I've always been a fan of Bill Gates. He changed the way we look at personal computing and provided an environment in which software development was widely encouraged. He didn't create a perfect environment, and Microsoft has made a few mis-steps at times, but they certainly changed the world. Mr. Gates is also a great speaker, and I had the chance to see him live twice, where he delivered a fascinating keynote that entertained and inspired me.
He left Microsoft as a full time employee in 2008, and has moved on to working with the Gates Foundation. His missions there, along with his wife, Melinda, is to improve people's lives. The foundation has primarily focused on ending disease and hunger in developing countries, and to date has done some very good work for millions around the globe. I ran across an infographic recently that talks about philanthropy and have reprinted a portion here:
The title of the graphic is "Bill Gates is Better Than Batman" and it shows a impact of the charitable donations that Bill Gates, and many other billionaires, are making or pledging. It's mind-boggling to look at the sums involved, and at the amounts that will be available in the future. There are a number of wealthy individuals that are trying to make a difference in the world, and it's inspiring. Especially after fiascos like Enron, Worldcom, and other scandals where it seems greed has been the goal.
As I get older, I view the world differently. I find myself with more understanding, more compassion, and more of a desire to help others. I suspect as many of these billionaires start to understand their own mortality, they feel the same way. It should be easy to give away money when you have more than you'll ever spend, but it doesn't always seem to be something people do. I am proud that so many rich tech people are looking beyond themselves, trying to make the world a better place.
One more person I applaud is Alexis Ohanian, founder of Reddit, fellow UVA alum, and founder of Breadpig. He's not a billionaire, but he's trying to make a difference. He gave a great talk at the 2011 Business of Software conference, asking for more of us to do the same, even if we're not billionaires.
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