The impact that Silicon Valley has had on the world over the past four decades has been monumental, with an innumerable number of advancements, across virtually all aspects of society, changing our world at a rate that is difficult to comprehend. Amongst all of the inventors and visionary’s that have worked in the region, it’s reasonable to say that the most notable resident was Steve Jobs, with many recognising the Apple co-founder as the ‘godfather’ of Silicon Valley, having an undeniable influence on the identity and character of the famed innovation hub.
It is easy to idolise the mastermind behind Apple’s empire, and I’m sure that virtually every tech entrepreneur has looked up to Jobs at one point, or has at the very least acknowledged his impact. I think this influence is felt no more evidently than when you come across the story of Elizabeth Holmes, the CEO and founder of Theranos, a company set on revolutionising the way in which we test blood. Just like her idol, Holmes wore a black turtleneck and was keen to emulate Jobs at every opportunity. She would even go as far as hiring prominent Apple employees and basing her product designs around the look of Apple’s original iPhone. However, despite her aspirations, the stories of Apple and Theranos share little more than the dress sense of their respective founders…
I write here to recommend a book called ‘Bad Blood’ which is based on Holmes and Theranos, and I won’t go into too much detail, but I can assure you that the completely true story, put together by journalist, John Carreyrou will have you turning the pages in sheer disbelief. In short, the book reveals the inside story of Theranos’ illegitimate and irresponsible blood testing ‘revolution’, in a tale that betrays egotism, greed, manipulation and most prominently deceit. Despite an air of mystery and dubiousness surrounding the company and its methods, its stock managed to rise to a mind-blowing valuation of $10 billion at its peak in 2014, despite the company being unable to provide the services that it had promised to thousands. This ultimately put medical patients at harm, and cheated investors out of millions of dollars. As I read ‘Bad Blood’, I was prompted to think about how people may be vulnerable to technology and to the corporate machine. Large companies leading on consumers is nothing new, but to do so in a medical capacity really oversteps the mark.
Elizabeth Holmes claimed to have a visionary ambition to make the world a better place, but it was little more than a front, masking an ambition for power and money. To be self-interested and ambitious is certainly not a crime, but to act so irresponsibly whilst in a position of power is shameful. The case of Elizabeth Homes and Thearnos really raises some moral questions; do we actually want to help people, or do we just want money and fame? Or maybe if we do want to help people, is it just a way to boost our profile and ego? I think about this sometimes in my own life, and though I’m not running a multi-million dollar company, I think about how should I carry myself and make decisions. Does my main ambition lie solely in making the world a better place, or do I just want to be rich and famous?
I have to again credit John Carreyrou for ‘Bad Blood’, because it was not only a gripping read, it raised many questions in my own mind, and helped teach me some valuable lessons. Make sure you check out the book, it’s perfect to get stuck into during these cold and wet winter months, and aside from enjoying it, you might just learn something about yourself or the world around you.