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Businesses The Almighty Buck

Bill Gates To Stanford Grads: Don't (Only) Focus On Profit 284

jfruh (300774) writes "The scene was a little surreal. Bill Gates, who became one of the world's richest men by ruthlessly making Microsoft one of the word's most profitable companies, was giving a commencement address at Stanford, the elite university at the heart of Silicon Valley whose graduates go on to the endless tech startups bubbling up looking for Facebook-style riches. But the theme of Gates's speech was that the pursuit of profit cannot solve the world's problems."
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Bill Gates To Stanford Grads: Don't (Only) Focus On Profit

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16, 2014 @08:17PM (#47250547)

    Destroying your enemies.

  • Water is wet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16, 2014 @08:18PM (#47250555)

    the pursuit of profit cannot solve the world's problems

    That's because it causes most of them.

    • Plus you have to repay a Stanford education's worth of student loans before you can start thinking about 'profit'.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      What is worse, with lot's of profit you get to buy the solutions you want, regardless of how many more problems your solutions cause other people.

      Just to be clear profit solves no problem, the creative thinking of many minds thoughtfully applied by many hands, solves problems. With lots of profit you just get to take credit for it all, without doing much of anything, neither thinking of the solutions nor applying them, just paying for them and pretending you did everything and reinforcing it by paying PR

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @08:20PM (#47250577)

    Cartoon lightening should hit gates in his weedy little head. What a hilarious hypocrite.

    Tell you what, Gates... after I hit 70 billion I'll stop making it all about the money too. What a giant joke.

    Yes, gates does a lot of very nice charity work around the world... and that's lovely. But he didn't just hop on a couch airplane and then do relief work in africa for years. The man amassed an insane fortune and then casually jet sets around the world making appearences for his charities. Don't get me wrong... he writes checks that clear. But that's his contribution to all these issues... writing checks. And that's very important... but to do that you have to have money. If you don't you can't do that.

    So... I'm a little confused about his message. Because if I judged him by his actions... the sensible thing would seem to be... make billions of dollars by any means and then retire to run various charities and tell people what a good person you've always been.

    I don't know... this charity kick that some of the super rich go off on seems like more of a donation to the "Everyone love me" fund. I frankly respect the anonymous donations more in most cases simply because you know they actually care more about the cause then they do about what people think of them.

    • Or perhaps in the spirit of Alfred Nobel, he's merely seeking a better mention in history.
      • by flaming error ( 1041742 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @08:35PM (#47250721) Journal

        Or maybe he started out with a ruthless bloodlust for destroying all competitors and slowly grew up. And retired and tried to do something useful.

        And figured out that his MSFT business approach was counter-productive as far as bettering the world goes.

        Hey, it could happen. Maybe.

        • So... before leaving the company you built with those tactics... Oh, I don't know. Maybe open up a bit?
        • I've got this mental image of John D. Rockefeller handing out shiny new dimes to homeless orphans for the benefit of the photographers...
        • by Anonymous Coward

          As people get older they experience death anxiety. People who spent their lives accepting death as inevitable and believing they had come to terms with it discover the reality of existential crisis once the reality of death begins to draw near.

          A very common reaction to this is a rapid shift of values. People who spent most of their lives seeking some form of hedonism start to want meaning in their lives instead. They want to make up for lost time, too.

          Lots of rich robber-barons became philanthropists nea

        • by HannethCom ( 585323 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @03:51AM (#47252429)
          They have very strict rules for "giving" money.

          First off, Gates only contributes as much money to the foundation as can be written off.

          He "generously" gives to school districts. In exchange the school must only use Microsoft products. We will pay for the computers and initial licenses, but then you get locked into an agreement to pay Microsoft Licensing Fees, which means the Gates Melinda Foundation will pay %40 of the cost, and the schools have to pick up the back end 60% in a few years time. Gates still has substantial shares in Microsoft.

          Some places they have built water treatment plants to treat the water that has been polluted by the factory built up the river. In quite a few of the cases, the factory built up the river was made by a company with investment money from the Gates Melinda Foundation.

          They have also developed Common Core, to teach English and Math in the way that Bill Gates thinks it should be taught. Adopted in 46 states so far partially due to the $76 million to help adopt their philosophy. Common Core mandates that a far greater percentage of classroom time be spent on “fact-based” learning. Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point instead of Shakespeare. Freakonomics instead of Poe. Bill and Melinda Gates truly believe that population control is key to the future through artificial contraception, sterilization, and abortion initiatives. Regardless if you agree with this or not, the "charity" is making sure with its money, this is what your children are being taught.
        • by Tom ( 822 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @04:19AM (#47252521) Homepage Journal

          And figured out that his MSFT business approach was counter-productive as far as bettering the world goes.

          Negative on that. He runs his charity much like he ran MS. In fact, several other charities are complaining how he's driving out the "competition" - which even though it's not about profits does have the same result we all know from MS: A lot of the aid programs now depend on his foundation in one way or the other. Especially in his most public work against malaria, he's made the pharma companies he works with near monopolies (and, surprise, he owns stock in them).

          He's doing good now, but his methods are still the same.

      • by s.petry ( 762400 )

        If you look at his wealth historically you can see if he had some sort of revelation and is now feeling bad about how he fucked people over. His wealth is increasing annually, not decreasing, so there is no reformation.

        Same old same old in my opinion. If he got no tax breaks for doing charity work, he would not be doing charity work. I'm not his CPA, but I'm guessing that his "charity" ends where the tax breaks end. His charity work also happens to be largely philanthropic, but I don't agree with his ver

    • by Livius ( 318358 )

      What a hilarious hypocrite.

      Most hypocrites do not realize that everyone else considers hypocrisy a bad thing.

      • Its not that hypocrisy is bad so much as its frequently contradictory.

        Their words do not match their actions and that has to be reconciled if they're giving advice.

        For example, if you're a heavy smoker and want to caution against smoking... say "I've been a heavy smoker for most of my life and regret it... don't be like me."...

        Well, gates isn't doing that. he's basically saying that people should go out to do something besides make money but that's exactly what he did and most people would be very happy to

      • Hypocrisy is not always bad though. I smoke, i tell my kids not to and will punish them if i catch them smoking. A neighbor from years ago broke his neck back yard wrestling- after the then WWF said do not do this at home. His then idol, jake the snake roberts did the same shit he did. Luckily, he wasn't paralyzed. I know a guy who dropped out of school but tells kids to stay in school.

        Some hypocrisy is good, some inconsequential, and some bad. And most of that is subject to interpretation too.

    • There are arguably two possibilities:

      1. He's a hypocrite who got filthy rich and now also wishes to indulge his jaded palate in the pleasures of self-righteousness.

      2. He learned something, arguably the hard way, when becoming richer than god failed to provide any substantial hedonic benefits that merely being wealthy enough to avoid the overt pains of poverty didn't.
    • If "The cost of something is what you give up to obtain it", then Bill Gates has 'spent' very little on his charity work. Not trying to diminish the importance of his charity - I'm sure the recipients of his donations are very grateful. But let's not pretend that this man is a shining example of moral perfection for all to follow.

    • Preaching water while drinking wine. It's what you call a good sense of humor.
  • by Narcocide ( 102829 )

    Did you suddenly realize that no matter how many children you save from Malaria you will still go down in history as "part of the problem?"

    • Clearly Bill Gates is a monster compared to the typical Slashdot user, who would never stoop so low.

  • by jmd ( 14060 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @08:23PM (#47250613)

    Profit IS the problem

    • I don't think even adbusters would argue entirely against profit ... they're anti-excessive profit, anti-corporation, anti-marketing, etc. but even they recognize we can't all go back to subsitence farming. The ability to profit, and subsequently trade those profits to other people for things you can't produce yourself, is necessary for any viable economic system.

  • In Soviet Russia, Bill Gates thinks YOU'RE a hypocrite.
  • Thats really damn easy for Bill Gates to say. He did some pretty unethical things for profit.

    But no wait, in the business world, ethics are proportional to profits.
  • It's very easy to tell people not to focus on profit when you've already made yours. I'm also adding my voice to the "Fuck Gates" camp. What he gives away is a small price to pay to when you consider what he's got left over. He manages to lose the reputation he should have for poisoning the technology industry in every way he could get away with for his own benefit, and still keep the vast majority of the profits. What a villain.

  • The general interest is that smart people work to help humanity and make no profit.

    The smart people particular interest is to work to make profit.

    In other words, Gates defended his personal interest and now defends the general interest by telling people to do what he says and not what he did.

    • by seebs ( 15766 )

      That's not obvious at all. I am pretty sure I could make more money doing other things, but I enjoy the things I do now more. Your best interest isn't necessarily what makes you the most money.

  • by quietwalker ( 969769 ) <> on Monday June 16, 2014 @09:05PM (#47250965)

    Aside from the literal connotations, profit is potentially more valuable than charity to charitable work itself.

    Let's say you want to help decrease the spread of disease in africa. You can get the necessary training, go to africa, and along with thousands of others, actually DO that, and you'll have an obvious impact.

    Or, like the folks he's talking to, you could go to a prestigious college, get a fancy degree, and potentially land a job that can pay for 3 or 4 people to perform the duties of the charitable worker above, while still maintaining a very comfortable lifestyle. You could even end up higher in a profitable company, where you direct millions of dollars to aid programs just for tax breaks, if not altruism.

    So it's a problem to encourage new grads to focus on charity. They are at the peak of their earning potential, and no matter how you look at it, focusing on altruism is a quick way to retard their ability to make potentially world-changing decisions later, when their potential has been realized.

    The view most cultures have for this sort of work is very odd. I think Dan Pallotta spells it out in his TED talk about how we think about charities []. We often direct involvement and financial sacrifice as the only acceptable path to social gains.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      focusing on altruism is a quick way to retard their ability to make potentially world-changing decisions later, when their potential has been realized.

      Less than half a second after reading that I thought "what about Ghandi - he did exactly that and ended up running a country of hundreds of millions of people". If that's not "world-changing" then what is?

      • focusing on altruism is a quick way to retard their ability to make potentially world-changing decisions later, when their potential has been realized.

        Less than half a second after reading that I thought "what about Ghandi - he did exactly that and ended up running a country of hundreds of millions of people". If that's not "world-changing" then what is?

        Wait, what?

        Ghandi was never elected to any public office. He didn't "run" any country.

        Yes, he changed the world -- as an activist, not a politician.

    • by RobinEggs ( 1453925 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @09:53PM (#47251277)
      The process of earning your profit can easily counteract the effects of spending your profit on charity, however. The wealthy often realize this paradox when they begin "giving back". The Gates Foundation itself has been accused many times of investing in things that completely undermine its goals. This editorial from 2014 is just one example. []; I recall hearing similar claims about investments in totally different industries almost 10 years ago

      How you get your profit makes a big difference in what net accomplishments your money can achieve. If your earning provides great support to systems that keep poor countries unstable or work against universal improvements for humanity, but then you wish to spend your profits on humanist goals, then what was the point? I'd rather you'd just become a janitor instead of digging holes in human society and then desperately filling them back in, hoping you might create mountains in the process.
    • I agree with most of what you say here. My only addition is that it would be nice if Gates and others would address the contribution gap.

      What I mean is, there are many millions of minds who never get the chance to contribute to technology due to circumstantial or financial realities. There is no telling how much progress we could be missing out on. I think that Open Source has been a decent if not stellar vehicle for addressing this, and I wish that Bill Gates would just take a few minutes to think about
    • So it's a problem to encourage new grads to focus on charity. They are at the peak of their earning potential

      New grads aren't at the "peak" of their earning potential. That happens a few decades later.

      I think what you meant to say is that it's a problem to encourage new grads to maintain their focus on charity.

  • The other Microsoft story, on the exact same page as Bill Gates telling you not to pursue money at all costs, and instead focus on making the world a better place?

    Chinese Gov't Reveals Microsoft's Secret List of Android-Killer Patents []

    Right. We acquired all these patents to crush competition and make the phone market a monoculture. To make the world a better place.

    • What if I told you all that happened after Bill Gates left the company?

      • Left the company? How about you pay attention. He didn't go anywhere. He stepped down as chairman of the board, and is taking a much more hands on approach, his new title (february 8th, 4 days after he 'stepped down') is "Founder and Technology Adviser" (to directly advise the new CEO). In his own words, he will be "substantially increasing time at Microsoft" in his new role. []
  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @09:40PM (#47251195)

    Steve: "Our stuff's better Bill."
    Bill: "You just don't get it, do you Steve?"

  • He wants good subordinates paid for by someone else instead of direct competition.
  • Well, when I was 12 years old, I would have said fuck him, he can never make up for the all pain he's put the users of computers worldwide through. But now that I'm grown, I have to say, fuck him, could he please lend me $1M for my startup?
  • honest profit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stenvar ( 2789879 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @10:06PM (#47251367)

    The problem isn't with profit, it's with how you make it. Gates made it through monopolistic practices and dirty tricks, mostly in the first world, and mostly profiting from other people's innovations and ideas. In that case, "making a profit" is not useful. But if you actually make a good product that people want to buy, making a profit is a good thing: it indicates that your product satisfies people's needs better than someone else's.

    As for Gates, he is trying to salvage his reputation as much as he can.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "The problem isn't with profit, it's with how you make it"

      This has been said over and over again and reality has shown corporations use their profit to negatively harm society.

    • Are you sure it's not useful? So he made a big profit and now uses a lot of that money to help the less fortunate. Suppose someone else (or a group) profited from the aforementioned ideas. What would the chances be for these people would be as philanthropic as him? Not many rich people are as generous. Usually, the very wealthy, when they do donate, donate to causes which are more relevant to the rich people, such as endowments to the arts and contributions to politicians or churches. The rich also give to

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Do as I say, not as I do.

  • the very ruthless and very rich tell us that money doesn't solve problems.

    Well, you already got everyone else's money after being absolutely driven to do so for decades. Now you tell us that having tons of other peoples' money is no good anyway when it comes to really important stuff. Hmm...

    So rather than sit on a pile of billions that you've tied up after getting it from other people, just give it back if you've now learned that it didn't do all that much good in the first place. No? Well then, you're eith

  • surprised? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @04:07AM (#47252485) Homepage Journal

    Anyone surprised?

    Gates has been on a campaign to whitewash his image for many years now. He probably realized that he has more money than he can ever spend in his lifetime, even if he sleeps on a bed of dollar bills ever day - and burns it in the morning.

    But one day he also realized that he'll go down in history as a sleazebag. So he did what all the robber barons have done before him, he turned to philantropy and creating a nice new image of himself, hoping that ten years from now people will remember that part of his life and forget the other.

    And it just might work, because humans in general are stupid. Too few realize that since he made most of his fortune extracting economic rent, the damage he has done to society is larger than the money he has, so no matter what he does, if he wants to become a net positive for the human race, he has to do a lot more than just give away his wealth.

    • by Zalbik ( 308903 )

      But one day he also realized that he'll go down in history as a sleazebag.

      Only on Slashdot. The thing that most extremist geek types don't get is that the public as a whole doesn't really care about tech infighting. Nobody but geeks care how Gates got his fortune.

      Things people care about / will remember:
      - Gates was the richest man in the world.
      - He was a geek
      - He was a college drop out
      - He founded a huge charity
      - He gave a bunch of his money to charity.

      How Microsoft made money under Gates will be entire

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.