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Bill Gates's Plan To Improve Our World 445

Posted by Soulskill
from the quest-to-bluescreen-malaria dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Bill Gates has written an article in Wired outlining his strategy to improve people's lives through philanthropy and investment in technology and the sciences. He says, 'We want to give our wealth back to society in a way that has the most impact, and so we look for opportunities to invest for the largest returns. That means tackling the world's biggest problems and funding the most likely solutions. That's an even greater challenge than it sounds. I don't have a magic formula for prioritizing the world's problems. You could make a good case for poverty, disease, hunger, war, poor education, bad governance, political instability, weak trade, or mistreatment of women. ...I am a devout fan of capitalism. It is the best system ever devised for making self-interest serve the wider interest. This system is responsible for many of the great advances that have improved the lives of billions—from airplanes to air-conditioning to computers. But capitalism alone can't address the needs of the very poor. This means market-driven innovation can actually widen the gap between rich and poor. ... We take a double-pronged approach: (1) Narrow the gap so that advances for the rich world reach the poor world faster, and (2) turn more of the world's IQ toward devising solutions to problems that only people in the poor world face.'"
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Bill Gates's Plan To Improve Our World

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  • Fan of capitalism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ArsonSmith (13997) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:20PM (#45406203) Journal

    Of course someone who made a lot of money helping a lot of other people make a lot of money helping millions of people have jobs to do. While pissing off the largest portion of the readership here due to quality of the product. I'm pretty sure this isn't going to get a fair shake here on Slashdot.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:27PM (#45406285)
    Religion is just one form of control. Get rid of it, and something else will be used, be it patriotism, racism, drugs, financial ruin or sports.
  • Whups (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:30PM (#45406329)

    'We want to give our wealth back to society in a

    ... BURN THE WITCH!

    No, seriously. As a percentage of net earnings, the rich contribute far less as an aggregate group than the poor. There's an inverse relationship between income and charity. The more you make, the less you give, proportionally speaking. You can outline all the reasons why it would be better if this wasn't the case... I doubt you'll find much disagreement here. But making the case for it doesn't mean anyone's going to adopt it; A concept Mr. Gates and the company he used to captain both seem ill-equipped to grasp. Simply understanding the problem better doesn't result in a solution; It is one of the oldest delusions humanity has to offer... that knowledge will lead to action.

    Instead, we need to figure out why people give proportionally less, and address the issue within that cognitive framework. And the Just world phenomenon is a great place to start: The belief that you deserve whatever is happening, or has happened, to you. Fundamentally, I think you'll find the reason the rich give less is because on a subconscious level, having adopted the belief that they earned their wealth rather than simply having won a cosmic lottery, they then build on that with confirmation bias. That is, every action that comes after that in some fashion just confirms that they're more deserving than the next guy... and eventually, that makes them not very charitable. Afterall, if I did it, you can do it, right? It's such a basic failure of reasoning that entire books have been written on the subject, and yet... here we are... still not getting it.

  • Re:Whups (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fwipp (1473271) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:33PM (#45406353)

    "Instead, we need to figure out why people give proportionally less"

    Seems to me it's probably because poor people can better empathize with what it's like to not have enough, and they likely remember how much they appreciated it the last time somebody helped them out.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:35PM (#45406373)

    I know a lot of people are going to downvote the hell out of this, but it is a sad truth.

    A lot of the countries that suffer from these problems have a hugely corrupt religious following throughout them, or many warring religions.
    And often times these groups have a pyramid approach where the "more important" people get most of anything and the "poor peasant turds" get the scraps. I remember we got past that corruption of nobility nonsense back in the stupid ages.

    Religion itself is not bad, but without regulation it is.
    And with time, that also gets out of control so trying to regulate it is GOING to straight up require hostile action, regardless.
    It is a tragic world we live in. People like to pretend we are in an age of enlightenment, are we fuck, we are still baby steps at best. It is just like those morons that think humanity is in the space age, NOPE, that is like saying the iron age started when some dude tripped over some ferrite. Not how it works, sorry. Humanity is at best in the baby steps towards an actual space age. Come back in maybe 100 years if we don't blow ourselves up over fossils, again.
    Well, maaaaybe 50 if these space mining operations actually do come about. Planetary Resources actually did have a really huge and so far pretty efficient schedule from what I remember reading recently, they are already sticking to plans more-or-less. I can't WAIT to be a space pir--trucker.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:37PM (#45406387)

    You must also see that certain religions are highly correlated to many of those issues, while other religions have a low or inverse correlation.

    I.e: "This religion is good. Other religions are bad"

    That's the exact argument that keeps humanity killing each other over stupid ideas. Fuck all of them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:38PM (#45406405)

    Most of the hate for Microsoft was due to their monopoly status; not so much anymore. That monopoly let them sit on their laurels and collect money without needing to produce the best product quality. Today, MS the _underdog_ in a lot of hugely important markets. Furthermore, Gates is only a Chairman at MS anymore and has little or nothing to do with day to day operations. He's spent a an enormous amount of time, effort, and money sincerely trying (and in many cases succeeding) to make things a little better for humans everywhere. People need to let go of the hate, it's no longer useful in this context.

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:41PM (#45406431)

    Religion.

    Atheism.

  • by gilgongo (57446) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:43PM (#45406449) Homepage Journal

    This is worth a read:

    http://newint.org/features/2012/04/01/bill-gates-charitable-giving-ethics/ [newint.org]

    TL;DR

    Gates's and others' philanthropy prolongs poverty by sowing as it does the seed of more inequality (in Gates's case, through the formation of health policies in the third world that make it easier for Western drug companies to open up markets for treatments there). They give away the fruit, but never the trees.

    As Oscar Wilde observed of the philanthropists of his era: ‘They seriously and very sentimentally set themselves to the task of remedying the evils that they see in poverty, but their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it.’ Then and now, as Wilde said, ‘the proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible.’

    This is really the question that needs to be addressed: why is poverty still possible - and why can it even get worse - after 200 years of Gates's capitalism? Surely by now if capitalism was the answer, we'd not be where we are today.

  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:51PM (#45406537)

    I am a devout fan of capitalism. It is the best system ever devised for making self-interest serve the wider interest.

    Someone forgot to tell Bain Capital.

    I personally know someone who worked for a mid-sized IT firm out of Texas. They were small but growing and successful. Then Bain Capital stepped in, waived some money around and purchased the company. The day after the deal was finalized, everyone was fired and the company was liquidized - sold of bit by bit. The poor lady is now in the Mid-West working in a call center.

    Capitalism for the wider interests my ass. When the wider interests are served, it's incidental. Capitalists only care about the 99% when it means making more money off of them, and they wouldn't serve the wider interests if they didn't have to. Granted, they often do, but it's not because they are on the moral high ground. Perhaps Bill Gates really truly is trying to say that the evils of capitalism truly equal good for the people, but I don't think that makes it a good system - it's open to mutation and a future where we see the raw, unabashed, exploitation of the people. Like I said, it's incidental. We are carefully watching the US government become dystopian, while corporations are more quietly doing the same. Bill gates might be a true philanthropist, but he is nearly alone in his level of giving and is kidding himself if he believes all capitalists have the greater good or wider interests at heart.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:52PM (#45406563)

    Because anarchy will just make things better, of course.

    Seriously, stop buying into this "government is evil!" propaganda -- governments have problems, like anything else, but they're the only mechanism we've really come up with to control any of this stuff. About the most that can be sanely argued is that the current governmental structure is poor, so we need a new one.... Which is pretty much what the GP said, when referring to the political institutions seen in parts of Europe being preferable in their opinion.

    You institute structures similar to those those, along with non-governmental organizations that stand for workers' rights (i.e., unions -- a form of 'checks and balances'), and you'll get a system that's a heck of a lot more equal than the current one. Hell, the libertarian morons who like throwing around the term "meritocracy" would also get much closer to that out of such a system -- the current system has the business owners exploiting their workers, and acquiring several times the money from each worker's labour than those workers are paid. In a real "meritocracy", those workers would be getting paid the majority of that (after all, it's the value that those workers are creating), such as happens in a co-op.

  • Re:Whups (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:59PM (#45406605) Homepage

    I think the previous poster is correct to talk about the "just world fallacy". Without getting into too much of an argument as to who is "right", we all create a world view that helps to prop up our own ego.

    It's common for rich people to believe (or want to believe) that we are all in control of our own lives, and the reason they have so much is because they deserve it. They think that they're either inherently superior people, or at least that they've done better things and made better choices. To believe otherwise would induce a lot of angst.

    Meanwhile, if you're poor, it's much more ego-soothing to believe that we are powerless in our own lives, and the reason you have so little is either because of luck, or because someone has screwed you over. To believe otherwise would imply that you are somehow inferior to everyone who makes more money than you.

    If all that is true, then it would help to explain why poor people would give more, proportionately. You have one set of people who believe that poor people are unfortunate, and another set which believes that poor people deserve their problems. Which would you expect to donate more to charity?

  • by Tom (822) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @06:05PM (#45406649) Homepage Journal

    'We want to give our wealth back to society in a way that has the most impact, and so we look for opportunities to invest for the largest returns.

    Well, Mr. Gates, here's how:

    Don't take away their wealth in the first place.

    It's well-established fact that the poor make the best use of money. There is less waste and more immediate progress than with any organisation or institute. Micro-credits are a blasting success wherever they are granted in the interest of helping people. (they fail when the same banks that caused the housing bubble/burst get in on the game hoping to make a quick buck, because they don't screen the applicants).

    Monopoly rent is known to damage the economy disproportionately. For every $ you give to charity now, Mr. Gates, you've already taken two away.

    "Don't be a greedy bastard." is a much, much better formula for helping other people than giving away even most of your money. Because it's not a zero-sum game, it's not just redistribution of wealth, the 1% gain most of their wealth not just by taking it from the rest, but by causing damage in excess of their profit.

  • No thanks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by paiute (550198) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @06:16PM (#45406759)
    After the way he "improved" my computing experience over the last few decades, I will take my chances without his plan.
  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @06:19PM (#45406797)

    I'm not actually claiming capitalism does such a thing.

    Good, because there is no evidence for it.

    I'm just don't see why "the gap" is a problem in and of itself. A smaller piece of a larger pie can be better than a bigger price of a small pie...

    Two reasons. First, nobody believes your hypothetical any more than you do. Second, when income disparity goes beyond a certain point, many people start to think it's unfair. There are even theories that a dislike of unfairness is innate to a large degree (toddlers display it, including acting fair towards their peers), and a sense of fairness serves a social purpose. If you think that's childish, consider this. Your rich Uncle Ned dies, and his only heirs are his three nephews. You're one of them. You and Bob each get $1k. Dave, who always treated Uncle Ned like crap, gets $1B. Do you have any cause for complaint? If so, why? You are $1k better off than you were before.

  • by rubycodez (864176) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @06:41PM (#45407075)

    1. statistically, poor people likely to have a lot kids, whether religous or not. well off people do not, whether religous or not. most well off people in first world countries have a religion, but they don't even have enough kids to maintain population

    2. people do what they want and justify it whether they have religion or not, it's human nature

    3. Many religions have hard work and self-improvement as commandment

    4. Atheists also engage in crazy talk and actions, and have even outdone Hitler in body count on at least two occasions

    5. Science, engineering, medicine, psychology and philosphy have been used as basic for being self-righteous just as much as religion

    Humans are troublesome creatures, the problems will persist with and without religion

  • by poity (465672) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @06:42PM (#45407089)

    How many times will misinformed people trot out this crap? Scandinavian countries are, to the last one, all capitalist free market economies. Capitalism and the laws that protect private property enable those countries' people to generate the excess wealth with which to fund their social welfare programs.

    Scandinavian countries are actually examples of "capitalism and philanthropy" being "better at addressing woes"

  • by Bogtha (906264) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @07:24PM (#45407475)

    The problem I have with Bill Gates is essentially the broken window fallacy. Microsoft had a stranglehold on the computer industry. They held back the computer industry by years. A decade even! In the web development industry alone, we're still shaped by the impact Internet Explorer 6 left - which was released in 2001, twelve years ago. What economic value would Be Inc. have brought? What charitable donations would have resulted from that company? Or Netscape? Or any of the tens of thousands of companies Microsoft had a deleterious impact upon?

    He has since spent some of the money he earned holding back some of the most important industries in the world trying to help people. That's good. He didn't have to do that. But people judge that work as if it stands alone. It doesn't. The work he does with the money he has comes at the expense of the tens of thousands of companies that were held back or destroyed by the illegal and monopolistic actions he took.

    I think it's unlikely that, economically speaking, the actions he took were a net win for society. Yes, once he had the money, he did good things with it. But the cost to society for him to obtain that money is far too high in my eyes. Higher than the value he brought.

    Essentially, he took it upon himself to be Robin Hood. He stole from the rich - Western society - to give to the poor. However I don't see any reason to believe that the theft he perpetrated - the value he stole from society - was less than the value he brought to society. And I don't think it was his right to commit those crimes to do those things.

    By all means, judge him for what he has brought to society. But you should not do that without judging him for all that he has took from society as well.

  • by srobert (4099) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @07:38PM (#45407591)

    "poverty, disease, hunger, war, poor education, bad governance, political instability, weak trade, or mistreatment of women". We could add deforestation, global warming, dwindling supplies of fresh water, etc.
    But aren't all these symptoms of an exploding human population over the last few centuries and especially the last few decades. If you don't do something to fix that problem, then you're wasting your time and money on anything else. I like capitalism too but I don't think capitalism solves all problems and a fair number of problems are better addressed with socialism.

  • by golodh (893453) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @07:42PM (#45407629)
    Please keep in mind that Bill Gates' interview was aimed at a US readership, and that comes with certain complexities.

    All of us know that whosoever dares criticise the "free market" in any form or way whatsoever in front of a US audience will automatically be branded a 'Bleeding Heart Liberal', a 'Socialist', if not 'Communist' by that same audience (depending on their mood and how threatened they feel) without further investigation of what he actually has to say.

    Practically the only way a US audience will pause long enough to actually listen is to bring impeccable credentials as a 'Capitalist' and to start off by clear endorsements of Capitalism in general. Only then is it considered acceptable to point out one or two weaknesses or deficiencies of the system and suggest improvements.

    This is what Bill Gates has done, and he's one of the few people alive who can not only say something like that and still be listened to, but who *wants* to point anything like that out to the world. I guess that Warren Buffet is another, but I wouldn't know many others. That's why he said that.

    And please note that the quality of MS software or its competitive practices have no bearing on the issue.

  • by davydagger (2566757) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @08:07PM (#45407857)
    that said, they still sit on their lareuls and collect money via patent trolling.

    Bill Gates can talk about being a do-gooder when he renounces patent trolling, or more aptly sells his stock in monsanto, and denounces that too.
  • Like it or not, the thing that atheism has in common with religion is that both are belief systems.

    Does your brain hurt when you try to formulate a sentence to justify garbage like that?

    READ MY LIPS. Being skeptical of weird stuff is not a "belief system" just a rational mind doing its work.

    Not falling for supernatural scams is not a "lack of faith", it's not a lack of anything, just a rational mind doing its work.

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @10:32PM (#45408893)

    Does your brain hurt when you try to formulate a sentence to justify garbage like that?

    A strong, almost violent, reaction to questioning what they've said is an unfortunate trait of religious fanatics. As a defense mechanism, they attempt insults or ridicule, rather than engage in reasonable debate.

    READ MY LIPS.

    George Bush, Sr. posts on Slashdot? Cool. What were you saying about new taxes, Mr. President?

    Being skeptical of weird stuff is not a "belief system"

    Do you not believe in it, or are you, as you stated, just skeptical? That would make you an agnostic. It's true that agnostics don't have a belief system, as by definition they don't know what to believe. Atheists are another matter.

    Not falling for supernatural scams is not a "lack of faith"

    Take it up with the GP, he's the one who chose the phrase "lack of faith". Does this disagreement between you and him arise from a schism in atheism?

    it's not a lack of anything

    Perhaps a refresher would help. "Lack" as a noun is defined as "the state of being without". If you do not have a belief in something, then you lack that belief. Similarly, I do not have a third arm, hence I lack a third arm. Or am I being culturally insensitive, and the use of the word "lack" signifies a transgression or taboo amongst atheists?

  • by nukenerd (172703) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @05:59AM (#45411019)
    Arson Smith wrote :-

    [Gates] didn't rob from anybody, He exchanged value for value.

    He robbed me by making me pay for pre-loaded copy of Windows when I bought a PC, a copy I did not use. No "value-for-value" there.

    The only transactions that are not a net win are when one is at the point of a gun. Bill Gates never pointed a gun at anyone.

    You don't need a gun to force people to do things. Like "buy Windows or you can't have a PC"

    If there was no value in Microsoft products then people wouldn't buy them.

    People can buy things because they are forced to (see above), or because they are ignorant. You should read this The Grantham Grocer Fallacy [demon.co.uk]

  • by Tom (822) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @06:12AM (#45411071) Homepage Journal

    I understand the role of a CEO. I've worked closely with the C-level executives in the #3 company in its sector in my country for 8 years.

    The typical Cxx works long and hard and I've seen first hand that some have sacrificed family and marriages for the company. I never said they aren't worth a solid salary.

    But what exactly does the CEO do that justifies one thousand times the salary of an average worker in his company? That's why the Switzerland proposal is interesting. They don't deny that the CEO is worth several times a low-grade worker. They just say that there's a limit. That he can be worth five, six, ten or twelve times as much, but not 200, 500, or 1000.

    Think about it. Some of the CEOs of large companies earn more than an entire factory, combined. If you seriously claim that that's what they are worth, then you are the one making the extraordinary claim and thus you are the one who needs to provide evidence for his claim.

    The worker seldom does anything not rote, and a mistake means he's broken a widget.

    Only if your definition of "worker" begins and ends with burger flipping at McD.

    I've been and worked with regular employees whose responsibilities and skills were essential to the company. I've been in a position were a company of 150 people could have shut down if me and two others had left. I've seen employees sweat over tasks because mistakes would cost the company seven-digit figures.

    Oh, and next time you fly: That pilot who has your life in his hands, he's a "worker who seldom does anything not rote", too.

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