The superhero narrative fuels the favorite books of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Travis Kalanick, founder of Uber, admired Ayn Rand, whose heroes defy society. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, loved “Star Trek,” where Captain Kirk handled every decision. Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist who backed Donald J. Trump, adores “The Lord of the Rings,” where heroes save the world.
Sam Altman, to his credit, recommended a wide reading list. He endorsed Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” series, about a savant and his male acolytes saving 25 million planets.
But becoming a real-life Gandalf or Captain Picard is risky. Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos emulated Steve Jobs and misled about her blood-testing technology. Adam Neumann promised a new office experience with WeWork, which recently declared bankruptcy. Sam Bankman-Fried, a cryptocurrency bright promise, faces fraud sentencing. Elon Musk’s reputation and bank account have suffered with the purchase of Twitter, now called X.
This past weekend was a high point for Mr. Altman. He became essential in all technology. Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, praised Mr. Altman, who scorned funding offers and joined Microsoft, the biggest investor in OpenAI.
In conclusion, superhero narratives fuel the favorite books of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, but real-life success comes with risks.