Ten Best Techno-Ponzi Schemes

Over the years there’ve been many ingenious schemes for extracting money from managements and investors to pursue what appear to be world-changing technologies. You could call them Techno-Ponzi schemes – you keep getting money from new investors to leverage the progress made on the money thrown away by the old investors. Here they are: The Ten Best Techno-Ponzi Schemes:

 

Virtual Reality

 

Instantaneous Translation

 

Wafer Scale Integration

 

Cold Fusion

 

Perpetual Motion

 

Superconductivity

 

Speech Recognition

 

Orgasmatron

 

Roll-Up Displays

 

The Universal Memory

Tags: getting money, instantaneous translation, ponzi schemes, speech recognition, superconductivity

Related Tech News

13 Comments

  1. David Manners
    September 02, 2009 12:19

    Good point Rex, you’re absolutely right – fusion is a Techno-Ponzi scheme

  2. Rex Monday
    September 02, 2009 11:58

    If you’re going to allow wind power then you might as well just drop the ‘cold’ from ‘cold fusion’: 25 years of JET and untold millions later, we still don’t have a commercial fusion reactor design. Coming next is ITER, described in the EFDA website as “an experimental step between today’s studies of plasma physics and future electricity-producing fusion power plants”.
    http://www.jet.efda.org/pages/jet-iter/about/index.html
    In other words, there’s some way to go yet. It’s hard to imagine the same resources could be put into research in any other legitimate power technology without achieving much, much more ROI.

  3. David Manners
    August 25, 2009 14:40

    Yes Bill I’m sure you’re right about wind power but if you look at the money put into superconductivity, and compare it with money out in the form of any financial return, I think, so far, (and things may change) it qualifies as a Techno-Ponzi.

  4. Bill Taylor
    August 25, 2009 14:34

    I think you are being disingenuous about superconductivity. There seem to be enough trials to make it a sound if expensive investment. A bit like voice dictation- the old products were tosh, the new ones work really well- I’ve used both.
    If you really want 24 carat hardcore nonsense look no further than wind power. The energy required to build the damn things, including the 500 tonne concrete base far exceeds the likely value of any energy generated, even at post peak oil values. You’ve got to stop wasting the stuff you make, not making more- which brings me back to , yes, superconductivity.

  5. David Manners
    August 25, 2009 14:03

    Yes JS, and have you seen the monorail built by Siemens at Shanghai airport – very nice but it doesn’t go anywhere. Apparently Siemens built it as a demonstrator to get a Beijing-Shanghai monorail contract which never materialised. So yes, Monorails are an excellent example of a Techno-Ponzi scheme. Thanks.

  6. JS
    August 25, 2009 12:51

    Monorails…
    Although working monorails have been built, they’ve never achieved the success that their promoters forecast. If you take the train from Paris to Orleans, you pass 20km of monorail track built to test the French Aérotrain, which was later abandoned because it couldn’t compete with the conventional TGV high speed train.

  7. David Manners
    August 19, 2009 16:25

    Great stuff DWL, many thanks

  8. DWL
    August 19, 2009 15:54

    If you *really* want a laugh, how about
    ‘Ultra Narrowband Communications’
    as advertised here:
    http://www.vmsk.org/
    Your snake oil alarm should go off after about 2 seconds on the site, but the laboriously argued explanation of the ‘technology’ is still amusing, as is the equally elegant rebuttal by Phil Karn here
    http://www.ka9q.net/vmsk/.
    (It shouldn’t take too much thought to realise that ‘Ultra Narrowband’ is an impulse in the frequency domain…and thus…a Sine Wave!)

  9. DWL
    August 19, 2009 15:53

    If you *really* want a laugh, how about
    ‘Ultra Narrowband Communications’
    as advertised here:
    http://www.vmsk.org/
    Your snake oil alarm should go off after about 2 seconds on the site, but the laboriously argued explanation of the ‘technology’ is still amusing, as is the equally elegant rebuttal by Phil Karn here
    http://www.ka9q.net/vmsk/.
    (It shouldn’t take too much thought to realise that ‘Ultra Narrowband’ is an impulse in the frequency domain…and thus…a Sine Wave!)

  10. David Manners
    August 19, 2009 14:15

    Well yes El Rupester but, on the speech recognition front, you see loads of products being sold to consumers which give the impression that they work well. About five years ago I bought a Sony voice recorder which said that it could transfer dicated speech to text using Dragon Naturally Speaking. I wanted the recorder anyway, and didn’t care about the voice recognition, but for fun I tried dictating to it and then connecting it to a PC for transcription, and what came out was, as expected, gobbledy-gook. So it’s taking money on false pretences which qualifies as ‘techno-Ponzi’ in my book.
    In the Perkins story, no one lost money so it doesn’t strictly qualify. Xg I think does, or will, but they’d claim the jury is still out. Wireless power – yes OK in limited circumstances.
    STEORN I had never heard of until now. Thanks for pointing it out it looks fascinating. Yes, definitely techno-Ponzi class. But it seems to have fizzled out before it can collect significant wonga. Thanks El Rupester, interesting stuff

  11. El Rupester
    August 19, 2009 13:44

    hmmm…
    Some are scams and very bogus, others are merely (“merely” !) engineering challenges that are not yet solved, or are not yet perfectly solved.
    Surely perpetual motion with high profile ‘opportunities’ like STEORN is in a very different category to, say, translation where babelfish & google do an adequate job: not perfect but calling them a ponzi-scheme seems harsh.
    Similarly speech recognition and wireless power do work, albeit in restricted applications today (my car-phone and electric toothbrush both work), but it isn’t laws-of-physics level of scam.
    As replacements, I’d suggest “lossless massive compression” as in the famous Tom Perkins story. And incredible comms schemes (perhaps XG Communications….??)

  12. David Manners
    August 19, 2009 11:52

    Ah, Now there’s a good one, thanks DWL

  13. DWL
    August 19, 2009 11:15

    Wireless Power?

Share your knowledge - Leave a comment