I recently met up with Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS and a regular on CNBC for years, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
I asked him about the rise in high-frequency trading over the last decade, and whether the pendulum from human traders to computers has gone too far. Here's what he had to say (transcript follows):
Morgan Housel: Do you think we have gone too far in the direction of high-frequency trading, moving away from humans? Is that pendulum swinging too far?
Arthur Cashin: Well it's always difficult to say. The Luddites were always worried that gee, the machine seems to be making what I used to make and more of us used to be employed, but I think you just want to take care that you see that the mechanisms have some safeguards and some protective means.
In the old days, when the market was shaped somewhat differently and New York had 70% of the market share, there were times when you might be able to walk in and halt trading in a stock to find out, did he or she have news that some little old lady in Iowa didn't have a chance to get? So in an effort to make things fair, you would occasionally have a timeout. And while we live in a fast-paced environment on a daily basis, and occasional timeout to learn more or do things better, is not always harmful.