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Bill Gates, the wealthiest man on the planet, gives away billions

I’ve never been as interested in the life, works and sayings of Bill Gates as those of Steve Jobs. If I thought about it, it was probably down to that period in the early 1990s when I became addicted to the Apple Mac over other kinds of personal computing.

But recently I’ve found myself discovering the billionaire Bill Gates and been impressed.

For a start he gives away billions. Through his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for instance he has just given away $10 billion (£6 billion) to develop and distribute vaccines. It is the largest ever single donation made in the world.

The Microsoft founder is the richest man on the planet worth around $76 billion despite giving away money in huge billion dollar chunks totalling at least $26 billion.

That’s impressive by any measure.


Is Everybody Happy?

Surprisingly, not all the world is as full of admiration. In the USA provided at least 5% of net investment assets are given away annually, there are tax advantages.

Andrew Bowman writing in New Internationalist Magazine  (April 2012) argued that ‘important questions have been raised about the way the Foundation operates, and the impact of its work.’

He said, ‘the first question concerns accountability. While only around five per cent of the Foundation’s annual global health funding goes directly to lobbying and advocacy, this money (over $100 million) talks loudly. Gates funds institutions ranging from US university departments to major international development NGOs. The Foundation is the main player in several global health partnerships and one of the single largest donors to the WHO. This gives it considerable leverage in shaping health policy priorities and intellectual norms.’

Gregg Gonsalves, an experienced AIDS activist and co-founder of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, welcomes the Foundation’s funding, but is concerned about its power. ‘Depending on what side of bed Gates gets out of in the morning,’ he remarks, ‘it can shift the terrain of global health.’

Mmm. But that doesn’t detract from the enormity of the donations.

Bill Gates’ Advice to Youngsters

I discovered a clipping I kept of a talk Bill Gates gave to a high school in the USA in 2008. He gave them 11 great rules to set their minds for the late teens and early twenties they were about to face.

Rule 1: Life is not fair – get used to it.

Rule 2: The world doesn’t care about your self-esteem. The world expects you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will not make $60,000 a year right out of college. You won’t be a Vice-President with a car phone until you earn them.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping, they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you think you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents’ generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that in your own time.

Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are that one day you’ll end up working for one.

Good advice indeed and as some have said, it should be on the walls of every high school in the country.

Bill Gates’ Perceptiveness

Finally, if you want a clear, layman’s description of what is in effect the superhighway of the world wide web with all its ramifications, uses, opportunities and possibilities, you could do worse than look at his book, The Road Ahead  which puts it all in succinct near-layman’s terms.

And then you realise that the book was actually published two decades ago in 1995 when it was all still in the future. And that tells you how perceptive the man is.

Image: World Economic Forum