trust but verify

Saturday June 3rd 2023 by socraticDev

On Tuesday last week, Elizabeth Holmes reported to prison federal women's court from Bryan to Texas to serve an eleven-year sentence of imprisonment.

Founder of medical start-up Theranos found guilty of fraud towards its investors (but acquitted of having defrauded the patients who received misdiagnosis...).

Theranos' flagship product was a medical device promising to perform a multitude of blood tests from a small blood sample.

Despite expert advice that it is theoretically impossible to perform a multitude of blood tests from a weak blood sample, Elizabeth Holmes managed to extract millions of dollars from well-known investors like Rupert Murdoch and the Walton family (founders of Walmart).

Despite the fact that these small portable laboratories did not work, Elizabeth Holmes supported by her preserve used various tactics such as intimidation through legal action to keep his project fraudulent alive.

don't fall victim to charlatans

Nothing new under the sun. The case of Elizabeth Holmes should not be treated neither as an exception nor as a novelty.

As soon as there is power or influence to be acquired in an environment, it is the fight for the one who will prevail. And it is usually the most astute who wins. Not the nicest or the most careful.

In my opinion, this is not bad in itself. It's not that the world is out of whack. It is what it is.

In short, they are among us the liars, the profiteers and the imposters. Rather than "cancelling" them out, I propose a pedagogical approach. I propose learn to recognize them, recognize their modus operandi to avoid become their victim and, if we have energy left, learn to disarm them.

where to draw the line between tolerable behavior and harmful behavior?

Judging human actions is not our prerogative.

I am far from suggesting that we should assume the role of guardians of valid social practices.

Without going into ethical theories, I propose to judge the actions of these charlatans by their consequences.

In the case of Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes deserves the opprobrium she suffers today for several reasons:

First, by voluntarily allowing health care professionals to rely on the results of her malfunctioning devices, Elizabeth Holmes put the health of hundred people at stake. Providing erroneous results had the effect of making erroneous diagnoses to these patients.

Second, Theranos has created a toxic work environment for its employees. To keep their jobs and avoid negative retalation from their employer, employees were forced to turn a blind eye to the quality of the product developed, they were forced to lie to themselves. Some have been forced to resign by personal ethics, others have developed psychological problems.

Holmes' shenanigans even drove one employee to suicide.

Ian Gibbons (March 6, 1946 – May 23, 2013) was a British biochemist and molecular biology researcher who served as the chief scientist of the US company Theranos, which was founded by Elizabeth Holmes. For more than 30 years, Gibbons performed research in medical therapeutics and diagnostic testing prior to joining Theranos in 2005. He attempted to raise issues with Theranos' management about the inaccuracy of their testing devices.

In 2013, Gibbons intentionally overdosed on acetaminophen the night before he was scheduled to be deposed in a lawsuit related to Theranos. He was hospitalized for several days and died from liver failure.

Finally, and this is the least serious in my opinion, Elizabeth Holmes collected millions of dollars of investment by perpetually lying to his investors. Several famous people have been taken for a ride. Including investor Rupert Murdoch and US General James Mattis.

John Carreyou's book illustrates a family drama where a Theranos employee was disowned by his grandfather, an influential Theranos investor, for transmitting information about Theranos to a journalist.

conclusion - check, check and check

The saga of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos is grandiose and unusual.

Less imposing impostors are present around us all.

No one is fooled. In the long run we notice that these people exaggerate certain facts, speak confidently about topics they don't understand, make promises they cannot keep, hide certain information and, even bully collaborators into silence.

"Trust but verify" is a prudent and effective strategy.

We live in society and we work as a team. To achieve results it is essential to trust others. In doing so, he is our responsibility to verify that the work of others is adequate.

"In some forms of rock climbing, one individual, the climber, will use a rope and a harness as protection against falls. The second individual, the belayer, monitors the ten‐ sion in the rope, giving the climber enough tension to prevent a long fall while also providing enough slack to give her room to maneuver as she climbs.

Belaying properly and safely requires both a shared understanding of the tools and process as well as ongoing communication. The climber will securely knot into her harness. The belayer will make sure his belay device is properly attached to his climb‐ ing harness. Each will trust but verify the status of the other’s work before starting the climb." K. Daniels et J. Davis(2016),"Effective DevOps", O'Reilly

Blindly trusting what we are told is a losing strategy.

Trust, but verify!

translated from french by google translate


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