A Response to the Gates Article
On November the 4th, I received a response to the Idolize Gates article that was well articulated and respectful. I felt the need to respond and wanted to share so you each know my opinion. Please RT to anyone who may be interested in the subject
On Nov 4, 2011, at 2:58 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Dear Mr. Wessel,
I read with interest your recent article “Idolize Bill Gates, not Steve Jobs”. I am intrigued by your message that a cure for malaria somehow trumps revolutionizing mobile computing.
Your ideas are typical of conventional North American thought: citizens should strive to be “good people”. Why should we be good people? Second, it exemplifies the “hand to mouth” attitude that most people hold today. ”If it ain’t useful now, it’s not worth my money or time.” Conclusion: theoretical or intellectual achievements have no place in a world with hunger or disease.
As already has been noted, Steve Jobs was an artist. His contributions to art and design is reason enough to celebrate his life. To give another example, Beethoven was an absolute mess of a person without the slightest charitable bone in him, and yet no one thinks lesser of him.
Steve Jobs followed his ideas on computing with uncompromising dedication and integrity. That to me is a true sign of genius. Beyond his contribution to philanthropy, what will Bill Gates be remembered for?
Professor, University of Toronto
There may be an ideological divide between North American citizens and other citizens of the world. But there is a legitimate argument to be made that helping cure malaria is in fact more valuable then revolutionizing mobile computing.
If we assume that additional things yield decreasing utility to individuals over time (apply LDMR to personal happiness), we can assume that providing universal access to the most basic standards of living is more valuable on a societal level than providing things to people who’ve already met that standard. The problem, however, is despite the incredible value such actions bring to those in need, those in need cannot pay. There is a market failure due to a consolidation of wealth that is predictable and unfortunate. Steve Jobs did what the market told him to do. He made millions happy. He was a genius. But, that doesn’t mean Steve Jobs created as much happiness or satisfaction as he could have.
When Jobs pitched Apple, Inc in the Valley in the mid 70′s, he said he wanted to put a computer in the hands of every man, woman, and child. We’re far from that reality worldwide. Imagine if instead of pioneering mobile computing for the “haves,” Jobs made truly mobile computers that could have been used in rural Asia and Africa. The impact would have been enormous. There is nothing in my piece that suggests Jobs should have stopped being an artist. It simply suggests his art could have been targeted differently.
All our research points to the fact that over time, utility from things decreases on the margin. More things, more money, do not yield more happiness. Instead, a basic level is required and then other motivating factors provide human satisfaction. I only wanted to bring to light that we should respect what Gates has done and said in acknowledging his limited world view during the Microsoft years and the need to make a broader impact.
I appreciate the discussion that the article has sparked and thank you for your letter. I truly respect your opinion and think that arguments can be made on either side. I simply fall on another side of the chasm.
Thank you again,
PS – I have not responded to the “What will Bill Gates be remembered for aside from philanthropy?” prompt only because the answer is Microsoft. Gates did lead one of the World’s most valuable companies from inception to maturity. His company may not spark the same loyalty as Apple, but it is still a very valuable contribution to the world of computing.
Senior Research Fellow
Harvard Business School