That Elizabeth Holmes was able to dupe such noted luminaries as Joe Biden, the Clintons, Rupert Murdoch, James Mattis, George Shultz, and Henry Kissinger should cure you and anyone else who suffers from imposter syndrome.
Bad Blood is one of those books I’ve seen lauded in every corner of literatti space. For months, stacks of them were available at local stores. I probably wouldn’t have had interest in the story otherwise but since it’s been everywhere, I decided finally to pull it from my local library.
I knew very little going on, only being somewhat familiar with the names “Elizabeth Holmes” and “Theranos”, which I kept confusing with “Thanos” from Marvel, another property I’m reluctant to engage in. And I’m glad I went in with minimal knowledge because the story is a showstopper. Con after con of these ridiculous blood tests were fronted so more venture capitalist money could draw in, all while making employees absolutely miserable.
It’s easy to wonder how Holmes kept up the charade for so long. One might read this book and be frustrated that Theranos operated for almost a decade using pseudoscience and lies. But the inevitable conclusion, which John Carreyrou does a great job showing not telling, is that money talks. When you’re able to con rich people out of their cash, they’ll believe anything. Never mind that none of them were scientists. Never mind that you’ll be tempted to keep making the same “This isn’t the first time Kissinger and Shultz have lied about blood being drawn joke.” Elites just enjoy the company of other elites. They enjoy being flattered and thinking that their money and influence is making the world a better place. And they all found a perfect surrogate in Elizabeth Holmes.
And that answers one of my problems with the book, which I otherwise enjoyed: I don’t think Holmes is a sociopath. We tend to apply that label to cover a wide variety of bad behavior and it’s a shame that an otherwise competent writer like Carreyrou does the same here. Rather, I think she got a taste of money and power at a time when Silicon Valley was being especially lauded and she didn’t want to let go. It just kept snowballing and it seems like she hoped some day her taskmaster style would produce a miracle and it didn’t. That it kept up so long says less about Holmes’ mental state and more about how terrible our country is at managing public health.
This is being made into a movie with Jennifer Lawrence and Adam McKay. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.