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Hubris wages are…?
Tech news hasn’t had a week like last week since – maybe? – the dotcom crash in 2000. FTX, the world’s second largest crypto exchange, went from $32 billion to bankruptcy in about three days, and hackers took advantage of the chaos to steal hundreds of millions of dollars. Meta laid off 11,000 people, 13 percent of its workforce, and that was just one-tenth of all other layoffs in the tech industry this year. And, Twitter, well, I don’t have to tell you about Twitter.
This is history repeating itself as tragedy and farce at the same time. We already know what scenes will be in the movies and TV series: Elon Musk carrying sink in Twitter HQ, a Twitter manager vomit in a trash can after being ordered to lay off hundreds of people, polyamorous FTX founders frolicked in their penthouse in the Bahamas. There will be books: Michael Lewis has shadowed FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried has been at it for months and Walter Isaacson is writing a biography of Musk.
OK, but if everyone put away the 🍿, what have we learned? A few things struck me in the torrent of disbelief:
- In a TV interview in September, Isaacson revealed one secret to Musk’s success: his ability to put aside empathy for his employees when it would hinder his vision.
- Investor and old acquaintance of Musk, Chris Sacca, in a revealing thread about how Musk’s inner circle has become “increasingly sycophantic and opportunistic,” with the result that “the hard truth is that right now he’s downright alone doing this.”
- Plus, those text messages released a few weeks ago between Musk and several powerful friends revealing just that level of flattery.
- William MacAskill, the philosopher (or, if you will, cult leader) of the Effective Altruism movement, into which he recruited Bankman-Fried, implicitly acknowledging in a sad thread that if you tell people that the best way to do inordinate good is to accumulate inordinate wealth first, they might misuse that wealth?
- A fawning (and extremely long) profile of Bankman-Fried, posted in September by Sequoia Capital and then hastily deleted – but thankfully preserved for ignominious posterity by the Internet Archive – that shows off his enormous charisma: “After my interview with SBF, I was convinced: I spoke to a future billionaire Whatever mojo he worked on the partners at Sequoia – who fell for him after one Zoom – had also worked on me.
- See also the mea culpa of the writer who published an equally obsequious profile in Fortune.
- Finally, Mark Zuckerberg’s iron grip on Meta, in which he controls the majority of voting stock, is well documented and so no one has disputed his decisions over the years to grow the company’s ranks in pursuit of a succession of failed projects. .
Ah, the price of power and hubris! It is one of the oldest stories in the book. But at the end of a year in which tech stocks have taken a beating, at least one opinion writer hopes this moment will “mark the end of the era of visionary, autocratic tech founders who ‘grow too fast’.”