Files for Bankruptcy


Bloomberg Financial Services Special Feature: Interview with Mark Flintrow, President of Inc., by Nancy Drawn, Staff Researcher:

Nancy Drawn: Mark, has just filed for bankruptcy, and I understand that all of the employees have been sent home. Now, just last year you received $10 million in seed money. Your investment prospectus pointed to as a successful web site, and you claimed that would generate lots of web traffic, providing major advertising revenue. Can you perhaps explain for our readers what went wrong?

Mark Flintrow: Well, we underestimated the magnitude of variability of the possible results. You see, fact-checking is one thing, like, either something is true, like 100% correct, or it’s wrong, so it’s 0% correct. Or maybe it can be debatable, so it’s somewhere in between. But the scale is fixed, 0 – 100, and that’s easy to work with. Idiocy is different.

ND: So you’re saying idiocy isn’t quantifiable?

MF: That’s it, Nancy, you’ve hit the nail on the head! You know, Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” Our problem was that our computer-based evaluation system was supposed to be able to automatically scan a web site and calculate the “idiocy index”. But there’s no fixed scale for idiocy, and the results would keep going “off the scale”. And then the venture capitalists pulled the plug on us.

ND: Can you give us some concrete examples?

MF: Sure. We could, for example, run our program on the web site, and our program would analyse the hell out of the whole site, using all the latest artificial intelligence algorithms and everything, and would report (and I’m paraphrasing), “wow, there is an incredible amount of idiocy here!” OK, so we try to quantify that, and we give the web site an idiocy index of 350. But then we’d turn our program loose on, for example,, and wow, it’s way, way, off the scale, so then we’d have to crank the whole scale down, but then and weren’t all that far from each other. Can you see what I’m driving at?

ND: Couldn’t you solve a problem like that with a logarithmic scale?

MF: Yeah, we did try that, but it was like no matter what we did, somebody kept finding a web site that was so crazy that everything else was sane in comparison. Something like for example.

ND: You mentioned Was it an issue that you could be accused of having a political agenda?

MF: (Sigh) Yeah, that too. Look, the whole thing was computerized, and artificial intelligence shouldn’t have a political slant – it’s supposed to only take facts into consideration. But it’s true that a site like scored several orders of magnitude higher on our idiocy index than, and our financial backers were really unhappy about that.

ND: OK, thank you very much for your time, Mark. So to wrap it up, you’re saying that it was a combination of development issues and loss of financial support that killed

MF: Yeah, that’s right, Nancy. The final blow came when we tried running our program on – boy, was that an eye-opener! When our financial backers saw those results they said they were getting out of the investment banking business and were going to become subsistence farmers. Strangely enough, that’s what I’m planing on doing too.

One Response to “ Files for Bankruptcy”

  1. First posted Aug. 6, 2009.

    I love that Albert Einstein quote: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”

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