The Uber Trader

Stuck in London rush hour traffic, I noticed my driver tapping around on his windshield-mounted phone. “Is that Trading212?” He confirmed, and we started talking about stocks. By the time I got out of the car, he had told me his entire strategy for making intraday trades, which stocks had done well for him recently, and how he’d run up his stack to £10,000, then lost half on a single trade.

The most fascinating thing, however? He did it all on his phone while chauffeuring people around. “The Uber trader,” I thought. Not because he was so good, but because he managed to do two jobs at the same time, both of which would have been much harder to do – or simply unaccessible to him altogether – just a few short years ago.

Cab drivers in the UK must pass “The Knowledge,” an insanely detailed test of your memory of London’s streets, which takes most students “three to four years” to learn. Not exactly a job you can pick up tomorrow. Before Google Maps, however, knowing the streets was the only way. Good luck fiddling with a paper map while your client is late for her meeting.

More specifically, you need mobile access to Google Maps. A laptop wouldn’t do you any good either. You need high-speed internet on a small device you can keep in your periphery at all times, and then you need said internet to bring you accurate, real-time information about where you’re trying to go.

You also need permission to transport people from A to B, a privilege Uber has brought to millions of people who were barred from cabbing for some red tape excuse or other petty reason.

And then? Then you need the same kind of enabling technology and access again, this time to the global financial markets – all of which we have.

What a remarkable world we live in. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We’ll never be perfect, and we’ll always have problems, but a civilization that conjures this kind of progress in such a short time can’t be all bad apples.

I guess my driver was “The Uber trader” after all – because even more so than the ride-sharing company, his stocks app, or his performance, the label alone tells us we live in times where the impossible becomes reality every day.