The Fear Book Cover The Fear
Robert Harris
Artificial intelligence, suspense, thriller, psychological
Random House
2012
400

A chilling contemporary thriller from Robert Harris set in the competitive world of high finance. Dr Max Hoffman is a legend. A physicist once employed on the Large Hadron Collider, he now uses a revolutionary and highly secret system of computer algorithms to trade on the world's financial markets. None of his rivals is sure how he does it, but somehow Hoffman's hedge fund -- built around the standard measure of market volatility: the VIX or "Fear Index" -- generates astonishing returns for his investors. Late one night, in his house beside Lake Geneva, an intruder disturbs Hoffman and his wife while they are asleep. This terrifying moment is the start of Robert Harris's new novel -- a story just as compelling and timely as his most recent contemporary thriller, The Ghost. Over the next 48 hours, as the markets edge towards another great crash, Hoffman's world disintegrates. But who is trying to destroy him?

So a rather chilling tale of just what happens when AI begins to get ideas for itself. It we are trying really hard to program autonomous units that can choose and optimise routes for delivery, routes for shipping and so on; and of course for hedging your bets. And this is where this story comes in. A computer system is devised that uses AI to hedge financial bets – ie work the stock market in the margins.

Which is great. No longer do you have to have really bright people working numbers. Instead you create algorithms that do this work for you. And you make money. Loads of it. Loads and Loads of it because you bet on the margins – which you can do if you start with a lot of money to begin with.

And this book stretches these ideas out. Into what is not a new concept of idea but used in a different field of application. What happens when the robots start to think for themselves?

A good book, but somehow not as chilling as it might be. I knew the answer by mid-way through, maybe because the book is 2011?

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