So… the CEO of WeWork sure is saying some wacky shit, huh?
Neumann, after spending an international flight on a private jet toking, reportedly left a cereal box stuffed with so much weed on the plane that when crewmembers found it in Israel, they called the plane’s owner. The plane’s owner ordered the plane back, leaving Neumann stranded, because he was worried about becoming involved in international drug trafficking.
According to several of the Journal’s sources, Neumann hopes to live forever. He also talks of becoming “president of the world.” (The story only talks about Neumann’s consumption of tequila and weed, despite these being cocaine thoughts.)
Neumann once fired 7 percent of his staff. At the end of an all-hands meeting announcing the cuts, he had employees carry trays of tequila shots into the room. Then, Darryl McDaniels of Run-DMC walked out and played a set, and workers reportedly danced to “It’s Tricky.”
It’s worth noting that this man became filthy rich running a “tech” company that is basically just a glorified renting company. This makes its valuation, as the verge article points out, kind of fucking crazy. But I just want to zoom in on Adam Neumann, the person. Throughout all this, Adam Neumann has amassed a personal net worth of something like 4.1 Billion Dollars. And he’s insane. Not crazy like a fox, crazy like your hippie grandma who smoked weed her whole life. Randomly firing people because he doesn’t like their “energy”, smuggling massive amounts of marijuana into Israel on accident, firing one in 14 of his staff then throwing a party with live music and tequila shots… Were anyone who wasn’t already filthy rich to show this kind of behavior, we sould wonder what meds they had stopped taking. But because he’s a billionaire, it’s “eccentric”.
To which my question is… Why did serious people give billions of dollars to this lunatic? And can we please stop pretending that the ability to make billions of dollars proves that someone is a genius? This guy slapped some fancy marketing on a rental establishment and is now a billionaire as a result.
We had a not dissimilar case not too long ago with a little company called Theranos. A “prodigy” from Stanford started a company to create improved blood-testing machines and had a personal valuation in the billions of dollars. It turns out it was all a big scam, and countless people with far more money than sense (and far more money than anyone with that lack of sense should be allowed to have) poured massive amounts of cash into something that wasn’t just a scam, but was a really obvious scam:
It should have been obvious that Theranos could not actually revolutionize the blood-testing industry. There were more red flags than a Soviet street parade. The company never made it clear exactly how it planned to surmount the considerable chemical and engineering problems involved, and potential investors who pressed for proof that its new testing machines actually worked were given the runaround. When Holmes herself actually tried to explain the new method, Carreyrou points out that she sounded like a high school chemistry student. Here is how she explained the technology to the New Yorker: “A chemistry is performed so that a chemical reaction occurs and generates a signal from the chemical interaction with the sample, which is translated into a result, which is then reviewed by certified laboratory personnel.” A chemistry, then a result! Voilà!
There is serious rot within the monied establishment of financial investment. Many of the people being elevated to positions of extreme wealth and power are frauds, nutjobs, or both. The CurrentAffairs article ends on a note I personally find quite enlightening:
Theranos, though, gives us a small glimpse into a possible alternative reality. Theranos really could have done significant good in the world. The people who came to work for Theranos thought that’s what they would be doing. And Theranos did amass a small fortune to do that. The money was there to improve blood testing and people were willing to do the work—they could have saved lives and lived comfortably for their trouble. But the money wasn’t really there to improve blood testing. The money was there to find a unicorn disrupter who could cement Silicon Valley’s narrative of itself and relieve some of the burden on its conscience. If Theranos had been reasonably and productively managed it could have saved lives, but it never could have raised its money. Holmes had to be both pandering and toxic. She had to be a charismatic non-expert in a black turtleneck. Not because of some fact about the world, but because the only way to get money for this project was to appeal to people with exponentially more ego than expertise or sense.
The money exists. The expertise exists. Everyone would be thrilled to do the work. There is even money to be made, value created, by improving existing systems and possibly even being a little disruptive. But the people and systems for allocating those resources are compromised, maybe beyond repair. And those compromised people and systems demand that inspiring young people be Elizabeth Holmes. Without greed, power-hunger, and workplace tyranny, people can actually get things done. But a culture of hype, always searching for the next Genius, will only give us Elizabeth Holmes and her miracle machine.
Again, I’m left, mind boggled, wondering how the world functions when people with so much money are so easily duped by such utter nonsense. What do you do with that? How do you fix a system where there are no incentives for those responsible for fixing it to act?