DOUBLE IN FUGUE a Parable for Noise
The role of the Remembrancer is to keep matters in Remembrance. The Office was set up to act as the corporate memory…
— City of London website
Noise makes financial markets possible, but also makes them imperfect.
— Fischer Black, “Noise,” Journal of Finance 41/3, 1986
Paul Double, Remembrancer of the City of London since 2003, stands alone in Paternoster Square wiping his touchscreen phone with the Turin Shroud (1). The last thing he can remember, they were in the middle of explaining Turquoise’s Dark Book (2). Emerging Eastern European markets need more liquidity, the quants explain, and Turquoise can go there, darkly (3). In the last decade, Double has sat in on more and more of these ad hoc poetry recitals, in which language attempts to catch up with automation.
It falls to Paul to make sure MP’s don’t stick their fingers in the pie. He takes notes and nods. This is when the fugue kicks in. The quant says something about how a dark book ‘fights’ noise. Double responds by tracing, again and again, a map he understands: Between Guildhall (The Administrative Seat of the City of London) and Paternoster Square (Home of the London Stock Exchange). Paul Double, Remembrancer of the City of London since 2003, is a barrister. His power comes from precedent, supported by a legal team of six (4). But unlike every other Remembrancer in the centuries before, Paul Double has to embody a paradox. The quants just tell him he is a relic, much like the shroud that he now holds—another debate that reduces to pattern recognition and then, as a distant second, faith. And so the Remembrancer increasingly has to self-lobotomize— call it a fugue, always again: Double down Milk Street to Cheapside on a well worn circuit from Guildhall to Paternoster Square. Double has begun to see, with the help of the quants, that in this emergent space there is no ‘corporate memory’. They explain to him that his walks through the City should be more ‘noisy’ in the eyes of the Guildhall Press Office.
The Remembrancer has to be both a totem and caricature for the bots that he increasingly represents (5). Any more details about what he does have been blessedly removed from Google by what he can only assume are the lads in the Press Office. Who knows? Origins are increasingly apocryphal, right? His mindfulness teacher told him that, or was it Roman Abramovich? Whatever. He increasingly feels that remembrance is best done by divination. Paul Double, Remembrancer of the City of London since 2003, has developed dissociative amnesia, taking him on yet another ‘random walk’ to Paternoster, still moping his brow with the Turin Shroud. For a moment he wonders if a plain old rag might be better suited to cleaning his face, but in this case “the onus is on the doubters to prove otherwise.” (6). Back at Guildhall, Paul finds two quantitative analysts trying to leave him behind in this powerpoint: They explain it to him this way: “Double, you’re a Freudian slip made flesh: part Saint (as in author of Romans) and part secret agent (as in double ‘O’) simply sprung from the City’s Id. All dark, long before us. Your task is to explain to these MP’s why we need to collocate a data center in Westminster’s basement.
If they ask what Turquoise is, just tell them to follow us on Twitter.” (7). Paul wrings the Shroud of sweat and asks them if they can jimmy one of those servers to do resurrection? The quant responds: “That is outside our powers Pauli. But, if you want us to remember you when you’re gone, we can whip up an index fund pegged to that mindfulness app you are always on…” LOL Paul Double, once again in fugue, walking down Milk Street, waving the Shroud as a banner—a one man parade toward the Father. Finally, he is going to meet his Constituency: The City made flesh. The corporate body in earnest—the faces off which the fates of the market can be read indexically, like the Shroud. Paul arrives at Paternoster to find it empty, again. He looks down to his screen, polished by the Shroud and asks: ‘What is the most renewable resource of them all?’ Double wipes his brow.
1. Since 2004 Paternoster Square has been home to the London Stock Exchange and subsidiary Turquoise Trading since 2010.
2. Turquoise is an electronic equity trading platform owned primarily by the London Stock Exchange in partnership with a number of investment banks. It facilitates at the rate of 124 microseconds. Its ‘dark book” is an order book of trades done anonymously. The average size of dark book trades is 25 times higher than normal trades.
3. ‘Turquoise plans to extend dark pool to Czech, Poland, Hungary’, Reuters, 13 May, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/europe-markets-darkpools-idUSL3N18950E (last accessed 3 June 2016).
5. For a general description of the ‘socialization’ of automated information on the LSE see: Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra (2010) Creating flows of interpersonal bits: the automation of the London Stock Exchange, c. 1955–90, Economy and Society, 39:1, 84-109, “Thus, the prices on SEAQ were not deemed informative until the reliability of the system became stabilized among market participants vis-à-vis other possible market configurations such as the floor.”
6. Robert K. Wilcox, The Truth About the Shroud of Turin: Solving the Mystery. Washington, DC: Regnery, 2010.
7. Despite facilitating over one trillion euros in trades last year, Turquoise still only has 98 Twitter followers as of 2 June 2016. See: @tradeturquoise