Philosophy & Technology

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 43–58 | Cite as

Fundamentals of Algorithmic Markets: Liquidity, Contingency, and the Incomputability of Exchange

  • Laura Lotti
Research Article


In light of the structural role of computational technology in the expansion of modern global finance, this essay investigates the ontology of contemporary markets starting from a reformulation of liquidity—one of the tenets of financial trading. Focusing on the nexus between financial and algorithmic flows, the paper complements contemporary philosophies of the market with insights into recent theories of computation, emphasizing the functional role of contingency, both for market trading and algorithmic processes. Considering the increasing adoption of advanced computational methods in automated trading strategies, this article argues that the event of price is the direct manifestation of the incomputability at the heart of market exchange. In doing so, it questions the ontological assumptions of “flow” and “fluidity” underpinning traditional conceptions of liquidity and challenges the notion of rationality in market behavior. Ultimately, the paper gestures toward some of the social and political consequences of this reformulation.


Market liquidity Contingency Incomputability Ontogenesis Algorithmic trading Market rationality Financial crises 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UNSWSydneyAustralia

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