Innovation Invites Hucksters – The New York Times


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I’m angry at start-up founders who overpromise, misbehave, and sometimes crash their companies and walk out unscathed.

But deep down, I wonder if unscrupulous, boundary-pushing managers are an inevitable part of innovation rather than an aberration.

If we want world-changing technology, are hucksters part of the deal? This is a version of a question I asked. wrestle with On tech, including Facebook and Uber: Is the best tech can do inextricably linked to all the terrible?

I’ve been thinking about this lately because of the shine of two start-up founders, Adam Neumann and Trevor Milton.

Neumann was CEO of office rental startup WeWork. He bragged (on Earth) that his company would change the nature of business. and Mars), forge new social cohesion bonds and earn boatloads of money. WeWork hasn’t done any of that.

A new book He details the ways in which WeWork mostly just rented cabins, burned other people’s piles of money, treated employees like garbage, and made Neumann stinking rich when the company nearly collapsed in 2019. WeWork stuck around without Neumann in a less odd way.

And last week, federal officials paid Milton convinced investors at electric truck startup Nikola that the company’s battery- and hydrogen-powered vehicle technology is far more capable than it actually is. The allegations include that Milton has ordered a promotional video to be modified to make a Nikola prototype truck appear to be in working condition even though it is not fully functional. (Milton’s legal team said the government is trying to “criminalize legal business conduct.”)

It’s easy to nod to these people and others. Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos I wonder who will soon be prosecuted for fraud – and what personal failings have led them to mislead, hype, falsify, and burn.

But people like Holmes, Neumann, and Milton are not oops. These are the extreme results of a start-up system that rewards people with the biggest and craziest ideas possible, even if they have to gloss over a little (or a lot).

I am constantly angry about this system forcing start-ups to shoot for the month. WeWork had a fundamentally clever, if not entirely original, idea to eliminate many of the headaches of commercial office rental. But that wasn’t enough, and I hardly blame Neumann for that.

Disproportionate prizes go to entrepreneurs and companies who can sell billions of user visions and trillions of dollars worth of value. That’s why Airbnb isn’t just saying it lets people rent homes in one app. Company says Airbnb helps “people fulfill a basic human need for connectionThis is why delivery companies like Uber and DoorDash aim to deliver any possible physical product to anyone and company. I think they should do virtual reality It has become as popular as smartphones. Only worldly ambitions are not good enough.

These conditions encourage people to get over the edge of what is right and legal. But I also wonder if reducing the excesses will also curb the ambition we want. Sometimes the enthusiasm to imagine ridiculously grand visions of the future brings us Theranos. And sometimes it brings us Google. Are these two sides of two coin?

Elon Musk shows both the good and bad sides of what happens when technologists dream incredibly big. More than perhaps anyone else, Musk has made it possible for automakers, governments and all of us to imagine that electric cars will replace traditional cars. This is a change that is potentially transforming the planet.

However, Musk also put people’s lives in danger. extreme speed driver assistance technologyhas consistently over-promised technology and circumvented both laws and human decency.

I used to ask a former colleague half-jokingly: Why can’t Musk just build cars? But perhaps it is impossible to separate the reckless carnival barker who deceives himself and others from the bold ideas that truly help change the world for the better.

I hate to think about it. I want to believe that technologies can succeed without the aim of reprogramming all of humanity and without the temptations of fraud or abuse. I want the good Musk without the bad. I want the wonderful and empowering elements of social media without it. genocide. But I don’t know if we can separate the wonderful from the terrible.

  • The next target of China’s tech collapse? Authorities showed that they may be dissatisfied with video game companiesMy colleague Cao Li reported, and stock prices have dropped for some major Chinese game makers. The Chinese government has recently tighter regulation of tech companies, including chasing Chinese companies that go public outside the country, delivering food or teaching online classes, and the country’s ubiquitous WeChat app.

  • This is one way to get Facebook’s attention: It’s nearly impossible for people who have lost access to their Facebook account to reach anyone at the company for help. Some people found a workaround, NPR reported: Buy one of Facebook’s $299 Oculus VR headsets, call Oculus’ customer service team and ask them to help restore a Facebook account. Yes, this is crazy and doesn’t always work.

  • Mystery of the lost Dan Brown book: My colleague Caity Weaver goes down a rabbit hole to see if a faulty barcode explains why online booksellers kept sending wrong books Someone trying to get a new 1995 dating book from the author of The Da Vinci Code.

A too fast and acrobatic cat interrupts a baseball game For several minutes as the crowd cheered and booed pesky people trying to kick the cat off the field. My colleague Daniel Victor He wrote about animal oddities in professional baseball Monday night.

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