Friday, September 21, 2018

Can Artificial Intelligence Make Us Smarter Traders?

There are some who would have you believe that trading is 80+% a function of your psychology.  All you need to do is sustain your mindset and discipline and remove your emotional blocks and you, too, can find the success of Market Wizards.

As a psychologist, a psychologist who has worked full-time with traders on trading floors, a psychologist who has consulted to trading firms across different markets and strategies, and as one who has traded himself for decades, I can assure you that there is a helluva lot more to success in markets than maintaining the right psychology.

A good way to put it is that the wrong psychology can derail anyone, but the right psychology does not substitute for insight, skill, and experience.  Psychology is necessary for success in any performance field--from athletics to trading--but it is not sufficient.

One of the most powerful observations I've encountered in my work with traders and portfolio managers is that cognitive skills and development account for as much success in markets as personality variables.  Superior traders have superior information processing skills.  Show me a good trader, and I will show you someone who--in some way--processes information more effectively and uniquely than his or her less successful counterparts.

I was part of a meeting recently in which a money management firm discussed the idea of requiring programming knowledge from all new hires.  Years ago, that could never have been a topic for discussion.  Now it is a serious proposal.

It makes sense.  When I look at the traders who have been particularly successful over the past couple of years, the majority are either entirely algorithmic or manage capital with a hybrid, "man-machine" interface.  Many make discretionary decisions--aided by signals generated by the machines.

Quite simply, machines--used properly--can process more information, more quickly than we can.  They can find patterns in multidimensional space that evade our naked eyes--and they can ensure that these patterns are not merely curve-fit.

It's not that artificial intelligence (AI) necessarily succeeds by giving us better trades.  It is valuable in giving us more hypotheses to consider in framing trade ideas.  It identifies patterns that have set up in the most recent past so that we can make an informed judgment as to the potential for those patterns continuing into the immediate future.  It vastly expands our cognitive bandwidth.  For that reason, AI can help us more quickly adjust to shifting patterns in the instruments and markets that we trade.

On Saturday, October 20th, I'll be in San Diego with the folks at Trade Ideas and several experienced market participants to discuss the potential for partnering with machines for better trading.  We'll take a look at trading processes, as well as trading psychology, and how those can make the most of increased information bandwidth.  The automobile greatly expanded our travel capacity relative to the horse-and-buggy.  So, too, in the machine age, can we greatly enhance our decision making with a superior flow of supporting information.

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