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Are Goldman Sachs and the Megabanks Able to Wipe out an Entire Economy with a Keystroke?

How artificial intelligence and robotrading pose a growing threat to the global marketplace.

"We have found no evidence that these events were triggered by 'fat finger' errors, computer hacking, or terrorist activity, although we cannot completely rule out these  possibilities," a recent Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) report on the so-called May 6 " Flash Crash" that wiped out a cool trillion in a mere half-hour weakly admitted. "Much work is needed to determine all of the causes of the market disruption."  

That's another way of saying that it remains only the market makers that caused the largest single-day point decline in Dow Jones history who actually know where the bodies are buried. The rest of us, including the SEC, have a Sisyphean task of sifting through mountains of dense data. But regardless of who ends up on the end of possible criminal proceedings, the SEC is sure that the whole clusterstock was seriously exacerbated by the robotraders executing light-speed electronic transactions via supercomputers, while exposing our hyperreal economy as an Internetworked casino. If anything, the Flash Crash proved that market makers like Goldman Sachs and plenty more playing both sides of securities could be capable -- with the high-priced help of math and computer science Ph.Ds crafting up proprietary, recursive algorithms -- of wiping out any corporation's stock, perhaps any nation's economy, in a comparative instant with just the press of a button. 

"It was actually amazing watching it all happen," Gina Sanchez, Director of Equity and Asset Allocation Strategy for Roubini Global Economics, told AlterNet by phone. "We went from risk-aversion to risk-seeking in the matter of an hour. But it doesn't bother me so much that the algorithms went after the bids. They were doing what they're supposed to do, which is seek out arbitrage opportunities. What concerned me was how the bids got out there in the first place." 

That is the primary concern of the SEC as well. But it's going to have a hell of a hard time figuring out the human brains behind the inhuman bids that remotely reduced the price of some once-reliable stocks to mere pennies. Thanks to the very technological innovations that has transformed last century's stock market into an inscrutable hyperreality programmed and deprogrammed daily by rapacious banksters, Wall Street's corruption cops are drowning in deeper paperwork, virtual and otherwise, than ever before. 

"Although developments in the markets and in technology may help speed access to market data, they also greatly complicate our efforts to analyze the complex web of trading arrangements and market dynamics that have developed since 1987," SEC chairman Mary Schapiro confessed in a May 20 Senate hearing on the Flash Crash. "For example, the key day in the 1987 Market Break Study involved a trading session processing a little over 600 million shares in NYSE stocks. On May 6, the markets processed 10.3 billion shares in NYSE stocks alone." 

What Schapiro and the SEC really need to crunch all that digital data are some genius math and science nerds, but they've all been conscripted by the market makers to game the global economy. It pays stunningly well, even when it epically fails. After engineering a global crisis that has so far swelled America's national debt to $13 trillion, the too-big-to-fail banksters are now bigger, stronger and armed with bonuses for their predatory efforts. In fact, that success has emboldened them to continue their intrepid devaluations. Since the Flash Crash, the overall market has experienced severe devaluations marking off technical corrections that place it out of the reach of economic recovery. Even in depressed economies, market makers make out just fine. 

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