As we wait for the jury to deliver a verdict in the fraud trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes in San Jose, California, we should reflect on the contributions of others to the making of this sorry saga, especially journalists.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Holmes dropped out of Stanford University to found medical diagnostics company Theranos in 2004, as a 19-year-old. The company purported to be able to run hundreds of tests from minuscule amounts of blood with an innovative device that required just a few drops of blood pricked from the finger.
Holmes attracted nearly $US1bn of investment across a 10-year period, no doubt helped by the fawning media attention she received. At its height Theranos was valued at $US9bn, and Holmes was lauded as the richest and youngest self-made woman in the US.
American elite culture desperately wanted a female Steve Jobs. So it got one. The problem was that her product didn’t work. …
The red carpet was rolled out for her as if she were a Hollywood starlet.
Some of the most powerful men in the world sat on the Theranos board, including George Shultz (former US secretary of state), William Perry (former US defence secretary), Henry Kissinger (former US secretary of state), Sam Nunn (former US senator) and Jim Mattis (former US Marine Corps four-star general and later US defence secretary).
In retrospect, it was a red flag that the board consisted entirely of military men and political powerbrokers as opposed to technical experts and medical practitioners.
Nevertheless, the fact so many powerful men placed their trust in a 20-something female entrepreneur with no prior business experience and no medical qualifications contradicts the oft-repeated tropes about the barriers women face in the business world.
Erin Edeiken, who produced the 2019 HBO documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, which chronicles the rise and fall of Theranos, has said: “You can’t avoid the topic of gender with this story because it was very much a part of her meteoric rise to fame and success. She definitely used her gender to her advantage in building her story and her own myths — I think she then used her gender as an excuse (as) to why the spotlight was put on her when it all fell apart.”
Who are you going to believe, the narrative or your own eye-witness? Well, if you’re a narrative person the choice is obvious:
A striking detail reported by John Carreyrou in The Wall Street Journal was the trust Shultz put in Holmes above his own grandson, Tyler Shultz, a Theranos employee turned whistleblower. After working for the company for eight months, Tyler Shultz learned enough about the sloppy and deceptive practices there to feel worried. He alerted federal regulatory authorities to the fact Theranos was doctoring its research and failing quality-control checks. He alerted his grandfather, too.
But rather than his grandfather taking an interest in his discovery and his courage in raising the alarm, Tyler Shultz essentially was disowned. George Shultz stopped talking to Tyler, and when the grandfather held his 95th birthday party Holmes was invited while the grandson was not. Incredibly, while visiting his grandfather’s house, Tyler Shultz was even ambushed by Theranos lawyers who served him a restraining order. Only when criminal charges were finally brought against the company did George Shultz realise he had made a mistake and that his grandson had been right all along.
The ideology is contradicted again:
This is not what you would expect to happen if making predictions from feminist theory or the bulk of US media coverage on women in tech.
So much of the left’s ideology is based on the idea that all large groups of people have identical statistical properties. This leads to major problems, because it’s unequivocally and significantly not true.
For example, the idea that half the high achievers in tech should be (biological) women ignores the fact that the high end of the IQ distribution is dominated by men:
Another example, currently tearing America apart, is the idea that any differences in outcomes between blacks and others is due to systemic racism. Again, IQ distributions supply an alternative explanation:
Narrative people just flat out deny these IQ differences, despite them being the best researched questions in social science. The evidence is simply overwhelming and unequivocal. But rather than designing society to work fairly in the face of statistical differences between groups, the left just pretend it’s not the case.
hat-tip Stephen Neil