This is my term for the “geniuses” that can’t help themselves and do incredibly stupid things. Some people are fortunate and are born with strong intellectual abilities. These talents are spotted early by parents and schoolteachers who then lavish praise on these youngsters. They are told again and again how special they are and that they are destined for greatness.
This unfortunately backfires. These really smart young people begin to believe that they are so smart that they can’t ever be wrong. This blinds them to their shortcomings. They surround themselves with sycophants who either can’t see the truth or happily hide the truth so they can continue to ride on the coat-tails of these “geniuses.”
It doesn’t always end well. Case in point: Elizabeth Holmes.
The former founder and CEO of Theranos was sentenced to an 11-year prison term for fraud. She made up a phony blood test and sold the idea to a bunch of rich, famous people (all of whom clearly suffer from SPS) and rode the wave of celebrity worship to its breaking point. When the whole thing was revealed as a con Ms. Holmes used her youthful, doe-eyed countenance to try to bullshit us into believing it wasn’t her fault. It was all because of her mean boyfriend/husband/partner! Thankfully the judge and jury didn’t buy it and she got a well-deserved punishment.
Holmes either believed her own nonsense about her scientifically impossible scheme, which makes her delusional, and a fool of the first order. Or she knew she was full of shit but carried on with the big lie because that’s what rich, entitled fucks like her do when the real world crashes the party. That would make her a sociopath. Either way the world is better off without her crap.
The next case is crypto-currency big-shot Sam Bankman-Fried.
SBF, as he’s known, created and ran FTX which was supposedly an exchange for crypto-investors to buy and sell tokens. Turns out he and his cabal of techies were running a really bad Ponzi scheme. They took the money and made a lot of really dumb “investments” and also squirreled away a bunch for themselves. They were also terrible accountants and made a giant mess of the books. The entire FTX empire was built on woo-woo and hand-waving.
SBF hid his greed and shiftlessness behind a wall of charitable giving called Effective Altruism which is just another Silicon Valley bullshit scheme. Crooks love things that make them look good! I hope Mr. B-F gets the Holmes treatment. He’s a thief and a con artist and should go to jail.
The world champion SPS sufferer is of course Elon Musk. It must be hard to have so many people tell you what a brilliant visionary you are all the time. After a while you actually believe it. Musk, as we have seen, is not nearly the great businessman everyone thought. He made a vanity bid for Twitter, thinking he could weasel out of the purchase if it went south, then discovered he was stuck with his over-priced toy. So what did he do? He trashed it! He fired everyone who made the thing work and then shit on everyone who stayed. He is actually going to lose a lot of REAL MONEY on this deal. In fact, I expect Twitter itself to gradually fade away. I’m no fan of the medium, but a lot of people use it and it has some social utility. Leave it to an asshole like Musk to mess it up just because he can.
If I’m an employee or stockholder of either Tesla or SpaceX (two other companies in the smelly grasp of Musk’s grubby paws) I’d be worried. He’s clearly irrational. And he’s so in love with himself that whatever stupid shit he does he’ll spin it to make himself look like a hero. It should be clear by now that Elon is NOT an engineer and has no real idea about the technological feasibility of his many claims. We aren’t going to colonize Mars and we aren’t going to have hyperloops between cities!
The problem with these three twits is not just that they are amoral jerks. The problem is that people believe them! We desperately want heroes and we just as desperately want magic techno-solutions for everything. Life ain’t like that. There are no quick fixes. But we live in a world where being a celebrity is more important than being a good person. We think that wealth means you are smart and we judge a person’s worth by the size of their bank account.
Smart People Syndrome is all around you. Keep an eye out for it. It is usually easy to spot. Plenty of smart, accomplished people are humble and decent. Those folks fly under the radar and we don’t notice them. The real assholes make themselves known. Remember that just because someone is brainy that doesn’t mean they can’t also be stupid.