I’m a fan of conspiracy theories. I’m fascinated by the fact that any wild story can be engineered to sound feasible to some portion of the public. Let’s call this the ordinary kind of conspiracy theory, such as the idea that a small group of rich people are secretly running the world, or that aliens are abducting people and implanting chips in their necks. These conspiracy theories are hugely unlikely by their nature.
But there’s another category of conspiracy theory that is way cooler. These are the theories that are far more likely to be true than not, although no smoking gun has been found. I give you today, two conspiracy theories of my own design. I’m not saying these are true. I’m just saying they are far more likely to be true than false. We’ll probably never know.
Conspiracy one: The stock markets of the world are manipulated by highly sophisticated and undetectable software viruses. Some group is forcing its own automated trades to the front of the line just before every market move. Or perhaps the program is causing market fluctuations on its own. You might have noticed that for the past ten years, the stock market fluctuates quite a bit, often in an opposite direction to what the news would predict. Analysts explain it away by saying, for example, “The market was hoping for even better news than the good news they got.” A simpler explanation is that the market is being manipulated.
This conspiracy theory wasn’t as plausible sounding before we learned of the Stuxnet virus attack on the Iranian nuclear facility. (See my earlier post on that.) We learned that experts can indeed create undetectable viruses that can penetrate computers that are not physically attached to the grid. Now throw in a trillion dollars of incentive, and the odds that it has already happened to the financial markets approach 100%. In fact, the likelihood is that a dozen or more viruses are running loose in the financial networks, probably laundering their gains through hedge funds who claim to have top secret algorithms for predicting market moves. Compare these two claims and tell me which one sounds more likely:
1. Our hedge fund has a secret algorithm.
2. Our hedge fund is using existing technology to steal your money.
Conspiracy two: The recent Wikileaks about the United States were intentionally leaked by our government. Have you noticed that nothing in the leaks is news? It’s everything we already knew. Pakistan isn’t a reliable ally in the war on terror? Shocking! Saudis hate Iranians? Shocking! Saudi Arabia funds Al Qaeda? Shocking!
Maybe it’s the artist (sort of) in me, but I always think empty space in real life is just as intentional as it is in landscape compositions. The lack of bombshells in the Wikileak materials looks mighty suspicious to me. Some observers are going so far as to say that the report does little more than show that U.S. diplomats are doing a fine job. Compare these two theories and tell me which one sounds more likely:
1. U.S. Diplomats are the only group of people on Earth who are all doing a fine job. And they never write down anything that is worse than just baaarely embarrassing. And someone risked being executed as a traitor to release this non-news.
2. The U.S. government leaked the information itself, after taking out the good parts, because somewhere buried in the pile is an idea that they want “accidentally” released to the world.
I give this theory a 60% chance of being true because it would be easy for the government to pull it off, there’s a good chance it would be useful, and it is well within the normal political bag of tricks. If you see a “leak” revelation in the next few days that seems to help the government’s strategy more than it hurts, I might raise my estimate.