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An AI Hedge Fund Created a New Currency to Make Wall Street Work Like Open Source

Wall Street is a competition, a Darwinian battle for the almighty dollar. Gordon Gekko said that greed is good, that it captures "the essence of the evolutionary spirit." A hedge fund hunts for an edge and then maniacally guards it, locking down its trading data and barring its traders from joining the company next door. The big bucks lie in finding market inefficiencies no one else can, succeeding at the expense of others. But Richard Craib wants to change that. He wants to transform Wall Street from a cutthroat competition into a harmonious collaboration.

This morning, the 29-year-old South African technologist and his unorthodox hedge fund, Numerai, started issuing a new digital currency—kind of. Craib's idea is so weird, so unlike anything else that has preceded it, that naming it becomes an exercise in approximation. Inspired by the same tech that underpins bitcoin, his creation joins a growing wave of what people in the world of crypto-finance call "digital tokens," internet-based assets that enable the crowdsourcing of everything from venture capital to computing power. Craib hopes his particular token can turn Wall Street into a place where everyone's on the same team. It's a strange, complicated, and potentially powerful creation that builds on an already audacious arrangement, a new configuration of technology and money that calls into question the market's most cherished premise. Greed is still good, but it's better when people are working together.

Based in San Francisco, Numerai is a hedge fund in which an artificially intelligent system chooses all the trades. But it's not a system Craib built alone. Instead, several thousand anonymous data scientists compete to create the best trading algorithms—and win bitcoin for their efforts. The whole concept may sound like a bad Silicon Valley joke. But Numerai has been making trades in this way for more than a year, and Craib says it's making money. It's also attracted marquee backers l...

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