Investment advisors troll Alife conferences looking for new algorithms they can deploy in their quest to beat the odds of the global stock market. Investors themselves put all of their faith in algorithmic trading to buy or sell. If they still experience their choices as their own, their hair trigger decisions are made essentially on faith. The complexity and speed of transactions are well beyond any human ability to process the data of the massive search spaces that are involved. Shing Tat Chung’s year long Superstitious Fund Project is a performative foray into this zone that has generated some heated public debate in the US in recent years. It zeroes in on the issue of blind faith through a parodic but actual investment fund that calls attention to the rise and fall of values due to investors’ belief or lack of belief in the invisible forces that maintain those values. The algorithm/bot running the Superstitious Fund makes decisions based purely on superstitious beliefs, related to astrology (e.g. phases of the moon) and numerology (e.g. fear of the number 13). It generates a trading logic according to “lucky values” that it derives at any given moment. The artist presents his project via a CNBC interview in which, as manager of the fund, he is questioned about its performance – it is admittedly a bit of an underperformer in a business sense. But it speaks eloquently to William Uricchio’s proposal that the algorithm introduces the most unsettled and potentially creative conditions in today’s networked world.
About the author
Shing Tat Chung is an artist and designer. He studied Fine Art at the Slade School of Fine Art and Frankfurt Stadelschule. He has just completed his Masters in Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art, London. His work is multidisciplinary, however is aimed at provoking thought and debate around economic or social issues or the impact of present or speculative technologies on our society. His recent and ongoing works explores the affects of superstition on societies and infrastructures, which often go ignored or hidden in the world we live in. In response to his research, he has created projects that aim to raise discussion and debate around our irrationalities. In specific cases, through the lens of finance and trading algorithms. Shing Tat Chung lives and works in London. Recent exhibitions and talks have included Test Lab at V2 Unstable Media, Rotterdam, Microsoft Design Expo, Redmond Washington, Live Interview on CNBC WorldWide Services Television, Paradise at Milan Salone, What If at the Beijing Design Triennial, Never in a Million Years at the Folkestone Triennial.