The stock markets are said to run according to the wisdom of the crowds, and someone has put it to the ultimate test — with the entire world as an audience.
A software engineer who goes by the name of Mike has put in $50,000 (Rs. 32 lakh) of his own money to let the internet pick his stocks for him. Mike is livestreaming his “game”, which he calls Stock Stream, on his Twitch channel, where anyone on the internet can vote for which stocks he should buy or sell. The votes are tallied over five minute periods, and the stock recommendation with the most votes is carried out. Mike intends to let this process continue until he becomes fabulously rich or runs out of his $50,000.
And Mike has cleverly gamified his bot to incentivize people to pick smart stocks for him — people are scored according to their stock recommendations, which gets them to compete with each other. Picking a stock that rises over the next five minutes earns people points, which picking a stock that falls loses them points. Mike hopes people will want their personal scores to rise, so they’ll give him stock advise for free, as he coolly sits by. “The entire system I’ve built is 100 percent automated including the starting and stopping of the stream, so theoretically I could just leave it running and not pay attention,” he says.
This could go horrendously wrong — the internet has been brutal in the past with its trolling crowdsourcing initiatives. An online poll to name a new British ship ended up with Boaty McBoatface winning the contest after pranksters caught wind of the project, and in 2010, trolls had voted to get Justin Bieber to perform in North Korea after he’d asked his fans where they’d like to see him next.
But Mike’s stock picking appears to be working thus far. After a day of trading, his portfolio is worth $50,184, a sedate 0.3% gain over 24 hours. It helps he’s hosted it on Twitch, which is a popular gaming community and wouldn’t want to bankrupt one of its members, but it comes with its pitfalls — there’s a clear bias for tech stocks, with Tesla, Google and Apple being the most popular purchases.
Stock Stream seems to be going viral — at the time of publishing, over 1700 people were hooked to its livestream, and hundreds are voting every minute. Apart from the buying and selling commands, there’s also some serious stock tips floating around. “
While Mike seems to intend for this to be a fun project, financial analysts across the world will likely be watching with some trepidation. If an anonymous group of internet strangers can help someone grow their portfolio for free, they’d find it hard to justify their fat paychecks. And if the whole thing implodes, this could go down as one of the most foolhardy (and costly) internet stunts of all time. In either case, we’ve got our popcorn — we’ll be watching.