What we’re watching: The rise and fall of Theranos is getting a lot of renewed interest recently, what with a HBO documentary and a podcast out. Via Vox:
Modern grifters and con artists manifest a certain vampiric quality. The hipster grifter, fraudulent socialite Anna Delvey, the fake Saudi prince, Fyre Festival (and maybe, if you squint, even college admissions fraud) — they all have one thing in common: A sexy, alluring cast to the con that makes the feeding off the (metaphorical) blood of the conned even more seductive to those of us sitting on the outside, munching popcorn as our eyes widen.
So perhaps what makes the story of Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes so compulsively interesting is that it’s the rare double grift, subtext and text: Holmes, who promised that technology her company had supposedly developed would change the world of medical testing forever, fed the con through sucking the metaphorical blood of wealthy people’s bank accounts and through, well, actual blood. Even the poster for Alex Gibney’s upcoming HBO documentary about the fallen entrepreneur, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, boasts some ominously vampiric undertones.
Theranos turned heads with its signature invention — a blood testing machine about the size of a home breadmaker named the Edison, after Thomas and (perhaps in a stroke of dramatic irony) the many failures he endured en route to success. The Edison would have, by all accounts, radically shifted how we approached health care. The vials and vials of blood required to run medical tests would be reduced to just a “nanotainer” of blood, drawn from a prick on a fingertip. The nanotainer would be deposited into an Edison, and thorough analysis could be run inexpensively, quickly, and seamlessly. All at your local Walgreen’s.