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iTime - Input Junkie
October 8th, 2011
09:11 am


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I knew that Ferrett Steinmetz had been working on his fiction-- I checked in on The Watchtower of Destruction now and then. However, I didn't realize he'd become pretty good.

I'd followed a link to iTime at some point, but I bounced because the stereotyping in the first paragraph was a little much, maybe even a lot much.


The story really is a stereotype dance (a phrase I came up with after doing a close reading of Heinlein's "Magic, Inc.". Honest to god, putting one's hair in a bun is not a hard-wired reaction to aging for women.

Still, it's intelligent and affecting, and it doesn't quite use the same premise as Lafferty's "The Six Fingers of Time", a story Ferrett may not have read, and which kept nagging at me until I realized it was about being able to speed up time for oneself and do research or whatever, rather than going back.

Being seen as stupid really does hurt people, just as being seen as plain does.

I'm used to sf about new devices where the plot is driven by "how can this go miserably wrong?"-- I'm wondering what sensible use of being able to go back 4 hours and start a new time branch look like? (The ethical questions if it isn't a time branch-- whatever anyone else did during those 4 hours are wiped out-- aren't addressed, but it wouldn't fit in the story.) Or what a world where iTimes were in common use would look like. The ability to do research would be somewhat improved, and the incentives for anti-aging research would be more obvious.

Just realized that you might be able to get a different disaster mode from thinking about Asimov's The End of Eternity-- you go polish, polish, polish, but you're optimizing the wrong thing.


Ferrett went to Clarion, his fiction is solid, yay Ferrett!

Link thanks to andrewducker.

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(6 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:October 8th, 2011 08:53 pm (UTC)
The obvious possibilities for making a fortune in stock trading are so obvious that I can't imagine anyone who invented such a thing actually marketing it.
Date:October 9th, 2011 01:10 pm (UTC)
An individual? You might be right. A small group? Still plausible. A laboratory funded by someone else, with preliminary results published? Maybe less likely.

Also, being a famous inventor gets you things (fame, opportunities to work with very skilled people who respect what you've done) which aren't simply bought with money.

Would using an iTime to game the stock market get a person accused of insider trading?

Edited at 2011-10-09 01:10 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2011 04:32 am (UTC)
Maybe. I don't know enough about how those accusations are made.

Anyway, to give you an idea of the kind of thing I'm talking about: Instead of typing the iTime to a person, just tie it to a computer. Have the computer do stock trades. Start out with some money, and program the computer to do the following: 1. Buy a bunch of stocks at random. 2. Wait three hours. 3. Sell the stocks. 4. After deducting transaction fees, check if at least a 10% profit has been made. If so, buy another bunch of stocks at random. If not, wind time back three hours.

The computer will be aging quickly (the rate of aging determined by the average difficulty of getting a 10% profit on three hours worth of stock trading; I don't have any idea what that might be), so every so often someone will need to take it out of the cycle and do some maintenance. A solid-state hard drive seems like a good idea. But anyway, if they can get something like this running, they'll more than double their money every 24 hours. Starting with $1000, two weeks of trading would make them millionaires; four weeks, billionaires. If they could keep going, by the end of the 7th week they'd have more money than the current US Gross Domestic Product. (I imagine that at some point before then it would just become impossible to keep making the 10% profit, and the computer would wear out before completing a cycle.)
[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2011 06:10 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure about insider trading accusations myself-- I'm sorry to say that I think most of my knowledge on the subject is from Unknown "be sorry what you wish for" stories, and the Martha Stewart case. I'm sure that you're at more risk if you're actually an insider.

However, if you start achieving the sort of wild success you describe, I think you'll at least get investigated. It might be interesting to take your money from horses to stocks to currency etc. etc. so that you aren't making yourself conspicuous in a single market.

During the 1990s, the S&P 500 has provided an annualized return of 17.3%, compared with just 13.9% for the average diversified mutual fund.-- this is just the first statistic I could turn up quickly.

I think you could get more volatility from randomly chosen stocks than from all the stocks in the S&P. However, it's 17.3% return per year, and I think that was a boom.

Currently, there's a declining market, or at least they sound sad most days on NPR.

Don't do random, just buy the information about stock movements and go back four hours with it. In re buying the information, I found out that the whole daily record of the stock market was available for the price of a newspaper, back when it was in the newspaper. A few years ago, I was thinking about people studying those numbers for patterns, and I discovered it was expensive and proprietary.
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2011 10:12 pm (UTC)
The interesting thing is that what probably works about the story is what's not good about it. I agree that the stereotyping is blatant in here (fun fact: "iTime" was like my third story out after Clarion), and I probably would have been more subtle and nuanced had I written it today. Still, since the story is mostly about the differing effect upon stereotypical characters, and showing how those stereotypes react to such a different stimulus that it knocks them way out of the usual zone of stereotypical behavior, I don't know if it would have been more effective if it had been more individually character-specific. Maybe. Dunno.

Sometimes, you just shut the hell up about your own work. You don't wanna Lucas yourself.
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2011 10:13 pm (UTC)
Oh, and thanks! You wanna see less stereotypical, try the Asimov's story at some point.
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