back in april I paid $12 to “attend” a virtual event with 30-year-old crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried. About 45 more people signed up for Zoom, which is hosted by Manny Yekutiel, a San Francisco-based Democratic organizer and owner of downtown Manny’s of the same name.
Yekutiel is a gentle yet intelligent interrogator who sits in front of a hot pink scaly floor and presses the SBF (as it’s known) on crypto practices and regulation, notions of freedom and liberty, and potentially destructive tools that can serve the endgame of effective sacrifice. . Calling from a dark Washington DC hotel room, SBF seemed content with her own answers. He also looked distracted throughout the 50 minutes of Zoom, his gaze wandering and his face lighting up intermittently, a sign that another app has opened. League of Legends? Maybe. Either way, I didn’t walk away with a better understanding of the scam or shut down my laptop.
Sitting down this week for a live-streamed interview with keen financial reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin was a different SBF. The crypto entrepreneur’s right arm was constantly shaking and looked disappointed. “Look, I’ve had a bad month,” the SBF said at one point, underestimating 2022.
In recent weeks, SBF’s $32 billion crypto exchange FTX has been completely dissolved. Investors lost millions. The SBF’s own vastly diminished theoretical wealth. Well-known investors tried to clear their ties to him. And the once-prodigy seems unable to directly answer questions about his own guilt in what is increasingly perceived as a fraudulent crypto scheme. “I was as honest as I knew it,” he told Sorkin. “I don’t know when I’ve lied.” (Depends on what the word means. is isis.)
Were there signs that FTX was a house of cards, and perhaps the brilliant boy-founder didn’t know which road ended? The answer depends in part on one’s inherent skepticism and understanding of the machinations of the crypto market. Short answer: Yes. Federal prosecutors reportedly examined FTX months before it collapsed. But there were other reasons to be skeptical of an unproven entrepreneur who seemed so eager to embody his crazy genius archetype, Silicon Valley. So why did we – investors, crypto monsters, the media – agree again? Or as writer and known billionaire-skeptic Anand Giridharad put“My only view of the SBF interview is that I don’t know why we continue to trust semi-adult men who are extremely limited in the keys to our well-being and society… They have little to teach. There is so much to learn Somehow, many misunderstood this.
I asked this question to Margaret O’Mara, professor of history at the University of Washington and author of the following book: Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America. “Everyone loves the hero’s journey,” O’Mara said quickly. We’re still stuck with the idea of eccentric geniuses achieving extraordinary things.
O’Mara points out that people cite Bill Gates, the biggest geek who still continues to run a highly transformative company, as a prime example. A generation later, two computer scientists, Larry and Sergey, have not only provided the world with a clean, neat search portal (an antidote to the pop-up confusion of the late dotcom era) and bean-filled offices for their employees. but also those who retain control of a special suffrage class of their companies. Their greatest innovation might not have been search, but “founder control.”