Making of a Fly

While watching a TED video about algorithms, mention was made of an unrealistic price on Amazon. Apparently two retailers had an out-of-control computer feedback loop.

In the realm of technology, it's often the minutest details that set the stage for innovation. Picture this: two competing computer programs locked in a relentless game of one-upmanship. What began as a seemingly innocuous pricing competition soon evolved into a captivating display of computational prowess.

At the outset, a product with a $10.00 price tag was boldly listed for $12.70 by the first company's algorithm. Yet, the drama was just beginning. As the day progressed, the second company's computer algorithm sprang into action, strategically undercutting the competition by a mere 1%, resulting in a new price of $12.57. And so, the cycle of digital brinkmanship commenced: $15.96 versus $15.80, $20.07 versus $1987, and so forth.

With each iteration, the stakes grew exponentially, reaching an astonishing zenith when the product was astonishingly listed at a jaw-dropping $23,698,655.93, and let's not forget, shipping costs were not included in this astronomical figure (it's crucial to note that all these numbers serve illustrative purposes).

This gripping narrative serves as an illuminating example of one of the core challenges inherent in automated feedback loops. In the insightful words of an astute engineering instructor, when the gain feedback exceeds a positive value of 1, the outcome tends to oscillate or even result in latch-up.

The implications of this concept are profound and have far-reaching significance within the technological landscape. But, as we navigate the intricate world of technology, rest assured that we will delve deeper into the nuances of feedback controls for real-world systems on another occasion. For now, let's savor the intricacies of this digital duel, appreciating the profound lessons it imparts to technologists like you.

More on feedback controls for real systems another day.

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