Current Reading

This blog is primarily for me to blog my responses to books that I'm reading. Sometimes I blog about other stuff too, though.

I'm currently reading Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society by Mario Vargas Llosa.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Theranos is falling in the marketplace, Lizzie is at risk of being banned

OK, you loyal followers of my grumpy blog.  We need to talk about Theranos, the start-up that got so much attention for its claims that it can do medical tests with just a tiny pin-prick's worth of blood instead of the larger samples that medical labs usually require.  Why do we need to talk about Theranos?  It's not that I know anything about blood testing, but rather that Right-Thinking People drank that kool-aid and drank it hard.  Just today I came across an article (from last fall) by a very enthusiastic and progressive-minded professor talking about how wonderful Theranos is and how visionary their CEO is.

Why did Right-Thinking People develop such a massive crush on Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes?  Well, first and foremost, Holmes dropped out of Stanford, always wears a black turtleneck (just like another sainted figure that Right-Thinking People idolize), and has given a TED Talk.  She uses phrases like "transformative change."  To a breathlessly enthusiastic person, that's pretty much all you need to be great.  Bona fide achievement is optional, and that's good because in the past few weeks Theranos has lost their biggest customer and Holmes' net worth estimate has been downgraded to zero. The federal government is also considering whether to impose sanctions on her.  It seems that this is related to the fact that her company had to repudiate two years' worth of test results.  Oops.

And a lot of doubts were already swirling around at least by last fall, if not earlier.

I don't have anything against Holmes.  I don't know her, and I understand that some great ideas are worth trying even if they fail.  Thing is, the vast majority of the people idolizing her also didn't know her, didn't work with her or for her, and didn't invest in her, but they had no problem going all ga-ga about transformative leadership and big ideas and OMG TURTLENECK!!!

Right-Thinking People are so enthusiastically gullible.

Interestingly, the Theranos board is very heavy on military and government types, and somewhat light on medical types.  This might have something to do with the fact that her father held high-level positions in the, I mean, the US Agency for International Development.  I have to love the idea of Right-Thinking People getting suckered by a daughter of great privilege.  It's a metaphor for, well, just about everything that's wrong with the Right-Thinking classes.

But, if you are dismayed by my harsh and sarcastic writings, here's my parting conciliatory comment:  It's quite likely that the next person who excites you will be exactly what they seem to be and not someone with a high ratio of hype to results.  There's hope!

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