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Nobel Prize Winner Argues Tech Companies Should Be Changing The World (qz.com) 154

An anonymous reader writes: Tech companies are competing to serve the wealthy, argues the winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, complaining there's no "global vision," with big innovations instead "designed and dedicated mostly for commercial successes... while trillions of dollars are invested in developing robotics and artificial intelligence for military and commercial purposes, there is little interest in applying technology to overcome the massive human problems of the world." A genius in the tech industry "can dedicate his work to creating a medical breakthrough that will save thousands of lives -- or he can develop an app that will let people amuse themselves."

As an exception, he cites the low-cost Endless computer, which runs Linux and has 50,000 Wikipedia articles pre-installed to enable offline research -- plus more than 100 applications -- for a price of just $79. "One part of Endless's business is operated like a conventional, profit-seeking company, while the other part is a social business that provides underserved populations with educational, health, and creative services they were once denied. Endless is already being shipped around the globe by four of the five largest computer manufacturers. It has become the leading PC platform in Indonesia and much of Southeast Asia. It has also been selected as the standard operating system for the Brazilian Ministry of Education, and in coming months it will be adopted as the primary platform by a number of other Latin American countries."

The article is by Muhammad Yunus, who pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance, and is taken from his new book, A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions.
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Nobel Prize Winner Argues Tech Companies Should Be Changing The World

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  • In fact, it is a pretty good indicator for the opposite. In capitalism, people tend to forget that and that harms humanity as a whole.

    • by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Sunday October 15, 2017 @09:05PM (#55374817)

      I don't know what the research is on this, but my default assumption is that money, like religion, tends to amplify the sort of person you are.

      If you're a good person, money makes you very good. If you're a bad person, money makes you very bad. If you're an ignorant person, money makes you very ignorant. And so on.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        > ... If you're a good person, money makes you very good. If you're a bad person, money makes you very bad. If you're an ignorant person, money makes you very ignorant ...'

        Money is a tool, nothing but a tool

        Money does not make a good person gooder or a bad dude badder

        All that we see from Mark Z or Bill G, and that from Google / Amazon / Adobe / Microsoft / IBM is their ignorance and arrogance in making what they are

        Those of us who have had decades of experience in High Tech knows that Tech is not only T

        • by lucm ( 889690 ) on Monday October 16, 2017 @12:03AM (#55375251)

          The key figures (Mark Z and Bill G) along with the key corps (Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Adobe, IBM) I mentioned above, unfortunately, have decided to cramp their little brains with "Social Justice" mantra that takes them further and further away from true enlightenment, and thus, have lost their 'purpose of being'

          Don't put them all in the same bucket. All those companies will profess their love of "diversity" because it's trendy, but Google and Facebook stand apart from the others in your list as they actively try to shove their social agenda down the throat of people.

          As for Bill Gates, his philantropy is basically a scam. His foundation is a steamroller that crushes existing NGOs and promotes a very narrow vision of charity, which happens to profit him and his cronies immensely. That's hardly a social agenda like the one at Google, it's just more typical Microsoft (embrace extend extinguish).

          • The key figures (Mark Z and Bill G) along with the key corps (Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Adobe, IBM) I mentioned above, unfortunately, have decided to cramp their little brains with "Social Justice" mantra that takes them further and further away from true enlightenment, and thus, have lost their 'purpose of being'

            Don't put them all in the same bucket. All those companies will profess their love of "diversity" because it's trendy, but Google and Facebook stand apart from the others in your list as they actively try to shove their social agenda down the throat of people.

            As for Bill Gates, his philantropy is basically a scam. His foundation is a steamroller that crushes existing NGOs and promotes a very narrow vision of charity, which happens to profit him and his cronies immensely. That's hardly a social agenda like the one at Google, it's just more typical Microsoft (embrace extend extinguish).

          • So happy to see someone that really gets it that I hit the submit accidentally... anyway, I'd consider voting for you..at least I'd give you an insightful mod if I had it.

        • by Kiuas ( 1084567 )

          Money is a tool, nothing but a tool

          Money does not make a good person gooder or a bad dude badder

          Money is the ultimate tool because it can be converted into nearly anything. You're right that a bad person doesn't necessarily become more heinous when he/she is given a lot of money, but the point is that with great wealth they now have much higher chances of pursuing their goals and if those goals are bad (from the point of view of the rest of humanity) then they will be able to cause a lot more damage than if

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Well, yes. From "power corrupts" (which basically says that power also brings out what kind of person you actually are) I deduce that most people that manage to get rich are not very good people. A supporting effect here is certainly that bad people with a fine instinct of how to abuse the system have a better chance of getting rich than others and that bad people also have a higher desire to get rich in the first place.

    • So you are saying that a restaurant that becomes very popular because it makes excellent food is "harming humanity as a whole"? That iPhones are "harming humanity as a whole"? That life-saving medicine is "harming humanity as a whole"? Because all of those make people a lot of money.

      In what way does inventing and producing something that lots of people want to buy make you a bad person or harm humanity?

      • The iPhone is made using conflict minerals that support all kinds of guerilla armies in Africa, sometimes also mined by child laborers, using mining practices that involve, for example, sticking their bare hands in a mercury solution. You have wage slaves literally throwing themselves off the roof of the Foxconn plant where the phones are assembled.

        With the food service industry, there is more variation in how things are done. Some very upscale places might provide decent wages, since they are given direct
        • The iPhone is made using conflict minerals... You have wage slaves literally throwing themselves off the roof of the Foxconn plant ...

          Note how these problems are not typical of capitalist countries.

          With the food service industry ... But the majority of people in that industry barely scrape by.

          What you call "scraping by" is considered luxurious by most of the world.

          "These people" contribute no more to society than ticket scalpers.

          Well, actually, most of those people contribute a lot more. But ticket scalpers

          • In order for that to make any sense you'll need to explain how the "communists" at Foxconn operate differently than "capitalists" elsewhere. (They don't.) But now that you've been locked into this ideologically inflexible binary thinking, you're ready to jump to defend their exploitation. Check and mate. You are owned.
          • What you call "scraping by" is considered luxurious by most of the world.

            Lots of problems with this statement.

            First, I doubt that's true of "most of the world". Certainly a large part, but lots of people live in wealthy countries with access to health care, a "luxury" not possessed by the lower classes in the US. The world is advancing economically, and the main things now that keep countries poor are corrupt government and unbridled capitalism.

            Second, you're dismissing one person's problems by sayi

        • The suicide rate at those companies was below the local average, so isn't that like the scenario where autonomous cars kill people, but fewer than otherwise?
    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      You're confusing capitalism with philanthropy.

      Capitalism is what generates the resources that allows philanthropy to exist. The doctor's own example is proof of this. This includes the knock off of software created by an abusive telephone trust.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Philanthropy basically allows people to work for the common good because they get money for it from some donor. In other systems besides capitalism, people already can work for the common good because they do not have to get money for it. Incidentally, there are a lot of volunteer workers even today with capitalism that work for the common good without getting money for it at all. Hence you made a completely empty argument.

        And when you look right at it, a lot of Philanthropy comes from really, really big cr

  • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Sunday October 15, 2017 @08:49PM (#55374745) Homepage Journal

    There's been a lot of controversy over the Peace prize of late.

    Note that Muhammad Yunus started the Grameen Bank [wikipedia.org] which has reduced worldwide poverty by some insane amount - something like 40% of all poverty in the world has been eliminated by this one idea(*).

    This guy deserves his medal, and perhaps his stature and accomplishments should be taken into account before people start dissing his opinions.

    He's not just a random blogger that got an article in BuzzFeed.

    (*) With significant follow-on benefits, such as increasing childrens' dietary protein, leading to better health.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No. Hell no. Grameen Bank is a wonderful program to allow small businesses access to capital. To become capitalists.
        The 40% reduction in poverty was due to third-world countries embracing globalization. China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Belarus, etc.

      • Nope, it was before (Score:5, Informative)

        by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Sunday October 15, 2017 @09:46PM (#55374943) Homepage Journal

        No. Hell no. Grameen Bank is a wonderful program to allow small businesses access to capital. To become capitalists.

          The 40% reduction in poverty was due to third-world countries embracing globalization. China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Belarus, etc.

        No. Hell no. Grameen Bank is a wonderful program to allow small businesses access to capital. To become capitalists.
          The 40% reduction in poverty was due to third-world countries embracing globalization. China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Belarus, etc.

        The Grameen Bank was written up in the November 1999 issue of Scientific American [scientificamerican.com].

        NAFTA came into force in 1994, so most of the benefits from Grameen happened *before* the push towards globalization.

        And for the record, bringing people out of poverty through globalism is temporary, because the root cause of poverty is corruption and globalism doesn't change that.

        Most of the wealth to China went first to the people, then to the government. The government now has all the money, and the people would return to poverty in a heartbeat if the global demand dried up.

        Not so much with the Grameen bank.

        China is throwing tons of money at worthless projects: cities with no residents, massive investment in research with no accountability for quality, and huge state-sponsored projects that regularly fail - such as bridges and dams.

        All that wealth coming from the US has gone to waste.

        What's worse is that globalism is pulling us down into poverty. Highly trained Chinese can come to this country and get jobs, but highly trained Americans can't similarly go to China. You can't become a Chinese citizen even if you marry a Chinese citizen.

        Globalism is one-sided, and makes our country weaker in every possible way. The wealth flows from the richer country to the poorer, where it is wasted.

        At any rate, the Grameen bank was an idea that actually worked.

        Even if you are philosophically opposed to capitalism, you have to admit that the Grameen Bank, as an idea, works.

        • by lucm ( 889690 ) on Monday October 16, 2017 @12:41AM (#55375333)

          China is throwing tons of money at worthless projects: cities with no residents, massive investment in research with no accountability for quality, and huge state-sponsored projects that regularly fail - such as bridges and dams.

          That kind of comment is somewhere between "hindsight is 20/20" and reversed survival bias. You look at things that failed and ignore those that worked.

          The population of Shanghai went from 16 to 24 million people in the last 15 years. That's more than 500,000 newcomers *every year*. Those people need a roof over their head, they need food, they need plumbing and waste management, transportation, etc. And Shanghai is not even among the fastest growing city in China. For instance Zhengzhou went from 3 million to 9 million in 5 years - that's like transforming Phoenix into NYC in 5 years.

          And it's not just about the population density. A decade ago, China was importing garbage from the USA to recycle and extract resources. They no longer do that because their industry is catching up; in fact, more and more they don't even bother shipping back containers when they send stuff to the USA, they sell them on the cheap or even trash them. Another sign that they're moving ahead full speed is that the bulk of their industrial capacity goes to the domestic market. The crap you can buy at Walmart is a drop in the bucket compared to the volume they're selling to the new Chinese middle class, which is amazing.

          China has been growing at a crazy speed, and mistakes are made here and there, but I'd be curious to see how well you personally would succeed with those kinds of challenges. This is more complicated than playing SimCity.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            Indeed. People point to that one high speed rail crash and claim that it shows everything Chinese is crap and a failure. But actually they built the world's largest high speed rail network, and the world's largest underground network, and in record time and with a generally excellent safety record. Per passenger kilometre it's extremely safe, affordable and efficient. I'm looking forward to using it myself.

        • Corruption is the cause of poverty, but it is so because it allows the same kind of plague on the free productive people as mafias, warlords, and criminals in the street in a lawless state.

          In other words, those who produce are not safe from looting of one kind or another, and say to hell with it, and don't even try.

          • In other words, those who produce are not safe from looting of one kind or another, and say to hell with it, and don't even try.

            In other words, each poor person could become wealthy, but are discouraged by their quality of life. I suspect that most poor people would get a middle-class lifestyle if they could, and that you should really rethink your view of economics and society.

        • by Afty0r ( 263037 )

          Globalism is one-sided, and makes our country weaker in every possible way. The wealth flows from the richer country to the poorer, where it is wasted.

          Posted from your PC or phone which costs around $600 instead of $5000 - well played sir!

        • Globalism is one-sided,

          Yup. Businesses get to globalize, while individuals don't. The businesses want to pay third-world wages while charging their customers first-world prices. If we could buy pretty much everything at the prices the poor countries pay, globalization would be a lot more fair.

    • "...his stature and accomplishments should be taken into account before people start dissing his opinions...."
      Sure. Then again, if the Nobel Committee wants their winners to carry some de facto credibility from their award, they need to give the prize to more people like him, and fewer prizes based on virtue signalling.

  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Sunday October 15, 2017 @08:51PM (#55374753)
    It raises the question, does the world have a destination? If not, should it? no and no
  • by Anonymous Coward

    theres no room for morality, compassion, or anything else. made greed great again.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It doesn't have to be. Let's celebrate the over 160 billionaires who have signed the Giving Pledge [cnbc.com] and promised to give away more than half of their money. This is an act that other people in their position should be measured by.

  • Silly article. Person writing the article presumes that:

    1) People's time is free, and/or already have large fortunes enabling them to focus on pet projects
    2) Everyone has the same moral compass, that nudges them towards helping humanity where (1) is true.
    3) Recent inventions of the smartphone and other internet developments are somehow not good enough and don't help the world in any way.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The best minds of this generation are being put to good use optimizing ad revenue and building detailed personal profiles to better tailor ads.

    Why should they waste time on toy projects like cancer cures and climate change?

  • by ark1 ( 873448 ) on Sunday October 15, 2017 @09:02PM (#55374809)
    Blame those pouring trillions into military & commercial instead of real human problems and not tech geniuses.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blindseer ( 891256 )

      Blame those pouring trillions into military & commercial instead of real human problems and not tech geniuses.

      Right! We should forget investing in military and commercial products and invest money in solving problems like getting food, clothing, shelter, and communications! What has military investment brought us? I mean other than GPS? We need ways to get food from people who grow it to those who need it. I mean that government funded GPS and highway system are nice but we need people to talk to each other. That military project that brought us the Internet is great but what about satellites? I mean we got

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        War was certainly a catalyst for developing navigation systems, but there is no reason why we could not have built them much cheaper as civilian projects and made things like GPS available to everyone from day one. Aviation could have started using GPS much earlier if selective availability had not been there.

        It's really unfortunate that war and pissing contests are often the biggest drivers of our development. Even civilian projects like Concorde and Apollo were tainted by that, but it doesn't mean it has

      • Military needs also shit on everything, like the space shuttle being designed for same. Or how they used to use the sa in GPS.

  • by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Sunday October 15, 2017 @09:05PM (#55374819)

    there is little interest in applying technology to overcome the massive human problems of the world.

    Completely false, even says so in the summary. Throughout history, if the general population was upset with the ruling class they overthrew them. With automated factories and armies, total control will soon be put in the hands of a few people, unlike all of history. Heck, with all the automation there won't be a need for the plebes to create the luxurious life they are accustomed to. I'm pretty sure Oligarchs agree, this will overcome a massive human problem.

  • by Brett Buck ( 811747 ) on Sunday October 15, 2017 @09:23PM (#55374891)

    Inevitably, zero freedom.

  • This guy has no idea what he is talking about.

    Science is about discovery not invention. Technology is about invention, not science, but it has other limits.

    That means we can't decide to use science to solve problems - I can't decide to discover FTL travel, I can just investigate promising quantum physics and pray that I will stumble upon something that will be helpful in that direction. But I am honestly just as likely to discover a new source of power.

    Technology is about invention - I decide to build the

  • by boudie2 ( 1134233 ) on Sunday October 15, 2017 @10:20PM (#55375019)
    Technology is too busy causing problems to be solving problems.
    • Well said... Conversations about businesses having positive ethics always make me think of that quote from Spider-Man...

      "With great power comes great responsibility"

      So much for corporations acting in the best interest of the environment, much less personal suffering...

  • Reminds me of the Python skit about how to play the flute: "How to play the flute. Well, here we are; and you blow there, and you move your fingers up and down here." That's all we need to do. And we'll cure all diseases. https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
  • Leading PC platform? (Score:4, Informative)

    by PixetaledPikachu ( 1007305 ) on Monday October 16, 2017 @01:25AM (#55375443)
    As much as I enjoy using linux as a daily driver, aside from a flurry of publication on popular tech sites between July to August 2017 for their launch in Indonesia, I haven't heard a single thing about Endless being a leading PC platform on any field of computing.
  • I have recently become involved in a BioTech startup

    Our goal is to demystify the human genome; while the cost of sequencing a human has gone down by a factor of a MILLION in 15 years (blowing away Moore's "Law"), not so the ability to analyze it. Now, using the absolute best technology, we hope to finally unravel the mysteries from 3.5 billion year old spaghetti code (your DNA randomly programmed by natural selection).

    In short, we hope to provide EXACTLY what was promised/feared in the movie GATTACA (which

  • What's easyer: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Monday October 16, 2017 @03:58AM (#55375779)

    1.) Trying to explain to idiots how they're doing things wrong and trying to correct them? ... Very difficult. As soon as they're overwelmed they'll start voting for Trump and Co. and things will go downhill from there.

    2.) Exploiting idiots and getting obscenely rich whilst giving them PHP doodads / toy apps or virutal swords? ... Very easy. You just once need to fathom how truely unbelievably stupid most people are and what stupid shit they will spend money on, then you're good.

    Bottom line:
    While I get that we need to save the world (Elon Musk is showing us how it can be done) I also get the enticing proposition of simply manipulating the masses and enjoying yourself while doing it. If you get bored, then you can go about saving the world. Which is basically what Bill Gates and the likes are doing.

  • In this article, Yunus calls for Silicon Valley to develop a smartphone for the poor. I define that as being any smartphone that has been on the market for about three years, and which still sells.

    The rich are early adopters, willingly paying premium prices to be first to try technology that may or may not catch on. They might find themselves with an iPhone that has innumerable uses - and they would have been among those to try Google Glass, and look silly doing so. Tech that survives the early adopter filt

  • And the CEOs of Tech Companies Argues They Should Be Charging The World with more subscriptions and license fees.

  • I'm sick of hearing about technology companies doing this that and the other thing. Technology is a tool, nothing more. You want an amazing medical breakthrough? Look to someone who knows something about medicine and biology, not a "technology company." No doubt technology is a huge help in many cases, but the ideas are driven by people who understand the problems, not the technology. What technology companies should be doing is working on making better tools, and let people who understand the underlying hu
  • Am I the only one that saw the ad for Endless computer and thought, "Heh! I could get one and delete the wikipedia stuff to make room for more games!" ?

  • Indeed they are plenty of innovations available ! If big tech companies was not that much innovations focused it would be best ! Check this http://ventilons.canalblog.com... [canalblog.com] you'll discover solutions for our world ! Cheers !
  • This assumes everyone able to, wants to work. But in the real world, there are a lot of slackers. Therefore 0% unemployment will never happen.
    • On the flip side, with end goal AI and cheap automation/robotics zero employment is possible. The ruling class won't need subservient humans to provide the luxurious lifestyle they enjoy so much - except a few just for the fun of harassment.
    • Zero unemployment is impossible, because zero unemployment means, among other things, that there is zero possibility of starting a new business/industry/whatever - where are you going to get people?

      Unless "zero unemployment" is a code phrase for "everyone has some makework to do", you won't be able to hire them away without damaging the place you hired them from...

      Which is why, in the Real World (tm), we actually aim for somewhere around 5% unemployment as our target....

  • by hduff ( 570443 )

    Everything that accomplishes to a certain level is then monetized and the user experience diminished.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton

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