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Fake it ’till you make it

Summary:
The Elizabeth Holmes trial - we have no problem with that or the verdict - is leading some to crow about the end of “Fake it ‘till you make it” as a guiding ethos in Silicon Valley. Something we insist is a mistake. For every act of entrepreneurship is exactly that. To a markedly less criminal extent of course, but the entire process of getting something new up off the ground is a wizardry of levitation: Holmes verdict an indictment of Silicon Valley’s ‘fake it till you make it’ ethosThis does not depend upon whether it is the state planning something or the individual get rich quick merchant flying a kite (kiting cheques is where it might stray over into being illegal).Consider, say, Concorde. It is possible to build supersonic aircraft but does the world want them? As it turned out the

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The Elizabeth Holmes trial - we have no problem with that or the verdict - is leading some to crow about the end of “Fake it ‘till you make it” as a guiding ethos in Silicon Valley. Something we insist is a mistake. For every act of entrepreneurship is exactly that. To a markedly less criminal extent of course, but the entire process of getting something new up off the ground is a wizardry of levitation:

Holmes verdict an indictment of Silicon Valley’s ‘fake it till you make it’ ethos

This does not depend upon whether it is the state planning something or the individual get rich quick merchant flying a kite (kiting cheques is where it might stray over into being illegal).

Consider, say, Concorde. It is possible to build supersonic aircraft but does the world want them? As it turned out the outside environment changed - fuel prices mainly - and the answer was no. Or NHS coding, yes, it would be great to have proper electronic records keeping but can we build it? As it happened no, the state couldn’t, £12 billion was spent producing not one usable line of code.

Or in that private sector, perhaps the world does want smartphones, maybe it doesn’t. One that uncertainty Steve Jobs gambled the entirety of Apple. Possibly the world wants Ford Edsels. Ah, no, it didn’t.

The point being that we always do face uncertainty. We simply do not know whether we can produce, newly, something the world wants. Nor, often enough, whether the the world wants something that can be produced. Every act of entrepreneurship is exactly that levitation of the project, over perhaps reasonable measures of risk, to the answers to one or other, possibly both, of those questions.

There are indeed, as there should be, rules and laws and regulations about how far this process can righteously be taken. But fake it ‘till you make it is the entire foundation of what drives society forward. That trying out of ideas that may or may not fit the joint spaces of what is possible and what is wanted.

That someone very much overstepped the mark here and is to be righteously punished for doing so doesn’t disprove the basic strategy. Every new company is the selling of a dream which may or may not work out.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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