In 1986, I was a contract worker for a company called Micro Healthcare Network. The company was founded by a self made man by the name of Fred Daniels. 2 other programmers I worked with were Fred Mitchell (see web page) and Charlie Sterbakov. The company was successfull for a time making cost accounting software. However, Mr Daniels was financing research into a radical vision analysis project being solely developed by Joe I gotta look up his last name. Joe was a quirky eccentric who claimed to understand physical phenomenon not understood by regular scientists. Joe looked like a lost hippy with bad teeth and worse hygiene. He appeared to be in his late 30's and (like lots of crack pots) lived with his mother. It was explained to me that Joe’s invention used undiscovered science to do image recognition better than any thing else on the market. I immediately wanted to know how it worked and offered to perform double blind accuracy tests on its capability. For months my investigation was delayed. Talking with Mr Daniels, I found out that Joe was always claiming to need a little more time and money to develope his invention. (Crack pot inventors are masters of stalling) In the course of waiting many months for an opportunity to evaluate Joes amazing claims I found out a number of interesting things: Joe had been financed for years many years before on other 'inventions' that went no where. Joe was constantly trying to abandon his designs and start on something totally new that claimed to be even more earth shattering (but Fred finally made him focus on the original vision system goal with out starting too many times from scratch). Joe claimed at one time he had developed technology that would be capable of destroying the whole world - but had the decency to destroy all that work and his notes for the sake of humanity. (destroying all your work or claiming evil forces have forced you to silence seems to be a passing rite among crack pot inventors). Joe would demonstrate his device to companies, but their engineers and scientists wouldn`t understand Joes techno-babble. Mr Daniels would interpret educated people not understanding Joe as proof that he was operating in some higher plane of understanding and therefore extremely intelligent. Joe hid behind a veil of secrecy when anyone would try to figure out how his device worked (another hall mark of bunk inventions). He claimed he couldn't fully explain or demonstrate it because someone may try to steal the concepts. eventually the company was floundering, but Mr. Daniels was convinced that Joes invention could make many millions and seemed to ignore the legimate business concerns in favor of marketing Joe's device. I finally was allowed to examine the device investors were being solicited and our regular paychecks had slowed to a trickle. I've always believed that to test something - you should be trying to prove it doesn't work rather than trying to prove it does. When I did a real critical test of the device, I found it would only recognize different people if they sat in the exact same place in front of the camera - and even then it was frequently wrong. When no one was looking I took a look at the electronics. It appeared to be little more than a low pass filter, which converted the image to a short brightness waveform, which the computer did an elementary comparison on. It seemed to work because most people who worked there had different skin colors (or if not that, it could discrimate clothing color). I was told that improvements due any day would fix its accuracy problems and that Joe had become distracted trying to use it to find a solution to AIDS. Any electronics engineer could have replicated all its capabilities. At that point I quit the company, but many people stayed on with no pay hoping to not just get all their back pay owed, but to get rich. Fred Daniels got a few people to form a company called Intellisense to market it. With in a year all efforts ceased. It turned out that noble ideals, dedication, wishfull thinking, enthusiasm, trust and belief caused people to waste a lot of time and savings. Many people I knew closely got deeply hurt financially and emotionally by this. I'm sure Joe has found some new sponsor for some improved wonder device.
For what ever it's worth, (maybe I'm a nut case magnet) I had a minor involvement with a company formed by Bob F_______m. It was to develop special patient moving equipment. Bob raised over $70,000 of private investor money and got a number of people to quit good jobs. Bob was an excellent speaker and people person, but turned out to be deluded, the company folded (Bob hadn't told them that the same idea had folded years ago) To this day, Bob doesn't know why it folded and is likely trying to line up a new batch of people to invest retirement money. Many people got hurt bad. His son told me in early 2003 that Bob is close to death. I think much of my work with skeptical causes has been inspired by seeing the delusion and pain of people badly hurt in these ill-fated ventures. I often think if I had only been able to better express myself. Another source of inspiration for me to fight kooky beliefs was seeing a childhood friend have his life ruined by getting sucked into paranormal claims. This friend since 5th grade always struck me as a person destined to be a great scientist. But he got into UFO claims and all kinds of crackpot conspiracy theory – I always thought it in some way kept him from ever pursuing a real college degree at a real college. It hurt me to see none of my high school friends really use their potential. Another close high school friend of mine now considers himself a “soveriegn citizen” and seems to get sucked into every right wing extremists conspiracy fantasy out there. I pretty much expect him to some day go out in what he would consider a “blaze of glory against the jack-booted thugs of the new world order”. If he eventually dies in a shoot out against law enforcement people, I’ll tell the whole story.
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