A Startup to put Deepmind in the shade – a Christmas dream!
Two professors at the University’s School for Magic Solutions sought to develop a product that would be superior to all other startups.
Experts in artificial intelligence, they decided that the time had come to tackle the ultimate task: they aimed to document and analyse all great discoveries of the world, like the wheel, steam, electricity, flight, penicillin, the atom and the internet. If it was possible to write a program, they reasoned, that could romp home against Champions at Chess or Go, then it must be possible to write one that would produce an innovative solution to any problem whatsoever.
Early versions tended to produce solutions that already existed; some looked promising but were beaten to it by existing entrepreneurs; and some required too much manual input. Less predictably, some looked to be socially or politically unviable.
Some of their output sold to writers as valuable plots; some to science fiction boffins; and Private Eye bought some to fill its Funny Old World column.
Seed money came from Elon Musk, Tim Cook and the Prince of Wales private office. Even Nesta, the UK’s innovation engine, bought some shares. The ‘A’ round proved more elusive. The VC pundits felt that it was not really up their street, and that selling on might be difficult. The Angel community could not find a lead investor with relevant experience. However popular interest suggested that Crowdfunding might be its best route, and so it transpired.
At that moment, an expert in Blockchain technology offered a modest price for 20% of the business, interested to capture their marketing expertise, and this renewed popular interest. Subscribers became so keen to use it that it eventually crashed. ‘Golden balls too popular’ read the Sun. The moment came when the Magic Circle decided that it was damaging their image for illusion, and sued on trademark grounds.
Then there was a barrage of complaints when a series of customers found that their applications for patents were refused on grounds of prior submissions. Gradually people lost faith in the value of the program; and its proponents failed to update it in the light of a plethora of recent inventions.
It continues to be used in technical colleges; it is a valued case study in MBA programmes; but its authors have moved on to other speculative fields; one is working on space travel and the other on animal intelligence.
With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year, John Whatmore