This is probably one of things hugely wrong with Wall Street these days.
Raging Bulls: How Wall Street Got Addicted to Light-Speed Trading | Wired Business | Wired.com
High-frequency traders are a subset of quants, investors who make money the newfangled way: a fraction of a cent at a time, multiplied by hundreds of shares, tens of thousands of times a day. These traders occupy an anomalous position on Wall Street, carrying themselves with a distinctive mixture of diffidence and arrogance that sets them apart from the pure, unmixed arrogance of investment bankers. A pioneering high-frequency trading firm, Tradeworx, has its relatively humble offices two flights up from an Urban Outfitters in a sleepy New Jersey suburb. Twenty people work there, about half of them on the trading floor, monitoring on triple screens the fractions of a penny as they mount up, second by second. Roughly 1.5 percent of the total volume of stocks traded on US exchanges on a given day will pass, however fleetingly, through the hushed, sunlit, brick-walled room.
On the first day of the New York conference, Aaron Brown, a legendary quant and former professional poker player, took the stage in rumpled chinos and a leather jacket to lecture the assembly on game theory. He began his talk by saying, “3.14159,” and then pausing expectantly. From the back of the room came the response: “265358.” Together they made up the first 12 digits of pi—a geek shibboleth. “You won’t see a lot of masters of the universe here,” said Charles Jones, a professor of finance and economics at Columbia Business School. “A lot of these guys, if they’re wearing a tie, it might be the only one they own.”
Faster and faster turn the wheels of finance, increasing the risk that they will spin out of control, that a perturbation somewhere in the system will scale up to a global crisis in a matter of seconds. “For the first time in financial history, machines can execute trades far faster than humans can intervene,” said Andrew Haldane, a regulatory official with the Bank of England, at another recent conference. “That gap is set to widen.”