Just finished Lewis' book and thought I'd share the short review I posted on FB.
In Going Infinite, Michael Lewis (The Big Short, Moneyball) explores the world of Sam Bankman-Fried and the collapse of FTX in a highly engaging manner. It is a great story by a great story teller. As for accuracy, that is harder to judge. I think the book is very useful if seen as one among several takes to try to understand what happened.

I don't have time for a more examined review, but I'll mention a few things:

First, I appreciated that a lot of the book explored Sam's psychology, his perspective on the world, people, and himself, as well as his lack of feelings (perhaps to a clinical extent). Sam openly admits he just doesn't care... and yet seems to mostly have done all that he did to make the world better (eg pandemic preparedness). He loved games and saw much of life like one.

Second, many critics are saying Lewis got taken in and was insufficiently harsh on Sam who clearly did obviously bad things. But one can easily read the book and see Sam as an uncaring person, a terrible manager, and a negligent executive that had little concern for others if they want to. It's all right there.

Third, related to the second one, there is a weird underlying complication that everyone seems to pretend isn't there. And that is that nearly all financial markets are constructed so that they are not fair to the average person, instead tipped towards those with power, influence, and popularity. Two wrongs don't make a right, but let's at least look at the playing field. Crypto was and is notoriously less reliable than traditional financial instruments. Most people knew this. Startups creating near worthless coins and selling them only works because someone is willing to buy. If the perceived value of some coins drop dramatically, then people will feel ripped off. The whole thing was always a gamble though. The question is whether Sam illegally, intentionally, or just stupidly, wasn't careful about which funds were in which organization. Given how smart he is but how clueless he was, a case can be made for both sides.

Fourth, the book made me think a lot less of the bankruptcy CEO brought in to take over when things collapsed. Lewis argues that he didn't really understand Sam's business or how it worked (not that anyone else really did either). And the whole power move of having the trial in the US so hundreds of millions of lawyer fees could be claimed seems its own horrible thing.

Fifth, Lewis seems justified in thinking many others are overconfident in thinking that they know what happened given that the people in FTX at the highest levels didn't know.

Six, effective altruism (EA) gets mentioned throughout and I think the coverage was generally fair. EAs are described as trying to do the most good in a very calculating fashion. Given that many revolted against Sam and didn't trust him, there is more than enough diversity to assume all EAs are not the same. Many in FTX did seem unfortunately clueless. But then so were over 100 different investors.

I appreciated that the book is a story about money and power. When you have it, people are willing to excuse all manner of odd behaviour because they want your money or your power.





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