Friday, 21 November 2014

Swarm Theory...

This is an old post from another blog that I have 'resurrected' to start off this one. I wrote it many years ago when the credit crunch hit and I have put it up again because already it has rung true. Since the 'bail out' it seems that every few months there there has been another embarrassing scandal driven by greed, fear and stupidity. So by all means follow...but don't follow blindly..

In National Geographic the other day there was an article on swarm theory and self organising systems. They referred to a school of fish and how they are able to make quick decisions by making use of collective intelligence or 'hive mind'. Basically they use three fairly simple rules:

a) avoid crowding nearby fish.
b) swim in roughly the same direction as other fish.
c) stay close to nearby fish.

This results in the typical behaviour of a school of fish, twisting and turning almost as one. In this way schools of fish - move to avoid a predator.

But I have also read that when schools of fish or animal groups become massive - they eventually 'swarm' across the predator - even if those close to the predator move away - the sheer weight of numbers just ploughs on so as to make the reaction of the few insignificant.

May sound familiar to a few Betfair traders out there...

'Swarm living' provides protection and a supply of potential mates, so swarm members rarely perform actions that could undermine the group. It is called 'comfort'. Move, live and feed together.

But be aware that swarm analysts also now suspect that swarms, herds or any large groups of animal are often led by mavericks but are these 'strong willed individuals' really mavericks or just desperate? Theorists now think that a whole flock of birds may change their course simply to follow a break-away bird that is nothing more than hungry and searching for food.

Applying these types of theory to markets is nothing new - many people recognise John Train as being one of the first people to compare natural swarm style phenomenon to financial markets - and that was way back in 1975.

In his book 'Dance of the Money Bees', Train described how bees forage for food and how the degree of their agitation in front of their hive is directly related to the size or status of their find. Train made the analogy to describe money managers when they are excited by a stock and how they swarm like the hive.

It is fascinating but it is also unfortunate - in fact I think it is truly terrifying. It is how we operate within the world. It is nature, our nature. I believe that it is because of this inherent behavior that we will continue to repeat in some way, shape or form the catastrophes of our existence - like those that we have just experienced in the financial markets.

It is simply a matter of time.

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