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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 24th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Crowdfunding via the public purse

12 January 2018

Today's column follows on a little from yesterdays because I'm continuing to highlight just how many companies are duping the tech-ignorant (especially politicians) into parting with their cash.

It seems that the way to get money these days (if you don't feel like working like the rest of us do) is simply to toss a bunch of buzz-words into a quick pitch, do some fancy 3D renderings and start telling the world that you have a solution to an age-old problem -- or even a problem that nobody knew they had.

Some of the best phrases and words to bandy-about are "renewable energy", "block-chain", "cryptocurrency", "security", "drone", "driverless", "artificial intelligence", "quantum" and "augmented reality".

The drone company featured in yesterday's column did a pretty good job of pasting the walls with such words and phrases but they're not the only ones. What's more, some of the best at this game are companies and individuals which already have a fist-full of cash.

One of the most popular frauds currently being perpetrated on governments and the public is the concept of solar roadways.

Various groups and companies around the world are pitching solar roadways as the future of renewable energy generation and improved transportation.

Hey, let's kill two birds with one stone! Use the roads to generate electricity whilst, at the same time, also using that electricity and other smart features to dramatically improve the safety and utility of those roads.

Here's one of the leading purveyors of such hype, a company called (not surprisingly) Solar Roadways.

This company, which is really just a husband and wife with the gift of the gab, has already received millions in funding for their ridiculous "pie in the sky" promises.

Now I'm not going to waste time debunking the outrageous claims made by Solar Roadways for their product. In fact, I don't have to. Several people with good backgrounds in science and technology have already done a fantastic job of cutting through the hype and killing those claims through the use of physics and math. The short story is -- it's crap!

Never the less, politicians, bureaucrats and even movie stars have endorsed this product and enabled the founders to milk millions, even though after many years, they still haven't delivered on a single promise for this technology. I think that says a lot about the intelligence of: politicians, bureaucrats and movie stars.

Of course here in NZ we have (or had, until it was floated) the Martin Jetpack -- but I've already laboured on at length about that so we'll say no more today.

It's not just the yokels from backwoods Idaho who are jumping on the hype-train though, some well-known individuals and companies are doing exactly the same thing.

Take our friend Mr Elon Musk for example. His Hyperloop is strong on the "hype" and small on the "rloop".

Many engineers and scientists have spent time examining the claims for the Hyperloop and come to the conclusion that it's simply not practical. All manner of engineering hurdles stand in the way of this concept and, despite many millions of dollars having been poured into its development, all there is to see is a short length of rusty pipe with a wagon that has yet to reach even a third the promised performance.

I think Musk has chosen a very appropriate name for his Tesla company as it reflects his own performance. Like Tesla, he has had a few genius moments but much of what he does is simply lunacy.

Why would big companies and heavy-hitters like Musk bother duping the world with impractical ideas that are simply "dreams"? Simple... it's often not their money they're spending. By selling a dream, these companies rake up huge sums of other people's money which is then spent paying the salaries and bonuses of those executives who are behind it all. It's almost a fraudulent form of crowd-funding.

Do you think that Musk funds all his companies out of his own pocket? Of course not.

Why do you think Kodak has jumped on the blockchain/cryptocurrency bandwagon? Because that has bumped the value of its shares up by almost 90% in the blink of an eye. All those stock-holding executives who decided that this was a great idea have virtually doubled their wealth. Who gives a damn whether the idea is viable, it's making people richer!

In my honest opinion, other crazy over-hyped ideas that are still a long, long way from becoming a reality include drone-delivery and self-driving cars.

Now the biggest tragedy in all of this and a horribly damning indictment on our education system is that so many people in positions of power and authority, are too damned stupid to either understand that they're being duped or to even hire independent advisors to inform them of the facts.

Is it any wonder that certain aspects of our world are in such disarray and that there is so much inefficiency, suffering and pain -- when we have so many ignorant fools at the helm?

Oh how easy it would be to join the growing mass of tech-hype fraudsters who come up with crazy ideas such as roads that generate electricity, flying jetpacks, pipes with supersonic carriages rocketing around inside them and other such crap. Knock up some technobabble, pitch it to one of these idiots in charge of a public purse and convince them that *they* will be seen as a hero for "discovering" it -- then it's easy sailing all the way to your bolt-hole in the Caribbean.

Sigh!

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