Henri Waelbroeck seems to fit the popular image of the scientist transplanted into the world of high finance and hedge fund trading, the sort of stereotype found in books like "The Fear Index" by Robert Harris.
Waelbroeck, director of research at machine learning-enhanced trade execution system Portware, was previously a professor at the Institute of Nuclear Sciences at the National University of Mexico (UNAM). His areas of expertise include: complex systems science, quantum gravity theories, genetic algorithms, artificial neural networks, chaos theory.
The impression Waelbroeck conveys is one of precision. He explains that algorithms have grown in complexity since being introduced to the world of trading around 2000. This has made it increasingly difficult for traders to understand each vendor's full algorithm platform and how to optimally select an algorithm for each particular trade that comes in from a portfolio manager. Portware leverages artificial intelligence to help traders use execution algorithms and in some cases provides automated execution solutions that select the optimal control parameters on algorithms.
"Our work really has focused on two objectives: the first is to find an optimal execution schedule for each trade, and the second is to interact with the order flow more efficiently to avoid the harmful effects of high frequency trading (HFT)," Waelbroeck told IBTimes.
Indeed, most of today’s largest media outlets – that appear respectable to outsiders – supported the 1964 military coup that ushered in two decades of rightwing dictatorship and further enriched the nation’s oligarchs. This key historical event still casts a shadow over the country’s identity and politics. Those corporations – led by the multiple media arms of the Globo organisation –heralded that coup as a noble blow against a corrupt, democratically elected liberal government. Sound familiar?
For more than a year, those same media outlets have peddled a self-serving narrative: an angry citizenry, driven by fury over government corruption, rising against and demanding the overthrow of Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, and her Workers’ party (PT). The world saw endless images of huge crowds of protesters in the streets, always an inspiring sight.
But what most outside Brazil did not see was that the country’s plutocratic media had spent months inciting those protests (while pretending merely to “cover” them). The protesters were not remotely representative of Brazil’s population. They were, instead, disproportionately white and wealthy: the very same people who have opposed the PT and its anti-poverty programmes for two decades.
Slowly, the outside world has begun to see past the pleasing, two-dimensional caricature manufactured by its domestic press, and to recognise who will be empowered once Rousseff is removed. It has now become clear that corruption is not the cause of the effort to oust Brazil’s twice-elected president; rather, corruption is merely the pretext.
Are we in a recession right now (April 2016)?
Are you in Brazil, Argentina, Russia or Greece? If so, then yes, you are in a recession. If you live in pretty much any other country, you are not. The US is growing at about 2 ½ %, Europe at about 1 ½ %. These are not stellar rates, but they are very far from a recession.
The fact that many of you are asking though, confirms one of my biggest worries: there is an incurable pessimism out there, and many of my colleagues in the economics profession have their share of responsibility. Consider this: over the last five years we have heard over and over that we are still in a recession, or on the brink of a new crisis. And yet, over this period, global growth has averaged 3.8% per year. The average over 1980-2006 was…3.5%. That’s right. We have been doing better than the historical average, all the while telling ourselves we were in stagnation, or a “new mediocre” as the IMF likes to call it.
I see a few explanations for this. Advanced economies are a bit weaker than they used to be, and most of the economic punditry reflects their point of view. And we still think of the 2003-07 record-growth period as “normal” – instead of admitting that it was a bubble.
We are not in a recession. Not in the world, not in the US. In the US, there are now about 4.5 million more people employed than at the peak before the crisis.
All this pessimism troubles me for two reasons. The first is that it holds back consumption and investment – so it holds back growth. The second is that by thinking that the bubble years were normal, we are not focusing on the right things. All the debate is on quantitative easing and negative interest rates as ways to create growth. But you can’t quantitatively ease your way to sustainable growth. You have to invest in infrastructure and education, create a strong business environment, innovate. It’s hard work. But it’s the only way. That is what we should be debating.