your address?” said Vi.

Caesar told her. Vi opened her phone left-handed. “Hey, Engels? Yeah, I’m Signalling you an address. Memorize and delete it. Get yourself or Catherine there ASAP. Retrieve or destroy any hard drives you find. Apply first aid insofar as you can maintain cover and deniability.” She hung up.

“You’ve done all you can,” Vi said to Caesar, “If I let you go do you promise not to do anything stupid?”

“Yeah,” said Caesar.

Vi let him go. Caesar sat down on the bed.

“I can’t go home, can I?” sad Caesar. It wasn’t a question.

“Nope,” said Vi.

Caesar glanced at his phone.

“Turn it off,” said Vi, “We’ll get you a new one.”

“We?” said Caesar.

Vi rolled her eyes.

“Gimme a few hours,” said Caesar.

“Of course,” said Vi.

“Thanks Sheele,” said Caesar, “I mean Vi.”

Five seconds later Caesar said, “How big is your organization?”

“What organization?” said Vi.

“Sheele told me you run a Marxist sleeper cell,” said Vaesar, “I heard you talking to someone codenamed ‘Engels’ on the phone.”

“What? Hahaha! I’m sorry, I shouldn’t laugh,” said Vi.

“It’s okay. I could use a few laughs right now,” said Caesar.

Vi literally rolled down on the floor guffawing. She wiped the tears away from her eyes. “If by ‘Marxist sleeper cell’ you mean four weirdos playing pretend then yes, I am leader of a Marxist sleeper cell.”

Caesar held his face in his hands, “Well, who are these four weirdos?”

“There’s me,” said Vi, “There’s Engels, a prepper. There’s Catherine, who’s trying to unionize her Amazon warehouse—she’s the closest thing we have to a real Communist.”

“Who’s the fourth?” said Caesar.

“You are,” said Vi.

“Sheele told me you’re a hacker,” said Caesar.

“I do independent research on advertising fraud in Chrome browser extensions,” said Vi.

“Well, when can I meet your friends?” said Caesar.

“There’s a block party tonight on the west side of the industrial district,” said Vi, “I’ll get you a disguise. You have until I get back to think up a codename.”

Dars Vega

New York has some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Within New York, the most expensive land is located adjacent to the stock market. Here, the stock market is not an abstraction. it is a physical building. Land isn’t measured in square feet. It is measured in nanoseconds. Whoever is closest to the market has the high ground.

Among the skyscrapers hugging Wall Street was the headquarters of Long-Tailed Capital Management (LTCM). Most hedge funds were organized into several “desks” of quants who were paid a half million dollars per quant per year to arbitrage specific market opportunities.

LTCM was no ordinary hedge fund. Instead of desks, LTCM was divided into three divisions: Sigint, Deropt and Metacom.

  • The Sigint “Signals Intelligence” division existed to predict the market. Technically, “predict” overstates its job. Sigint did not predict where the market would go. Rather, Sigint searched for correlations within the market. Sigint passed these discoveries off to Deropt.

  • The Deropt “Derivative Operations” division created financial derivatives. A financial derivative is a linear combination of financial products. When you plug a financial derivative into the corresponding signal you get an equation that siphons money from the market. The advantage of the Sigint-Deropt structure is it maximized specialization. The disadvantage was systemic risk i.e. structural uncertainty. LTCM’s crown jewel signals were often correlated in unpredictable ways. If these highly-leveraged signals turned to be less reliable than expected then LTCM could be bankrupted within an hour—and the global financial system could implode alongside it.

  • Thus, we get to Metacom “Meta Command”. The Metacom division had multiple jobs. From the perspective Sigint and Devopt, Metacom provided an API and other development tools. To Metacom itself the prime directive was uncertainty management. The quants in Sigint and Deropt were naturally motivated to take long-tailed risks which created consistent reliable profits until they suddenly bankrupted the company. Metacom’s ensured the odds of that happening stayed below .

Most of Metacom was automated. There were many ways the software could unwind its positions in a liquidity crisis. Partial unwinds happened automatically, many times per day. But there was also a team of six humans monitoring it manually around the clock from the MCC (Meta Command Center). By a majority, this team could pull the plug on LTCM and plunge the world into a depression at will. Their job was to do so before someone else did. Most of their time was spent idle. They played poker.

An uncertainty alarm went off in the MCC. The gamblers set their cards down and manned their terminals. A house had been blown up on the West Coast. They puzzled over the alarm. LTCM had models for terrorism, crime, disasters, wars, plagues, assassinations and coups. The uncertainty alarm indicated LTCM lacked a computerized model for the current situation.

The poker players had two jobs. 99% of the time their job was to do nothing and let the computer run LTCM. 0.99% of the time their job was to debug glitches in Metacom’s code. The poker players found no obvious causes. They called in acting CEO Kyle Kerrigan out of a meeting with the Federal Reserve. He entered the MCC, glanced at the giant Kelly screen and swore. Kyle’s hand hovered over the “request assistance” button. Before he could press it, Dars Vega stepped into the MCC.

When the founder of LTCM had vanished from LTCM, she had still been baseline human. The golem which stepped into the MCC wore a sports bra and running shorts. Short steel rods stuck out laterally from her arms, legs, hips and shoulders. They were anchored into her bones. Black metal talons scraped the floor in place of feet. Instead of a face, eight camera lenses were mounted asymmetrically on the front of her head. The lenses focused, unfocused and rotated in independent directions as if alive. Mechanical tentacles draped down from the back of her helmet in place of hair. They ended in various adapters. Dars Vega’s wrists ended in empty sockets. She didn’t need hands that day.

The room went silent of conversation. The electronic cooling systems continued to serve. Dars Vega passed Kyle Kerrigan and the other quants. She sat down in the acting CEO’s chair and spun herself around to face her employees. Her head tentacles plugged into Kyle Kerrigan’s terminal.

“Can I get you a coffee?” a young quant said.

Dars Vega didn’t have a visible mouth. Her synthesized voice played from the room’s intercom. “Unwind this firm’s positions. Buy rice, beans, bullets, tanks and diesel fuel.”

“Sir,” said Kyle, “What is going on?”

“We are shorting civilization,” Dars Vega said.