My biggest takeaway from 10+ years working in algo trading is a visceral sense of how everything is in motion. The software we build relies on libraries and tools which are constantly changing. The hardware stack, from the telecom infrastructure to the processor cache, improves every year. The exchange’s rules are subject to revision, along with their software approximations of those rules. The people in the business move between institutions, and institutions themselves come and go. Nothing stands still — everything is constantly inching forward, or at least in some direction.
When we find a solution to a real-world problem, we create an intrinsically-unstable piece of knowledge. The knowledge is unstable because it relies on lots of other parts standing still. But all those little parts are themselves subject to the wheel of change. When we have an insight and want to take advantage of it, it helps to remember that the knowledge is time-sensitive and decaying. The knowledge is pointing to “things” but those things aren’t static — mere patterns that are soon to be memories. Eventually, everything rearranges and most knowledge becomes obsolete. We can piss or get off the pot, and if we stick around long enough the pot will disappear.
I rarely beat myself up for trying and failing, whereas in retrospect the prospect of failure feels very scary. Failure can often be made less costly than the suffering we later call upon ourselves for failing to act.
Also published on Medium.