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Lunchtime Links: Man quits high frequency trading citing soul-erosion, starts storytelling website

From leech to storyteller

From leech to storyteller

Dave Lauer, a former high frequency trader, has seen the light and is quite evangelical about it.  “I read Ayn Rand and subscribed to her idea that your worth to society is perfectly measured by the amount of money you earn,” he tells US site Marketplace. “I followed the path of least resistance and with degrees in computer science and finance, I wound up in high-frequency trading in 2009. I thought I was happy. While the economy was falling apart, I was getting rich and so was everyone around me.”

The catalyst for change was the birth of Lauer’s daughter; “Suddenly I found myself thinking how I would explain my job to my future daughter. What exactly did I do to make so much money? What exactly was I doing to add value to the world? After two years in high-frequency trading, I could see how little value it actually created.

“I knew in my heart that I was nothing more than a leech, regardless of how impressive my trading algorithms were. The brain drain that sucked so many smart and talented people away from noble pursuits and into financial services to earn their fortunes made me question the very foundation of my economic assumptions. I decided to leave the industry and find a new path.”

That path led to Cowbird, a quite beautiful story telling website. “When my daughter was old enough, I wanted be proud to tell her what I’ve done, and even prouder to tell her that no matter what, she must follow her passion in life like her father did,” says Lauer.  “I didn’t realize what I was doing was unethical when I was trading,” adds Lauer, by way of excuse, in the comments below.


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Comments (3)

  1. “I read Ayn Rand and subscribed to her idea that your worth to society is perfectly measured by the amount of money you earn”

    I couldn’t agree less with this statement.

    She was against leeches, yes, but they are untalented and in the wrong positions by virtue of some idea of ‘fairness’, not competence or talent.

    I’m fairly sure Ayn Rand would be perfectly happy with Dave’s transition to ‘Chief Architect’ at an innovative, new company.

    Plus, if it does well he’ll still make plenty of cash.

  2. How touching – However, I think its worth noting that the message of Ayn Rand is based on her philosophy of Objectivism – that the proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness (or rational self -interest), and that the only social system consistent with this morality is full respect for individual rights embodied in laissez faire capitalism – not that a man’s worth is pefectly measured by the amount of wealth he generates.

    So kudos to him for pursuing his own happiness, but shame on him for impugning an industry in which he spent a total of 2 years working.

  3. Ayn Rand took government assistance while decrying others who did the same. She ended her days on medical assistance for her lung cancer. The right wingers tend to forget this small fact!

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