Nanniebots and Neverland

April 1st, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, bbc, nanniebots, new scientist | 2 Comments »

Nanniebots and Neverland

Ben Goldacre
Thursday April 1, 2004
The Guardian

Talk about Bad Science here

· Right. Where were we? Ah yes, everyone was questioning the authenticity of Jim Wightman’s paedophile-entrapping artificial intelligence chat program Nanniebot, since it was more than 10 years ahead of all other artificial intelligence technology, and no one is allowed to see it in the flesh. But Jim – from the unfortunately named Neverland Systems – had personally guaranteed me a demonstration. Weirdly, Jim is now refusing to do so, although he is still claiming to have thousands of Nanniebots in action on the web. I’m certainly not going to waste your time with an in-depth philosophical analysis of his “chat transcripts” since no-one can be sure they were definitely generated by his program.

· Of course, the BBC, ITV and New Scientist couldn’t possibly have known that Jim was caught out making false claims about writing software a year ago (tinyurl.com/3gfxv), on the Holocaust denial newsgroups he likes to frequent. He now admits to making these false claims but said they were made in jest. He also got noticed in the Tivo hacking discussion boards, claiming to have modified the device to stream shows over a network; which the other experts felt was impossible (tinyurl.com/38wmx). Jim provided no evidence to make them think otherwise and disappeared. He still claims to have it working.

· People are perfectly entitled to spend time on Holocaust denial chatboards. Jim admits posting as Death’s Head, the same name as the SS murder and torture squad. Death’s Head has made postings containing violent and graphic threats to rape, assault, and kill, often with a firearm, in the context of chatboard discussions about the Holocaust.

In an online discussion after similar violent threats were mentioned a posting did state that “me = Jim Wightman = Death’s Head = Totenkopf… all you needed to do was ask.” (tinyurl.com/2jg3p). Jim denied to me that he made the postings and says they were faked. Maybe they were but Jim’s previous postings give reason to question his work. So far, he’s made a grand claim with no good evidence: business as usual for Bad Science.

This character is now collecting donations and volunteers for chatnannies.com, a service where adults will enter children’s chatrooms to monitor for paedophile activity. I’m quite sure he will be greatly assisted in this venture by the fact that he now cites, on his website, the uncritical reports of his claims about his work by New Scientist and the BBC.


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