Trading

“And, done!” I said to myself triumphantly as I clicked the button for the final upload. This has been a project several years in the making. Now all I had to do was sit back, wait, and see what happened.

Which I fully expected to be nothing, actually. The “years” were really just chunks of my free-time dedicated to hacking on this hobby project. It was a neural network I’d fiddled into doing stock trading algorithms. I’d trained in on historical data for the last few decades. Common wisdom was that this would accomplish nothing.

Nonetheless, I opened up the monitoring front-end I threw together and watched the updates as it started its day-trading. I had given it a decent chunk to work with, thanks to the privilege of being a single engineer for several decades. I had a bet with a few friends on how long it would take to run the whole thing down to zero.

Ups and downs are normal in stock trading, so I wasn’t that surprised that the balance went up for the first hour. It wasn’t designed to do split-second trading. Its behavior was more like a human, idling along with one of those free trading apps on their phone.

By closing bell I was up 20%. This was more surprising. Probably just luck. Ups and downs, like I said. A lot of folks would have taken that return and cashed out. But I wasn’t really in it for the money. A few thousand wouldn’t really change my life, so I just left it in.

The next day was crazy at work and I kind of forgot about it until I checked in after dinner the next evening. That was when I became certain that my UI was borked. The display value for daily gains was showing a handful of zeroes, commas included. To be honest, I was kind of let down that it had managed to lose all that money in only a day. Back to the drawing board, I guess.

I did some variable probing to see what was going on. And that was when my heart skipped several beats in a row.

The display wasn’t choking on zero. It was a character overrun. The gains had exceeded the character limit. I put down my coffee and stared. I was sure I was doing something wrong. Where could the glitch be?

That’s when the phone rang and my life changed forever.

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