Billions for failed start-ups but nowhere near enough for urban schools and roads

Columbus’s shamed CEO Sean Lane – who failed spectacularly with his shadowy and shady AI software which promised to cut administrative costs for healthcare providers – has somehow once again convinced venture capitalists his AI hocus-pocus can save companies millions in labor costs.

Strange indeed, is how Lane incorporated his new company “GhostDog Inc.” on the same day his previous AI company announced it was going belly-up and didn’t want to be sentient after all, this according to the local BizJournal.

Lane was the much-hyped leader behind Olive AI which closed for good after it bamboozled hospitals and venture capitalists it could automate routine administrative tasks, such as uncovering whether a patient’s insurance had lapsed. But as former Olive AI employees so stunningly exposed on Reddit, Lane’s AI may not have even been true AI.

“Worked at Olive from 2020-2022 as an engineering manager and the whole operation was built on smoke and mirrors,” stated one Reddit post. “Even though they claimed it was AI, a lot of it was just OCR (Optical Character Recognition) screen scraping and Selenium doing work behind the scenes. Pay was fantastic and benefits were awesome, but we all knew it wouldn’t last.”

According to the news org Axios, Olive AI promised to cut the administrative costs of healthcare providers by five times, which is another way of saying humans will be forced out of their jobs. True, healthcare is bloated and expensive, and for-profit insurance companies have bled Americans dry (so to speak). But keep in mind AI is predicted to eliminate tens-of-millions of jobs in the not-so-distant future, a prediction that venture capitalists are drooling over, as are healthcare and insurance providers, considering they most likely are not passing along any savings to patients.

Following the pandemic, Olive AI became a “Unicorn,” the moniker given to start-ups which have been handed $1 billion in Wall Street investor cash. The “VCs” who backed Lane, such as Columbus’s Drive Capital, are selling off what remains of Olive AI. Some estimate these
VCs lost $100 million in actual cash, but this is “chump change” to them say sources when considering there’s $30 trillion of Wall Street money, which is mostly the savings and 401(ks) of Americans, for investing.

The local BizJournals reported that Ghostdog Inc. has “some functions sounding very similar to what Olive tried to do for hospitals.” Ghostdog will mostly be utilized by the US military, stated the article.

“It’s a joke. These guys think they can do whatever want,” says local progressive activist Chuck Lynd who was a founding member of the Columbus nonprofit Simply Living. “They are operating under the illusion that artificial intelligence is equivalent to what we do when we calculate in the brain, and that’s based on the idea we are separate from nature. It’s incredibly ignorant to bet on this because we don’t know what we are doing because we are part of nature and we’re just figuring this out.”

What also came out in the Reddit posts by former Olive AI employees is how the VCs – just like the healthcare providers who purchased Olive AI’s software – were also duped, because they themselves have no clue what real AI is either.

“Because tech is such a complicated field that a lot of people don’t understand well, it has a lot of space for grifting,” stated a Reddit post. “It’s like how even before all this, every second app used to talk about ‘We use AI to do __’, or talked about AI recommendations and it was really just running a linear regression or something much more simple than the advertising would suggest.”

The “faux hype is real,” stated another Reddit post.

“It is still mind boggling to me how VCs gravitate to hype and flashy ideas vs companies with actual business and products,” they wrote.

Over a decade ago when Olive AI and Drive Capital were just beginning to gain traction, they and JobsOhio were touting Columbus as the future “Silicon Valley” of the Midwest.

But was the hype real? Drive Capital also seeded Path Robotics, a Columbus AI robotics company which is building robots to do welding. Path Robotics claims they are solving the problem of not having enough skilled welders in the workforce.

Fair enough, but do Path Robotics and their VCs have plans on taking away all skilled welding jobs?

Knowing the insatiable greed and not a drip of empathy that is the ultrarich – ie, venture capitalists – the hype from Columbus so far appears more about eliminating humans from their jobs so a handful of super rich (white) guys can get their yachts.

Olive AI peaked at 1,400 employees just several years ago, and many worked remotely far from Central Ohio. But the way most were laid-off is telling when it comes to those who have designs on taking away millions of jobs with AI.

“My heart does go out to all of the people affected and blindsided by this layoff. They were cut off at 1 pm, and given an email saying they were laid off,” stated a Reddit post.