Alex Wissner-Gross on Networking Faster Than Light

Friday, February 7, 2014

Modern stock market trading networks and systems have become so fast that the speed of light is now their key limiting factor. Alex Wissner-Gross has determined how high frequency trading may best overcome this hurdle.

The performance of a wide variety of globally-distributed online activities is increasingly limited by the finite speed of light. Dr. Alexander Wissner-Gross recently introduced technology for partially mitigating the impact of this limitation on the coordination of geographically distributed activities, such as virtual worlds, currency exchanges, telepresence, and remote surgery.

His solution involves positioning computer servers in optimal intermediate locations such as oceans and other network-sparse regions, opening the possibility of geographic remoteness becoming a new form of natural resource for developing countries in the next decade.

interconnected global network

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According to Wissner-Gross, networks can use intermediate level networks, just as the body uses reflex arcs.  Such is the case when your hand touches a hot surface; the neural signals do not travel all the way to the brain and back to tell you to lift your arm, the nerves process and act to some degree on their own.

In particular, Wissner-Gross applied this problem to high frequency securities trading. Below is his map outlining where optimal trading node locations should be placed (in blue) to conduct trades at the various global exchanges (in red). He calls these nodes, "global reflex arcs."

Previously discussing this research, Wissner-Gross commented, “I see this work as one possible justification for making the entire surface of the planet more computationally capable… and in effect, making the whole planet smarter.”

Image Source - Wissner-Gross
Wissner-Gross is an award-winning scientist, inventor, and entrepreneur. He serves as an Institute Fellow at the Harvard University Institute for Applied Computational Science and as a Research Affiliate at the MIT Media Laboratory.


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