This all started as an older man’s fantasy and a younger man’s joke.
The fantasy was Warren’s, my first boss at the Board of Trade. He was a world-class schmoozer, old school, with a salt and pepper brush cut, kind eyes, a honey voice and elegantly understated suits.
To him trading meant men and some women exchanging pieces of paper. He had come up in a world that was even then disappearing where every afternoon at a stockbroker’s office the old men would sit on long wooden benches, sometimes bringing a paper bag lunch, gossipping with each other and watching the crawling ticker tape in flashing lights high on an opposing wall. That was how you got the current price in that information impoverished time.
Warren was always trying to figure out more ways to get those men and women to exchange pieces of paper through his brokers, his offices, his phones. One day he pitched me wistfully the concept of “Stocks ‘n Buns”. This would be a series of buildings on Florida beaches with glass walls so that the alte cockers could keep one eye on the tape and another on the sand bunnies outside.
It never happened.
Go forward twenty years. Moore’s law had been in force and computers were now more than a thousand times more powerful.
It was the moment of the Internet. Netscape had just gone public for a gazillion dollars. E-mail, e-tail, e-zines or e-just about anything was the buzz. It was the golden moment between the first browser and the Pets.com sock puppet ad durning the Super Bowl that had forshadowed the first dot.com crash.
During this period the two applications that were absolutely making making the Internet hum were the stock market and pornography. So naturally I thought once again of Stocks ‘n Buns. Now, there would be no paper no direct human contact, at least in person. Stock prices were availible on demand to anyone, anytime. Online brokers took orders automatically. But, I thought, what if we created pseudo brokers…maybe licensed, maybe not, who were cam girls (and I suppose just a few cam boys to be fair), to take your orders or at least appear to?
I thought this was a pretty funny idea, and it would probably work, which made it even funnier, at least to me. That is until I pitched it as a joke to a demibillionaire who lives down the street. I was walking by an outdoor cafe and he was sitting at a table with his daughter. I sat down and did the whole bit, his expression never changed. My friend has an amazing IQ and a will of iron, but no sense of irony whatsoever. His response was to ask me whether I had started the project and how far along had I gotten.
That shamed me, and I never trotted the joke out again.
Go forward another twenty years. Moore’s law held. Computers were yet again a thousand times more powerful.
Electrons had been kicked to the curb for being too slow, now replaced by photons. Computers traded with each other thousands of times within a second, eliminating people altogether. DNA was being sequenced faster and faster. Thousands and then millions of computers joined networks to solve problems that had never been possible before, earning virtual money for their efforts. It was the time of the bitchain.
The stocks ‘n buns idea of this time was to combine money and biology in realtime. Hence virus coin.
And given the monetized world we live in….viral futures, viral options, mutation default swaps, … the whole apparatus of the modern economy began to drive the gene pool.
It almost worked…..