No idea what the “performance” was like but a number of good things to think about in Bill Gates’ Harvard Commencement speech. I’ve gone from being a fan of the business man to hating him for the companie’s fucked up practices and crappy software but I’m back on the Gates bandwagon in his new role as a global benefactor, along with his wife they are doing some important work and seem to be bringing some new ideas to the table in how they do things.
But humanity’s greatest advances are not in its discoveries – but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity. Whether through democracy, strong public education, quality health care, or broad economic opportunity – reducing inequity is the highest human achievement.
But if you want to inspire people to participate, you have to show more than numbers; you have to convey the human impact of the work – so people can feel what saving a life means to the families affected… I remember going to Davos some years back and sitting on a global health panel that was discussing ways to save millions of lives. Millions! Think of the thrill of saving just one person’s life – then multiply that by millions. … Yet this was the most boring panel I’ve ever been on – ever. So boring even I couldn’t bear it… What made that experience especially striking was that I had just come from an event where we were introducing version 13 of some piece of software, and we had people jumping and shouting with excitement. I love getting people excited about software – but why can’t we generate even more excitement for saving lives?
Should our best minds be dedicated to solving our biggest problems? … Should Harvard encourage its faculty to take on the world’s worst inequities? Should Harvard students learn about the depth of global poverty … the prevalence of world hunger … the scarcity of clean water …the girls kept out of school … the children who die from diseases we can cure? … Should the world’s most privileged people learn about the lives of the world’s least privileged? … These are not rhetorical questions – you will answer with your policies.