Locklin on science

The dropout

Posted in Book reviews by Scott Locklin on August 16, 2022

I remember when Theranos was a thing. People gave me shit on social media for semi-publicly not believing in the Elizabeth Holmes wunderkind. I also didn’t believe in Transatomic and uBeam. All three transparently violated the laws of physics and chemistry. All three were headed up by mountebanks who short circuit the critical faculties of investors in the same way. They were all undereducated fair haired female nincompoops. They were all saying things I knew to be laughably false. It wasn’t obvious at the time that they were intentional frauds, and I think it is likely they all believed they could pull off their claims, but it was obvious to me their ideas wouldn’t work. Anyone else who passed high school tier physics and chemistry shouldn’t have been fooled either. Of course these are VC we’re talking about here, so they probably never did pass high school physics and chemistry.

I guess the investment thesis is anybody could found a company in their dorm room because, like Zuckerschmuck did it. Of course, Zuckerface basically copied someone else’s obviously implementable idea with zero technical innovations. His risks were all business execution; and he did a decent job at that, as he is a good businessman. Nothing he was trying to do was obviously false: Friendster even used the same color scheme as Facebook. Most founders and VCs have about as much insight into computers as they do into physics, which is to say, they don’t know shit from shinola. It’s difficult for them to understand when a computer thing is impossible, despite most of their investments being computer related. The idea is to invest in a bunch of things without too much diligence, because spending time and experts to evaluate claims has a high opportunity cost. The difference is that it’s a lot tougher to work around stuff like the 1/r^2 law than figuring out one of your core queries is NP-hard query and using metaheuristics to get a decent enough solution. Hence the profusion of “AI” startups who don’t really push the needle. VC is thinking “brain in a can,” founders are presenting slightly better MAPE at the cost of O(N^2) or something. Still, one of them might do something important, and your colleagues are all doing it, so you might as well kick them an investment. That’s the theory.

Successful founders and VCs are often psychopaths. I think they’re used to working with psychopaths. Fake it until you make it is a reasonable thing to do with software. I’m pretty sure Oracle didn’t have anything on its first sale (which was to the CIA, a psychopath heavy organization), so if you’re used to software, it seems sensible to invest in some wild eyed kid with an idea. For the world of innovative products made out of matter, this is false. Academics are useless in most software development; I can only think of a few places where even being able to read Knuth tier academic stuff from the 70s is useful. Not so in biochemistry. As the Steven Fry portrayed Ian Gibbins put it, you can’t really plan breakthroughs in science. You can build an organization more likely to succeed (Theranos evidently wasn’t even in the ballpark), but you can’t schedule when you’re going to be able to ship the thing you don’t know how to build without detailed and concrete intermediate steps. If you don’t have intermediate steps, you can’t plan it. Theranos didn’t have intermediate steps.

The actors and actresses in this show are very clever in their portrayals. We know Elizabeth Holmes at least acted this way in public. Her tics, manners, idiosyncratic slouches; very well captured. By contrast we know less about Sunny Balwani, who didn’t have the media megaphone. I don’t know anyone from the Valley who knew him, but I definitely know the psychological type portrayed in the miniseries. If you’ve seen the Silicon Valley TV show you know about the character Dinesh Chugtai. I won’t describe him here, but if you’ve worked in the Valley, you’ve met a Dinesh; just like all the other Silicon Valley characters -they’re stereotypes, and they’re real (I had a streak of Gilfoyle about me for part of my career). Similarly the portrayal of Sunny Balwani is a familiar character. Some Indian guys suffer from insecurities and do stuff like buy a Lambo to show what big swinging dicks they are, among other things, such as dating age-inappropriate bottle blonde women. Sure this sort of insecurity can manifest the same way across ethnicities, but everyone who has spent time there knows a Silicon Valley Desi guy like this. There is also a type who is a sort of cruel Machiavellian taskmaster: a few Indian people have told me it’s a regional or ethnic quality, but I have no idea how subcontinental ethnicities or regions work. If you spend enough time in the Valley, you’ve met a couple of Sunny Balwani types, and the portrayal was interesting and amusing even if the real Sunny Balwani wasn’t like that. The portrayal of Larry Ellison was pretty good too.

The abusiveness was not adequately documented. For example, it is well known that her dog would shit all over the company office and she’d make the little people clean up the dog shit. While they showed Sunny chimping out at the little people of Theranos, they didn’t show Miz Holmes doing the same thing; apparently her psychological abusiveness was of similar timbre.  Perhaps she got it from her idolization of Steve Jobs, who was similarly abusive, and doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being a complete psycho. I suspect normies wouldn’t think this level of abuse is realistic,  but silicon valley is filled with clownish, ridiculous levels of psychological abuse that are so extreme, a realistic portrayal would seem like a parody.

One of the things which struck me after watching this; if Theranos had found some revenue stream to keep them alive in 2019, they probably would have “succeeded.” Essentially all of the “cures” for the covid problem were baloney. Biomedical research companies jumped the shark in 2020: they realized by bribing enough politicians and media outlets, they could sell any sort of “science juice” -with redditors gleefully St Vitus dancing along with it. Even a miserable fraudulent slave-pit like Theranos should have been able to manufacture some bullshit test strips, or some expensive cod-solution such as Pfizer blessed us with, ginned up with fraudulent statistics and buoyed by FDA and CDC malfeasance. Nobody would have noticed; Holmes would have been praised as a savior by the entire establishment, and everyone would have forgotten about their blood testing machines in the ensuing hysteria.

Anyway this docu-drama is a fun thing to waste time on for those who are interested in Silly Con Valley culture and its follies. People who have been in the trenches will find a lot of familiar guidestones. Many successful software businesses were/are as dysfunctional and shady as this and run by the types of cretins portrayed here. Buyer beware if you come across one dealing with matter.



50 Responses

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  1. William O. B'Livion said, on August 16, 2022 at 1:49 pm

    > There is also a type who is a sort of cruel Machiavellian taskmaster:
    > a few Indian people have told me it’s a regional or ethnic quality,

    I worked a short contract for a game company back in 2003/2004 and my “manager” was this Indian dude who was a complete *dick* to most of his team (all from south east Asia). He didn’t act that way to me, not sure why.

    • Meh said, on August 16, 2022 at 9:11 pm

      Some indian guys are weird. I personally witnessed two guys from different castes (as in, castes, really) not speaking to each other even in the same room, basically not acknowledging the presence of the other; but when two guys from the same “kind” were in the same office, they leaped any obstacle to meet each other. And they spoke horribly of the other “kind”.

      (This was in the offices of a very very big US credit bureau company).

      Really, really weird and unsettling.

      • Scott Locklin said, on August 16, 2022 at 11:03 pm

        There’s a famous CIA story about a subcontinental candidate who was banging his mom because he couldn’t find a mistress who was of the proper caste. They passed on him, but for reasons not related to incest. It was in one of Robert Baer’s books, and I think a few others.

        People kind of assume that everyone has the same values which have been respected in the West for 2500 years. Nope. Of course basically nobody has the same values as inculcated in American universities in the last 40 years.

  2. Privilege Checker said, on August 16, 2022 at 3:00 pm

    Steve Jobs is a poser who didn’t even code. Elizabeth talked with a really deep dike-voice and VCs must have saw that as a buy signal. Another hoax to check out, The Line. A city in Saudi Arabia built on a line. It’s already being funded.
    https://www.neom.com/en-us They get extra credit for simply destroying a mountain that happens to be in the way. As if that was just some mere small detail.

    • Scott Locklin said, on August 16, 2022 at 3:42 pm

      Woz was the coder, Jobs the business guy. Neither would have amounted to much without each other. You also don’t have to be nice to be successful. It’s just mind boggling to me that people revere Jobs for being some kind of Yoda-like figure rather than a total bastard as he really was.

      I sort of hope the Saudis get started on building Trantor. Great place for it.

  3. rademi said, on August 16, 2022 at 4:51 pm

    My current impression, here is [roughly]:

    (1) These sorts of things happen,

    (2) These sorts of things are costly and wasteful,

    (3) We have (or used to have) a variety of efforts aimed at tearing down these kinds of organizations

    (4) Thus: we should expect that this sort of thing wouldn’t be getting very far without systematic support

    (5) But, currently, this sort of thing seems to dominate STEM business activities in this country.

    (6) …

    (7) profit?

  4. I Agree with Everything You're Saying said, on August 16, 2022 at 5:27 pm

    >One of the things which struck me after watching this; if Theranos had found some revenue >stream to keep them alive in 2019, they probably would have “succeeded.”

    Case & point: Moderna.

  5. StrangerAtLarge said, on August 16, 2022 at 5:56 pm

    Google “Why Silicon Valley CEOs are such raging psychopaths”. It’s a short article, that is online, reviewing Maëlle Gavet’s book “Trampled by Unicorns”. It gives vignettes of these Silicon Valley CEO’s

    • Abelard Lindsey said, on August 25, 2022 at 3:26 pm

      Good article. Yes, Steve Jobs is the poster boy for this behavior. Apparently the Zuckerbot idolized Steve Jobs as well and even had on his business card “I’m the CEO, Bitch!”. The only reason to work for assholes like these is the possibility of a large payoff, where you go off to some tropical island once you have the money. Another thing to note is that very few of these “unicorns” are actually profitable.

      However, it is worth noting that the original silicon valley guys, that guys who actually did semiconductors, were not like this. Guys like Jerry Sanders, Robert Noyce, and Gordon Moore strike me as having been decent guys. T.J. Rogers was notorious for being a demanding manager. But he was not a psychotic asshole like Steve Jobs.

      • Scott Locklin said, on August 25, 2022 at 5:42 pm

        I managed to meet a couple of the old school guys who actually made things out of silicon; hard agree. Completely different mindset; very midwestern common decency types. “The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce” is one of the great essays on them, who they were and what their time was like.

        To be fair to Zuck, he does treat his people extremely well. It feels like they keep demons in the basement when you visit the campus, but my friends who work there work normal 8 hour business days and don’t have a lot of toxicity to deal with.

  6. Wanderghost said, on August 16, 2022 at 6:17 pm

    Lol, so Andreesen Horowitz is turning into a REIT now? I just have to read the Neumann book, since I recall WeWork with a great deal of amusement. Every decade there is at least one of these grandiose figures. Having invested, is Andreesen hoping to smooth talk an even greater fool into cashing him out after the downturn is done?

    While Sunny and Beth are still alive, the Theranos science guy killed himself, btw. Someone should have told the poor guy not to take it so seriously.

  7. Anon said, on August 16, 2022 at 6:58 pm

    Great post. I would make a distinction between the Socio/Psychopathic traits exhibited by the leadership of tech companies from the techie semi autistic sperg personality of the — i just graduated Stanford/Berkley/MIT/CMU types. They both need each other – not to mention serve signaling value for the sources of capital (i.e. VCs).

    P.S. Someone really should perform an ethnographic study of SilliConValley 🙂

    • Scott Locklin said, on August 16, 2022 at 7:05 pm

      Ethnographics of various tribes in Silly Con valley would be invaluable resource. The Indian angle is an obvious one, but I bet there are very specific classes and tribes of Americans, Russians, Chinese, etc.

      Very good observation that spergs and psychopaths need and deserve each other. Neither one gives a shit about human emotions other than in an instrumental sense, which is why those places are such shit holes to work at.

    • Sprewell said, on August 17, 2022 at 10:45 am

      Andreessen went big on crypto and I’ve seen other tech investors publicly speculating that a2z and the crypto startups they floated are about to be hit by a boatload of crypto buyer lawsuits after the recent crypto crash (with the crypto bellwether Bitcoin down 60% from its peak in the last year), so there’s a good chance Marc goes down with the ship soon.

      • Sprewell said, on August 17, 2022 at 10:47 am

        Obviously this comment was meant to reply to the Andreessen comment above, shitty WordPress strikes again.

      • Scott Locklin said, on August 17, 2022 at 12:44 pm

        Seems unlikely. I have no idea why a16z invested in wework dork; it’s possible he has a good automation story -which is why a16z invests in blockchain. Big picture they’re really good at: computers are for lowering labor and infrastructure costs; much more rarely making new things possible. If the startup doesn’t do this, it’s probably useless.

  8. StrangerAtLarge said, on August 16, 2022 at 7:53 pm

    ” Neither one gives a shit about human emotions other than in an instrumental sense …” Scott you are so right! Another excerpt from a post by Maëlle Gavet, on LinkedIn:

    Let me give you a quick rundown of the characteristics of tech
    unicorns, as they are today.

    1) Uncaring and with shallow emotions. Although many
    companies claim they are ultimately trying to make the world
    a better place, there is a complete disregard for the actual
    humans who will be disrupted by them and the impact they’re
    having around them. “The greater good” has become a
    multi-purpose Get Out Of Jail Free Card which overrides any
    sense of shame, guilt or embarrassment for negative
    outcomes. When you’re fixing society it seems you’re entitled
    to shrug your shoulders and say: ‘Yes, but it’s a price worth
    paying”, no matter the carnage you’ve (albeit inadvertently)

    2) Perhaps best typified by Uber’s former ‘ask forgiveness,
    not permission’-approach to scaling. (Let’s also not forget
    that there have been a number of cab drivers in NYC who
    tragically have committed suicide indirectly due to Uber &

    3) See Facebook and democracy.

    4) Irresponsible. You’ll rarely see a Big Tech company take
    full ownership of a problem they created. When they do end up
    admitting blame and taking (some) remedial steps, these
    admissions are not usually accompanied by any meaningful
    shame or remorse. It took Airbnb a very long time to concede
    that its existence had the ultimate effect of driving
    long-term residents out of certain neighborhoods. And many of
    the people who are most marginalized by services like Airbnb
    and Uber are the poor, the less educated & minorities.

    5) Distorting reality. Hard to know where to start. Tech
    companies are making claims bigger than life to raise capital
    and attracting talents. Everything is a revolution, an
    innovation and my favorite, a disruption. And what’s
    interesting is that they end up believing it themselves. See
    Theranos or the food-tech startup Soylent’s once expressed
    goal to “put an end to hunger”.

    • Scott Locklin said, on August 16, 2022 at 10:50 pm

      Well you know, I bet Edison and Maudsley were also pricks, but they did push the needle. “Uncaring and with shallow emotions” could just be describing the average male with normal testosterone levels, let alone the average male inventor/entrepreneur.

      Not that anyone should trust overly wealthy and powerful bastards, whether they got that way from tech or Amway, but still; one must be moderate in one’s prejudices.

    • Sprewell said, on August 17, 2022 at 11:32 am

      1) Which companies demonstrate “caring and deep emotions,” Proctor & Gamble or Ford? This entire notion of using human emotions to describe companies is laughable in itself. A bunch of taxi medallion companies grifting millions off of political connections and then getting put out of business by consumers choosing not to use their taxis anymore is “carnage?” I would hope the tech bros would focus on making the best product they can, not hand-holding the also-rans they put out of business.

      2) Given the entrenched cartels they were up against, I don’t blame Uber for ignoring stupid laws, though that probably also engendered a more toxic culture in the company. As for taxi suicides, while no doubt tragic, blaming Uber/Lyft for that is ridiculous.

      3) Is this an argument?

      4) These companies are at best enablers of the intrinsic desires of their customers, so if you blame Airbnb for gentrification or whatever, you’re laying it at the wrong feet. Accepting blame inevitably means unnecessary lawsuits, you seem unaware of our litigious culture.

      5) Largely true, but the Internet is truly revolutionary, it’s just that these SV chumps don’t know how to pull that off. Someone will spark a true revolution with the Internet, it just won’t be from Silly Valley.

      In sum, you will find no bigger skeptic of SV tech than me, but these particular criticisms are largely silly. The much bigger issue is that they are bad at their core mission, not that they don’t emote enough for your liking.

  9. anonymous said, on August 17, 2022 at 12:05 am

    My big question about Theranos was why they decided to make an example out of Elizabeth Holmes, specifically? Yeah, it was probably crooked from top to bottom. But there are so many crooked SV companies that it’s hard to know where to begin. The whole creaking edifice of our civilization is tilting into collapse because of corruption, to the extent of total disregard for human lives and fortunes. Why Holmes? Who did she/the company piss off?

    So so glad I escaped from LA. *Nothing there is real*. (Also many other places besides, but still.)

    • nate-m said, on August 17, 2022 at 4:59 am

      Prosecutors are career minded.

      Occasionally you will have a ambitious one that sees a opportunity to nail a famous person and thus get a nice feather in their hat. Very useful thing to have, name recognition, if your goal is to move up in the government in that career path.

      Look at the guy that uselessly screwed over Martha Stewart. The only thing she did was mislead investigators on a trade deal that turned out wasn’t really illegal to begin with. He was able to turn that into a felony and got her to spend time in jail. The case made international news.

      James Comey leveraged her stupidity and made it all the way up the food chain to run the FBI.

      Politicians like this type of circus because it makes it easier to trick people into thinking that the government does something useful on occasion. (Besides finding new excuses to enrich the people running it. And their buddies.)

    • StrangerAtLarge said, on August 17, 2022 at 8:26 am

      “Why Holmes? Who did she/the company piss off?”
      The Food and Drug Administration. Knowingly sending out erroneous lab results is a big transgression. See CFR 42, Chp IV, Subchapter G, PART 493 – LABORATORY REQUIREMENTS

      • StrangerAtLarge said, on August 19, 2022 at 1:20 am

        Here are the FDA form 483 letters (letters of reprimand) That were issued against Theranos.
        The letters are heavily redacted. However the pertinent allegation is:
        “Design validation did not ensure the devce conforms to defined user needs and intended uses.”

        For what it’s worth, I worked as a quality control technician at a pharmaceutical company.

        • anonymous said, on August 19, 2022 at 12:15 pm

          I suppose I’m overly cynical. 2015 is “the before times”, so maybe adherence to medical testing standards was still a thing.

          They seemed to have thrown the entire drug approval process out the window when it came to the coronavirus vaccines.

          • anonymous said, on August 19, 2022 at 12:21 pm

            If it were just the mass hysteria surrounding coronavirus, that would be one thing. But they seem ready and willing to throw the same safety standards out the window for any future vaccine development also. The dam seems to have broken, if you’re one of the right companies.

            Many things being described in various news articles I’m aware of (the viral vector DNA vaccines, etc) sound ludicrously unsafe without *extensive* testing, and yet they act like they now have carte blanch to throw experimental stuff out there, and have it made mandatory.

          • Sprewell said, on August 19, 2022 at 4:24 pm

            > I suppose I’m overly cynical.

            No such thing, you’re probably not cynical enough. I’m no CIA kremlinologist so I have no idea how much of that is true, but it’s more plausible than a bunch of grizzled bureaucrats falling for her big eyes and even bigger dreams.

            > 2015 is “the before times”, so maybe adherence to medical testing standards was still a thing.

            Lol, read Carreyrou’s book on Theranos: she was given free reign for far too long.

            > They seemed to have thrown the entire drug approval process out the window when it came to the coronavirus vaccines.

            Somewhat understandable given the Corona panic and lockdowns, then you hear about how much the NIH and others make off pharmaceutical royalties and the reality sets in.

    • Scott Locklin said, on August 17, 2022 at 10:16 am

      One can speculate about power factions, but I honestly think it’s because she was hawking an object made out of matter. Had it been a MRNA “vaccine” or something else more intangible requiring statistics to understand, she might have have gotten away with it (even today with Bourla taking all his concoctions and still being ill with ‘rona, people believe in their magic sauce BS). “Where is testing machine” is pretty obvious fraud.

    • Joel said, on August 17, 2022 at 10:58 pm

      Maybe because Theranos was a money laundering scheme.

      If you think the Theranos board was interested in getting in on the blood testing IPO, I have a bridge for sale.

      • Scott Locklin said, on August 19, 2022 at 9:55 am

        You can’t just let that assertion hang out there: citations needed.

        • Joel said, on August 20, 2022 at 6:07 pm

          Where I come from we have a saying “show me your statement’. There are no financial drill down sources to cite, just “steamy emails” and I can’t see the Board’s bank statements, but none of them are complaining and I find it funny Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal broke the story. These are supposed to be smart people that got taken, where did their money go? How much was recovered? Did they really invest? Where did General Mattis get the money to invest? Holmes did not buy a $50M mansion for cash somewhere.There was no IPO for it to be lost in the markets, this was about $600M of investor money (maybe). How many business loans did Theranos have? You think the Board is ashamed and that’s why they are all quiet? Pull my leg it plays Jingle Bells.

          Funny how the fake medical testing business is booming now.

          Everything has been wrapped up nice and neat, with an HBO movie to continue the narrative and stories about Murdoch’s write downs.

          There are good guys around, maybe somebody blew the whistle on this scam for a reason other than fraud and bad investment decisions.

          It’s not a leap to say our elites use fraud in the markets to cover up moving money around. You think hedge fund guy Michael Steinhardt (his father was Meyer Lansky’s jewelry fence) got taken by Bernie Madoff? Nope, that was the dry cleaner from Long Island.

          The level of financial corruption in this country is staggering.

          • Scott Locklin said, on August 21, 2022 at 9:26 am

            Founders can and usually do sell or take out loans against their shares on the secondary market. Mattis no doubt is as great a futures trader as Hillary Clinton was.

            Still no real evidence Theranos was a money laundry. Those have very specific characteristics, like making money on paper for someone somehow. Like a dry cleaner.

            • Sprewell said, on August 29, 2022 at 3:37 am

              There are claims that between $700-900 million was invested in Theranos and no indication that any significant fraction was recovered when it was finally shutdown, so someone “made” that money. Since the company never produced audited financial statements, we’ll never know where it all really went, but it is unlikely that was all spent on viable medical research.

              That said, I agree with you that launderers want their money in boring businesses like dry cleaners and car washes that don’t attract attention, not giant hype machines like this. Joel may be right that that money went elsewhere, but laundering it was likely not the main intent: stealing it from the DeVos and Walton families and Rupert Murdoch with this medical testing front is more likely.

      • Abelard Lindsey said, on August 25, 2022 at 3:34 pm

        Read “Bad Blood” by John Carryrou. Holmes clearly believed in her idea, despite its fantasy, and tried everything she could to make it happen. The problem is that she was up against the laws of physics and chemistry which made what she wanted to do impossible. I think Holmes was a true believer and delusional in her beliefs. Her actions become more and more fraudulent as technical approaches failed and she resorted more and more to hand having and wishful thinking. The Carryrou book makes clear that Theranos was not founded as an intentional fraud.

  10. nate-m said, on August 17, 2022 at 4:49 am

    I know I am a idiot, but can sound convincing if I put some effort into it and have a smarter guy feeding me the data. Sometimes I wish I was a psychopath so I could cash in on that sweet sweet salesment/con/vc see-humans-as-tools brain juice.

    Then I think “Yeah, but would it be worth it if I hate myself?”.

    Then myself goes: “Well if I was a psychopath I wouldn’t care. Plus I would have a very large boat”.

    Then I spend the rest of the day only pretending to work in order to feel good, like I got a gotcha. Which then only makes me feel slightly guilty and uneasy about my situation. But at least I get to take a nap.

    I wish politics and cheap money didn’t make it so easy for psychopaths to get ahead. But this is what happens when you let a country get ran by lawyers.

    C’est la vie.

  11. Sprewell said, on August 17, 2022 at 11:09 am

    To be fair, almost no SV investors invested in Theranos, just her neighbor Tim Draper early on and some of his partners later, and other than basing the company there, had essentially no connection to other bay area tech companies.

    A tech investor I talked to years before the WSJ expose that took her down said that she refused to explain the “proprietary” technology behind her testing machine when pitching VCs, so pretty much all of Sand Hill Road threw her out. He said then that it had to be a fraud, just look at how her board had no relevant expertise, just a lot of aged-out bureaucrats like Kissinger and Mattis, hoping for a nice payout and some good PR for backing a young woman CEO in their old age.

    This investor was no genius, so pretty much everyone in SV knew there was something wrong, just as all the big Wall Street banks stayed away from Madoff. We can all agree that both centers are corrupt and dying, but they were competent enough to see through these two frauds.

    • Abelard Lindsey said, on August 25, 2022 at 3:42 pm

      The Carryrou book talks about this. The first VC Holmes pitched was MedVentures. In her pitch, she said the underlying technology was microfluidics, which is true, BTW. They tried the microfludics approach the first three years and gave up around 2006 when it failed. That’s when they went to that ridiculous robot. In any case, the MedVenture guys were aware of another startup developing microfluidic chips for veterinary testing applications. They asked Holmes how her microfluidics technology compared to that of the veterinary startup. She was unable to answer the question and walked out the door. That was her one and only attempt to pitch the Sand Hill Road VC’s.

      I highly recommend theCarryrou book “Bad Blood”.

  12. PeterIke said, on August 17, 2022 at 7:26 pm

    Since we’re talking about Valley psychopathy, why are the tech companies so fanatically woke? Why do they ALL buy into the “green energy” fantasy, even if they are not a company exploiting it for profit? Why do they ALL rush to make sure their insurance plans cover transgender surgery? Why do they ALL bend over backwards for every BLM or LGBQwerty con that comes along? Why do they allow any toxic Progressive psychopath free reign but would immediately get rid of anyone who, God forbid, wore a MAGA hat on a Zoom call?

    It’s not just the Valley either. Why, for instance, are Ford and GM betting their futures on electric vehicles, when the entire thing is a gigantic okey doke and will never play out? And these are real products, not just some stupid website.

    My limited impression of tech companies I’ve been at is that the executive class are genuinely true believers in the entire Progressive dreamscape. I’m sure there are certain cynical folks who know they’re just exploiting a mental hole in the system. The rest really believe it. Why are all these smart people so stupid?

    • Scott Locklin said, on August 19, 2022 at 12:32 pm

      Transgenders are often autists and great programmers is a pretty obvious incentive for that. There is also tremendous pressure from below to adhere to The Latest Thing whether or not the executive team gives a shit about it. Bay Area religion involves tremendous peer pressure; people will shit on each other for working for politically incorrect companies that don’t do The Latest Thing. Imagine being a ship’s captain in the day of sailing boats who doesn’t say christian prayers and so on: the sailors won’t sail with you.
      Right wing types (or sane immigrants) are often important parts of the corporate structure and keep it running, but they don’t complain and mostly go along with things.
      Of course the ironic thing about all this is programmers could organize for, you know, a bigger cut of the pie, better working conditions and so on, but instead they agitate for a dumb Ukraine flag on the app or whatever. This, of course, makes investors happy (just as it made investors happy when Occupy invented this crap). So more or less everyone is happy with the state of affairs.

    • Sprewell said, on August 19, 2022 at 4:56 pm

      Mostly agree with Scott that the pressure comes from the rank and file, and the executives are happy to give them these sops so long as they’re too dumb to affect the bottom line.

      > Why, for instance, are Ford and GM betting their futures on electric vehicles

      They largely ignored them for years, then Tesla proved that there were a lot of dumb customers out there willing to overpay for them, particularly in the high-margin, luxury segment, so they’re all running to catch up.

      > Why are all these smart people so stupid?

      This is a common misconception: most so-called “smart people” are not that smart, they’re just well-studied in some field. Even the few actual smarties do not bother applying themselves to fields outside their own domain: it just takes too much mental effort. On the contrary, they often assume their smarts transfer easily to other fields they don’t know as well, then fall for the simplest cons, hence the old Conquest axiom, “Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.”

      Never assume that brilliance in one field transfers to others, in fact it’s usually the opposite, the path-breaking genius who can’t navigate everyday life is a cliche at this point. You can probably number the exceptions, ie the real polymaths, at any given time on one hand.

  13. Altitude Zero said, on August 18, 2022 at 2:08 am

    You say “dating age-inappropriate bottle blonde women” like it was a bad thing…

    • Scott Locklin said, on August 19, 2022 at 9:47 am

      It’s a noteworthy quirk that requires considerable effort, like driving a Lambo.

  14. Brent said, on August 18, 2022 at 4:25 pm

    Ubeam and the other bottom-feeding wireless power companies have been a real thorn in my side because I have to explain repeatedly to people who should know better that they won’t do what they want. There are precisely two companies I have seen in this space that are remotely close to honest and only one has a technology anyone would want, and it’s of relatively specialized use. No names, because I won’t promote any of them.

    I was dimly aware of transatomic which sounded at the time like yet another maybe someday way of getting DOE SBIR or similar money by the well connected. Like the thorium guy who’s been around for years. To be fair it sounds like they had a more plausible “we tried and we were wrong” story than say, Thanatos. Is there a good spicy take on them out there?

    • Scott Locklin said, on August 19, 2022 at 9:44 am

      If Dewan were as wrong in her accounting as her nuclear cross sections, she’d have gone immediately to prison. She has a Ph.D.! Not supposed to make those kind of errors.

  15. TG said, on August 18, 2022 at 11:03 pm

    – Holmes
    I never heard of her or her company until the last few years when the trials started. I have this fear that women, especially post third wave feminism, can scramble brains up so thoroughly that they will deliberately use it for insane evil. Of course they would. Holmes did that weird low voice thing that I thought was an eerie act whenever she spoke. I figured she’d pretend to be a victim of sexual violence from the patriarchy as her defense despite previously portraying herself as the destroyer of patriarchy (with low voice of power) during her reign. Sure enough like clockwork during the trial she claimed to be a victim of abuse from her older boyfriend.
    – Indians
    dated an Indian for a while and have dealt with them. What Winston Churchill said about them is true because of how petty they can be but I won’t repeat it here because I’ll be banned. The lower caste ones definitely come up with all sorts of nonsense to fulfill their desire to be viewed with respect. You can have all the money in the world and still be low caste and there’s nothing you can do about it.
    – covid
    it’s depressing how people brag about being “vaxxed and double boosted”. It’s a shibboleth to say something that like. I hope I will never use those words. Usually this is accompanied with the phrase “believe in science”. a good percentage of the population says these things unironically. I think I recall Fauci himself saying that covid was likely not a good candidate for a vaccine. You could probably be beaten to death for saying that in the wrong place.

  16. Oubieux said, on August 22, 2022 at 6:35 am

    RE “Successful founders and VCs are often psychopaths.”

    By FAR the most vital urgent and DEEP understanding everyone needs to gain is that a mafia network of manipulating PSYCHOPATHS are governing big businesses (eg official medicine, big tech), nations and the world — the evidence is OVERWHELMING and TOTALLY IRREFUTABLE (see “The 2 Married Pink Elephants In The Historical Room”… https://www.rolf-hefti.com/covid-19-coronavirus.html ).

    (CAVEAT — only read the 2 pink elephant article if you’re GENUINELY interested in the truth and therefore “CAN handle the truth” …)

    Isn’t it about time for anyone to wake up to the ULTIMATE DEPTH of the rabbit hole — rather than remain blissfully willfully ignorant and play victim like a little child?

    And psychopaths are typically NOT how Hollywood propaganda movies have showcased them. And therefore one better RE-learns what a psychopath REALLY is.

    But global rulership by psychopaths is only ONE part of the equation that makes up the destructive human condition as the article explains because there are TWO pink elephants in the room… and they’re MARRIED (see cited source above).

    If you are in the United States and your employer has mandated the toxic/lethal COVID jabs, you can register to receive a “Medical Exemption Certificate” for free at https://drgastonmedicalexemption.com

  17. D. Marolla said, on August 23, 2022 at 11:09 pm

    All the old books on the “Madness of Crowds” and how people will fall for the Big Lie and not the small one, and that there’s a sucker born every minute. Makes you want to simply target the Whales and snooker them. Why waste time with the middle class when you can put on a black turtleneck, use a fake contralto voice, and get pizzzzaid??

    Unbelievable at how, even with the modern speed and flow of information, a nonsense machine like Theranos got as far as it did. You’re right – had it been able to hold on it would have had a field day during the plandemic.

  18. X. said, on August 29, 2022 at 3:46 am


    Scott, I thought you would find this amusing.

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