For the past few years I've been fascinated by the story of Theranos, a plucky start-up that promised to revolutionize blood testing thanks to a female Steve Jobs clone named Elizabeth Holmes. She became "the world's youngest female billionaire" by creating a machine that could do a comprehensive blood test with merely a drop of flood (a finger pin-prick) rather than tapping a vein.
Unimaginable wealth was earned based on the promise of vaporware tech that lots of folks outside of Silicon Valley saw as a fraud, basically. But within the tech bubble, nobody could stop themselves from forking over millions of dollars for fear of missing out on something amazing, actual benefits-to-society-and-medicine be damned.
Anyhow, there's a new book out about the whole thing by the reporter who basically cracked the (non-existent code) in the first place, and I'll be downloading it soon for my summer reading binge in August.
A small but telling story from the book:
"After they hung up, Hunter took aside Renaat Van den Hoof, who was in charge of the pilot on the Walgreens side, and told him something just wasn’t right. The red flags were piling up. First, Elizabeth had denied him access to their lab. Then she’d rejected his proposal to embed them in Palo Alto. And now she was refusing to do a simple comparison study. To top it all off, Theranos had drawn the blood of the president of Walgreens’s pharmacy business, one of the company’s most senior executives, and failed to give him a test result!
Van den Hooff listened with a pained look on his face.
'We can’t not pursue this,' he said. 'We can’t risk a scenario where CVS has a deal with them in six months and it ends up being real.'”To paraphrase G. B. Shaw (sort of), pure meritocracy is a fabulous fucking idea. It's a shame nobody, especially hyper-Capitalist / Libertarian societies, have ever tried it.