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SocietyApril 6, 2018

Internal Affairs to investigate charity linked to Albi Whale’s so-called AI, ‘Zach’


The department has confirmed it will look into the charity status of Terrible Foundation, following revelations in the Spinoff around the strange story of a purported supercomputer-powered artificial intelligence revolution in Christchurch

The Department of Internal Affairs has launched an investigation into the Terrible Foundation, the registered charity linked to Zach, a supposed pioneering artificial intelligence technology created in Christchurch.

The brainchild of father and son team David and Alberic Whale, Zach and their “Terrible” branded products, had won almost universally enthusiastic press until journalist David Farrier’s curiosity was piqued. In his investigation for the Spinoff, published a month ago today – and a follow-up report – serious questions were raised over the veracity of the Whales’ boasts, including claims that Zach could perform general medical practitioners’ diagnostic tasks.

The Terrible Foundation is a shareholder in Omega Health, the company for which the Whales had been promoting a share offering with Zach as its poster child. The foundation, which states as its ultimate ambition the eradication of global poverty, offered its own mysteries: from a one-year $400 million leap in asset valuations to the unattributed parroting of missions statements from the Ford Foundation.

Further questions have been since raised by the recipients of the charity’s benefaction.

A spokesperson for the Department of Internal Affairs said in an email: “As a result of recent media coverage the Department has decided to undertake an investigation into the Terrible Foundation to see if it remains eligible to be a registered charity under the terms of the Charities Act.

“We are unable to provide any further information while this is under way.”

In a “fact-check to the points made in an on-line article that appeared in The SpinOff” – distributed last month to various media but not the Spinoff – the Terrible Foundation condemned what it called “the selective use of publicly accessible information to support a proposition rather than an honest, objective representation”.

When contacted for comment by the Spinoff editor, the Spinoff editor said that impugning the honesty of David Farrier and the Spinoff is “wrong” and “stupid”.

The Whales’ document, which fails to address the fundamental questions that have been asked of the Whales’ enterprises, can be read here. It concludes by disputing “frequent references, in social media, to [Albi] Whale as some sort of con-man.

“Mr Whale has never sought payment for himself in any way,” says the unnamed author. Instead, he is “simply following the same path as he has set the Foundation – challenging inequality to make the world a better place.”

David Whale has been approached for comment.

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