Sam Bankman-Fried and Trust in Crypto in "Going Infinite" by Michael Lewis

By  Noah Washington October 10, 2023

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  • SBF's eccentric behavior and disregard for appointments is captured in Michael Lewis's book "Going Infinite" offering insight into his unusual persona
  • The collapse of FTX under SBF's leadership has prompted intense media scrutiny and raised concerns about power concentration and governance in crypto.
  • Though blockchain is built on avoidance of mistrust, SBF managed to gain remarkable trust, making his actions on crypto's reputation more severe

Sam Bankman-Fried, often referred to as SBF, rose to prominence rapidly in the fast-evolving cryptocurrency industry. His trajectory, from reaching great heights to experiencing a dramatic downfall, has been extraordinary to witness. In a relatively short period of time, SBF went from obscurity to fame to infamy in the crypto world.

SBF allegedly misused customer funds from his cryptocurrency exchange FTX to cover losses at his trading firm Alameda Research. This led to FTX's collapse in November 2022 amid allegations of fraud.

Michael Lewis explores the fiasco that led to the crash in his latest book "Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon". Lewis, known for demystifying complex financial systems in works like The Big Short and Liar's Poker, offers an in-depth look at how this tycoon built and then lost his fortune.

Sam Bankman-Fried's Behavior

At the heart of the book lies an exploration of SBF's eccentric behavior. Described as a man with little attention span and scant respect for appointments, SBF's quirks are nothing short of captivating. During online interviews, he's been known to indulge in video games, particularly his League of Legends escapades, often leaving little room for meaningful conversation.

One memorable interaction detailed in the book involves SBF and Anna Wintour, the iconic editor-in-chief of Vogue. In this instance, SBF's need to juggle multiple games, both digital and real-life, took precedence over polite conversation. As Michael Lewis puts it, "Sam didn't want to seem rude, but he needed something, other than what he was expected to be thinking about, to occupy his mind".

Natalie Tien, who served as FTX's head of public relations and SBF's personal scheduler, reveals that the former CEO frequently canceled high-profile appearances, sometimes at the eleventh hour, without apparent reason. This erratic behavior was not confined to mere interviews; it extended to major events, including a Met Gala sponsorship and invitation that SBF ultimately snubbed. This was seen as an odd move because the Met Gala is considered one of the most exclusive and high-profile social events of the year, especially for wealthy elites and celebrities.

Media Coverage and Release of the Book

While SBF's antics are certainly intriguing, his rare in-person appearances offer a glimpse into a different persona. Notably, he testified before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee in December 2021, a departure from his usual attire of T-shirts and shorts. Many social media users couldn't help but comment on the curious sight of SBF's untied shoes during the hearing.

Photographs of SBF footwear. Source: X/Twitter

"Going Infinite" by Michael Lewis hit the shelves on October 3, coinciding with the commencement of SBF's criminal trial in New York. The book has generated significant buzz, leading to a surge of podcasts, news features, and other media releases shedding light on various aspects of SBF's life, both before and after FTX's fall from grace.

Amanda Cassatt, CEO of Serotonin, has offered a critical perspective on Lewis's book. She argues that while the book paints an intriguing portrait of SBF, it falls short in accurately representing the broader crypto community. Cassatt contends that Lewis's characterization of SBF and the crypto industry veers into misinterpretation and oversimplification.

The Michael Lewis Perspective

Lewis's book delves into the complexities of SBF's character and actions. Notably, he describes FTX as a "great real business" and offers a nuanced view of SBF, portraying him as an agent of chaos rather than a criminal mastermind. Lewis suggests that SBF's billion-dollar endeavors were marked more by messiness and inconsideration than malicious intent.

The downfall of FTX, the crypto exchange formerly run by SBF, and the revelations that followed have been a subject of intense media scrutiny.

Many news outlets uncovered issues with Alameda's balance sheet, which raised questions about the company's viability and its ties to FTX. The fallout from these revelations ultimately led to FTX's demise.

Trust in Sam Bankman-Fried and the Crypto Industry

SBF's journey and the controversies surrounding him underscore a paradox within the crypto industry. While blockchain technology is built on avoiding mistrust, SBF managed to garner an unprecedented level of trust from various quarters. His actions have raised questions about the concentration of power in the industry and the need for more robust safeguards.

As the crypto world continues to grapple with the legacy of Sam Bankman-Fried, the release of "Going Infinite" by Michael Lewis adds a new layer of complexity to this enigmatic figure.

The book paints a portrait of a man whose actions have reverberated through the industry, challenging perceptions of trust, transparency, and the very essence of blockchain technology itself. The crypto community must now grapple with the consequences of SBF's journey, as it navigates the turbulent waters of an ever-evolving landscape.