Lost in space

The other night I was watching “Billions” on Showtime. For the uninitiated, as opposed to those who are too embarrassed to admit that they watch it, “Billions” is an extremely exaggerated look at Wall Street, politics and the hedge fund industry. Money, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll on steroids. Recently, the character running for New York attorney general was propelled to victory after publicly announcing that he and his wife were into sadomasochism. OK, maybe it’s not so exaggerated.  

Anyway, in the latest episode, Axe Capital is hit by what passes for a catastrophe in the hedge fund world. Its computers go down at the exact moment when it desperately needs to sell in order to avoid massive losses. Faced with a crippled trading system, Axe’s ruthless but supremely confident leader, Bobby Axelrod, gathers his people — all quantitative geniuses who know how to exploit the tiniest wrinkle in the economy for huge financial gains. He tells them to go “old school” and pick up the phone and call people to place the trades.

They collectively stare back blankly until one brave soul admits that they have no idea how to do this. This room full of financial “best and the brightest” had never actually called a real person to conduct business. They had spent an entire career without the need for personal relationships. Fortunately, Bobby channeled his younger self and demonstrated how to call someone on a telephone. Actually, it was a cellphone. Crisis averted.

Having been in the securities industry when the only option was to call someone, I felt a frightened and disoriented sense of superiority. Is this an example of basic institutional knowledge that has somehow been lost? Where did it go?

Ah . . . hiding in plain sight . . . on the front page of every newspaper in America, which is probably why most people missed it. 

Einstein’s long predicted but previously unseen black hole.

Where matter, energy and . . . common sense go to die.


M.A. Duca is a resident of Twin Lakes, Conn., narrowly focused on everyday life.