Going Infinite

Cover of Going Infinite

Don't mistake this for a book about FTX, the focus here is Sam Bankman-Fried. Worthwhile if you're interested in his story and the genesis of FTX.

Though it’s not a biography, the first half of the book is mostly about Sam Bankman-Fried’s life leading up to FTX. I wasn’t aware of just how strongly Sam Bankman-Fried was involved in the Effective Altruism movement, and how much that drove the culture at FTX and Alameda. It’s not clear if Lewis has an opinion about the (now-controversial) movement, all the details seem to be there for context.

Going Infinite also delves quite a bit into Bankman-Fried’s relationship with Caroline Ellison, who served as the CEO of Alameda research. She … does not come of well in the book. Particularly brutal are the (many) stories showing the asymmetry of her relationship with Bankman-Fried:

Caroline wanted a conventional love with an unconventional man. Sam wanted to do whatever at any given moment offered the highest expected value, and his estimate of her expected value seemed to peak right before they had sex and plummet immediately after. Caroline didn’t like it and let him know, in a series of long, businesslike memos.

Though Lewis spends a lot of time illustrating Bankman-Fried’s weirdness, his general tone is mostly sympathetic. Not surprising perhaps, given that he spent so much time with Bankman-Fried, but a sharp contrast to contemporary coverage (his verdict came in while I was reading the book). Surpisingly, for a book that came out this year, it already feels a bit out of date given information discovered during the trial.

The fraud-fueled lavish spending covered toward the end of the book is reminiscent of Theranos and WeWork, but perhaps being due to coverage elsewhere, it feels mostly mentioned in passing.

Michael Lewis is a good writer, so the book is an enjoyable read even when dealing with these interpersonal dynamics. But if you’re more interested in the financial and technical aspects, you’re better off reading Matt Levine’s coverage of the technical details.