Last year, in an attempt to harness some kind of online gestalt, Microsoft launched a machine-learning AI chatbot called Tay to the Twitter masses. She conversed with anyone and learned from her interactions. Within hours, Tay was spouting bigotry and calling for literal race war. The lesson: anything left to the whims of the world wide web will quickly sink to the lowest common denominator of human thought.
In the latest demonstration of the principle, consider StockStream. Designed by an Amazon engineer and hosted by Amazon's livestreaming site Twitch, StockStream allows anyone on the web to vote on stocks to buy or sell, which it then does – with real money! – every five minutes. In a matter of hours, the online hordes had done their damage: They turned StockStream into what amounts to one big Tesla long, with nearly half of the fund's $24,000 in non-cash assets invested in Elon Musk's dreams.
There are other stocks, of course. By total number of shares, AMD outpaced Tesla, with 43 to Tesla's 33 at press time. But at 30 times AMD's stock price, a share of Tesla counts for a whole lot more. A smattering of other tech stocks had received multiple votes, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Nvidia among them. In total, the masses had selected more than 25 stocks. There was also plenty of pressure to sell Tesla:
But Tesla still dominated, because, well, that's just what it does. What's funny is how hard it is to tell whether the mob of anonymous web creatures recommending Tesla longs were trying to sabotage the experiment in the grand tradition of online trolling, or support the fund with purchase of a demonstrated growth stock. Perhaps all Tesla longs feel this same paradox deep in their hearts.
Regardless, the only one with any real skin in the game is Mike Roberts, the Amazon employee who built the program and funded it with his own $50,000 in cash. The app uses Robinhood to buy and sell the stocks in question. Players get totally symbolic points for voting for stocks whose prices go up shortly after purchase – clearly, StockStream isn't interested in fundamentals. Which makes Tesla a pretty appropriate play, actually.