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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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  • Re:Water is wet (Score:3, Interesting)

    by machineghost ( 622031 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @08:43PM (#47250783)

    While I agree in part with what you wrote the reality is none of the value of those inventions would have been realized without profit. Hell, if someone hadn't made a profit and donated it to Mendel's monastary he would have died in the street instead of inventing genetics.

  • Re:Water is wet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @09:22PM (#47251075)

    The problem is you have to compare the internet before it was profit driven against after it was profit driven. Sure, the TCP/IP suite is good and all, but without an underlying infrastructure it's kind of useless. That underlying infrastructure very often involves trenching and stringing wire across with old fashioned labor. Nobody is going to do that kind of labor at that kind of a scale simply out of the goodness of their heart. At some point they're going to want a return on that investment.

    A few things to take into consideration:

    1) The original e-mail SMTP implementation was designed under the assumption that it could very well take multiple days to deliver an email. This is because the internet was mostly volunteer driven, and some links weren't open until the volunteers took the time to make them available. (Otherwise why even have SMTP? Why not just send your email directly from your client to the destination server? Keep in mind the spam problem didn't exist back then, so there were no anti-spam motivations for doing so, rather it was purely due to what was a discontiguous internet.) It wasn't until there was a profit motive of an ISP to provide "always on" peering arrangements.

    2) Recall numerous times when those behind it said that the original design was never intended to be as big as it is now. That is because before there was big money to be made, most WAN links were pretty damn slow. Where we now have Frame Relay and ATM, there used to be X.25

    3) Completely state of the art WAN equipment is hugely profit driven. HFC traders are well known to have some of the fastest and by far the most reliable links that they (not governments, not nonprofits or volunteers) commissioned to be built, which they also lease to other third parties (although these third parties get lower priority QoS, they still benefit from overall faster communication than had they used other links.) Some of the most state of the art networking equipment is also profit driven (like them or not, Cisco has done a HUGE service to the internet with all of the contributions they've made to networking on well more than one occasion, and they're very profit driven. They also provide emergency volunteer services as well though, see Cisco's TacOps team.)

    4) You think the Emerald Express transatlantic cable would be under construction by purely volunteers? Look at the kind of work required to build that.

  • by Camael ( 1048726 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @12:08AM (#47251857)

    bullshit, most the dramatic increase in human life and health of the last 500 years has been driven by and is the result of profit-seeking. The only solutions to mankinds problems will be produced and distributed that way

    Untrue. And unlike you, I have citations and links to prove it.

    You might have heard of Edward Jenner [wikipedia.org] , father of immunology and the man whose work in vaccination reduced smallpox from a feared fatal disease to a mere footnote today. Did he become rich from it? No. He sacrificed his own practice and in the end had to be bailed out with public funds.

    Jenner's continuing work on vaccination prevented him continuing his ordinary medical practice. He was supported by his colleagues and the King in petitioning Parliament, and was granted £10,000 for his work on vaccination. In 1806, he was granted another £20,000 for his continuing work in microbiology.

    Or we can look at Louis Pasteur [wikipedia.org], father of microbiology. He

    ...was a French chemist and microbiologist renowned for his discoveries of the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation and pasteurization. He is remembered for his remarkable breakthroughs in the causes and preventions of diseases, and his discoveries have saved countless lives ever since.

    What was was the motivation for his work?

    After serving briefly as professor of physics at the Dijon Lycée in 1848, he became professor of chemistry at the University of Strasbourg, where he met and courted Marie Laurent, daughter of the university's rector in 1849. They were married on May 29, 1849, and together had five children, only two of whom survived to adulthood; the other three died of typhoid. These personal tragedies were his motivations for curing infectious diseases.

    You may be cynical and personally driven by profit-seeking, but don't assume everyone else is.

  • by nukenerd ( 172703 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @06:48AM (#47252815)

    Your little list can be easily trumped by Thomas Edison alone...

    The context was human life and health. Edison was in the world of science and technology. In any case it was Edison's unsung underlings who made most of the advances. For other science examples, do you seriously think that the likes of Newton, Bacon, Galileo and Einstein were motivated by profit?

    We need to distinguish between profit and salary. Many scientists and medical pioneers want a comfortable, or at least a livable, salary if only so that they can concentrate on what they like doing. Newton had his allowance as a Cambridge professor, and was later rewarded by the post of Master of the Royal Mint. But he did not make his discoveries so that he could become Master of the Mint. In fact he lived like a monk. Francis Bacon, as Lord Chancellor of England, was already a very wealthy man yet took an interest in science as a hobby, such that he was the founder of the modern scientific method. Bacon certainly did not look or expect any profit from his scienctific work - he did not need it.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern