Monday, September 12, 2005

Microsoft - the Evil Empire? Not! Microsoft - the Evil Empire? Not!

The accepted wisdom of much of the software world is that Microsoft is the evil empire incarnate, throught its preditory practices. I agree to a very great extent, and some day, would love to have the autobiography of the late Gary Kildall, founder of Digital Research, and developer of CP/M, published. It details how Microsoft really got going by selling a clone of CP/M to IBM and the world as DOS. The people at Apple, Netscape, et al. have somewhat similar stories to tell.

That said, what is forgotten is that this has provided enormous wealth to a number of people, many of whom have tried to do something important with their money. But of those, the two of note are those who made, by far, the most money, its founders: Bill Gates and Paul Allen.

The two have gone in different directions. Mr. Allen has spent his retirement from Microsoft helping seed emerging technologies. Of recent note, he was the major funder of Space Ship One, the winner of the X Prize for reaching space twice in ten days or less. Through this, he (among others) helped show us that we can reach space economically, without NASA, and all that that agency entails. I think that within my lifetime, we can expect to see space craft reaching earth orbit at a fraction of the NASA cost (of some half a billion dollars a flight). This will invariably result in the growth of space based industries building products that cannot be built here, and, ultimately, potentially, moving a lot of our polluting industry into space.

Bill Gates on the other hand is slated to be the Andrew Carnegie of our era. Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie almost a hundred years ago set up the foundation bearing his name, and as a result, thousands of libraries were built across this country. His foundation is still at work today, 94 years after its founding.

Bill Gates and his wife Melinda have given (or are giving) the vast bulk of their immense fortune to charity, most notably, to The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They are apparently only giving $10 million or so to each of their daughters, which, while seemingly a lot to most of us, works out to approximately 0.05% (or 5%%) of their entire wealth.

So where is all this money going? To save the world? Well, probably as close as they could get. They are on track for potentially saving hundreds of millions, if not billions, of human lives throughout the third world. In 2003, the Gates Foundation launched a project called Grand Challenges in Global Health. Instead of telling everyone how to solve the problems of 3rd world health, they asked the scientific community to collaborate. They asked the question of what are the biggest problems that, if science attended to them and solved them, could most dramatically change the fate of the several billion people in this world trapped in the vicious cycle of infant mortality, low life expectancy, and disease.

They received some eight thousand pages of response from scientists and then distilled them down into a list of fourteen Grand Challenges that include: Improving childhood vaccines, Creating new vaccines, Controling insects that transmit agents of disease, Improving nutrition to promote health, Improving drug treatment of infectious diseases, Curing latent and chronic infections, and Measuring disease and health status accurately and economically in developing countries. In June of this year, they announced $436 million in funding for 43 projects.

We here in the U.S. are not likely so see the major effects of this initiative. But that is by design. I have no doubt that the world will greatly note and long remember Bill and Melinda Gates.


7:10 AM Display: Full / Chopped / Footer

Display: Full / Chopped / None

Display: Full / Footer / None

Display: Chopped / Footer / None


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home >>