Two Sigma Co-Founder `Very Worried' Machines Will Take Jobs

The Future of Quantitative Investing
  • Computers are better at `routine' work, Siegel says at Milken
  • Winton's Harding says finance profession will still have roles

David Siegel, co-founder of $35 billion quantitative hedge fund Two Sigma, says he’s “very worried” that machines could soon cost large swaths of the global workforce their jobs.

“Most people in the bulk of the job market are not involved in super-high-value jobs,” Siegel said at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California on Monday. “They are doing routine work and tasks and it’s precisely these tasks that computers are going to be better at doing,” just as the advent of the combustion engine led to horses being replaced and ATMs displacing most bank tellers, he said.

QuickTake Artificial Intelligence

The Australian mining industry already employs robotic vehicles equipped with self-driving technology to extract raw materials, instead of using truck drivers, he said. Facebook Inc. requires comparatively “zero” workers to manage a social network for more than 1 billion people, according to Siegel.

Two Sigma, based in New York, is one of the biggest hedge funds that use technology to make investment decisions. It was founded in 2001 and run by Siegel, a former chief technology officer at Tudor Investment Corp., and John Overdeck from D.E. Shaw & Co. A unit of the firm, called Two Sigma Ventures, seeks to invest in companies focused on data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence and advanced hardware.

Billionaire trader Steven A. Cohen said on another panel at the conference that artificial intelligence is “coming but not here yet” and that it will be “a while” before the technology displaces humans.

“The way it will affect this industry is that some tasks will be automated but ultimately it will be humans adding value at the top,” Cohen, who runs Point72 Asset Management, said. “It will be a combination effort.”

Credit Arbitrage

David Harding, the founder of $30 billion London-based hedge fund Winton Capital Management, expressed a similar view. He said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Erik Schatzker that in finance, at least, the prospect of machines completely replacing humans is still distant.

“It won’t completely change the whole field,” he said. “It won’t replace distressed-credit arbitrage or something like that.”

Even so, machines are able to do far more than many believe. “A lot of things that we thought were complicated and very human are a lot easier than we thought they were,” Harding said.

From artificial intelligence to the blockchain, the finance industry is being transformed by emerging technologies, resulting in job losses, several speakers on an earlier panel at the conference said. Software engineers, whole technology departments, and anyone who’s moving numbers from one spreadsheet to another is “going to get decimated,” said Daniel Nadler, chief executive officer of Kensho Technologies Inc., which provides data analytics to banks.

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