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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 553

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A sociopath is often described as someone with little or no conscience. I’ll leave it to the psychologists to decide whether Holmes fits the clinical profile, but there’s no question that her moral compass was badly askew.

This is John Carreyrou's description of Elizabeth Holmes, the would-be entrepreneur who convinced so many that her high-tech company Theranos would revolutionize health care. In actual fact, however, Theranos was nothing more than an elaborate scam that cheated investors out of billions of dollars.

In Carreyrou's retelling of the whole sorry saga, Elizabeth Holmes's powerful personality is the driving force behind convincing so many normally seasoned businesspeople to part with enormous sums of money for technology that didn't actually exist. Although Carreyrou isn't a trained psychologist, as he freely admits, the evidence he presents of Holmes's personality strongly indicates someone with a severely defective moral compass.

Holmes may not have deliberately set out to defraud investors; in fact, all the evidence suggests that she was a true visionary, someone who genuinely wanted to change the world. But somewhere along the line, the fanatical pursuit of that vision led her to engage in practices that were questionable from a moral, legal, and financial standpoint.

Hyping your product to get funding while concealing your true progress and hoping that reality will eventually catch up to the hype continues to be tolerated in the tech industry.

Whatever responsibility Holmes bears for what happened with Theranos, Carreyrou is at pains to point out that Holmes is very much a product of the toxic business culture of Silicon Valley. In the tech industry, it would seem, the vision thing is everything. It doesn't matter if you don't have any real evidence to support your vision, or even whether or not if it will one day form the basis of an actual real-life business. What matters more than anything else is the perception of success, the perception that your product, even if it turns out on closer inspection to be defective or non-existent, might just change the world.

It is this culture of hype that enabled and encouraged Elizabeth Holmes at every stage of her giant deception, driving her on to make ever more outlandish claims about her blood-testing technology while at the same time concealing what was really going on in Theranos's secretive laboratories.

No, Dad, I’m not interested in getting a Ph.D., I want to make money.

The words of Elizabeth Holmes to her father. In the final analysis, this is what Theranos was all about: the almighty dollar. Encouraged by the business culture of Silicon Valley, Holmes was willing to take shortcuts to achieve the phenomenal wealth she'd always dreamed of. She'd obsessively followed the life stories of tech billionaires like her hero, Steve Jobs, and believed that she too could be just like them.

Unfortunately, she was so obsessed by her radical vision that she overlooked the painstaking work and research necessary to make a product that could actually be brought to market. Holmes became so fixated on Jobs's genius and the enormous wealth that it brought him that she ignored the fact that she literally had nothing to sell. All she had was a dream, a dream that as Carreyrou makes painfully clear, was ultimately founded in nothing more than greed and fantasy.

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