Quoted: Bill Gates bursts Google’s bubble/balloon

“When you’re dying of malaria, I suppose you’ll look up and see that balloon, and I’m not sure how it’ll help you.”

Bill Gates, on Google’s Project Loon, a plan to use balloons to bring Internet connectivity to Third World countries. In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, the Microsoft co-founder who now spends most of his time on his foundation — which among other things is helping to battle malaria in developing nations — shows his unique perspective as a technologist-turned-philanthropist. More on Google: “The actors who just do their core thing are not going to uplift the poor.” He also dissed other broad projects involving some Silicon Valley players, although he didn’t name names. He said MOOCs (massive online open courses are so far “an elite phenomenon.” And he won’t be buying a ticket on the space bandwagon, whose high-profile champions include SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. “In terms of improving the state of humanity, I don’t see the direct connection. I guess it’s fun, because you shoot rockets up in the air,” Gates said.


Photo: Bill Gates at the International AIDS Conference in 2012. (AFP/GettyImages)


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  • Cru

    Gates has grown even more closed-minded with age.

    • foobar

      I disagree, i think his perspective has just broadened. I find it refreshing that he is trying to solve current real world issues with his bazillions.

  • Gates is 57 years old. Brin is 39. I had occasion to work with and around Gates 18 years ago. He wasn’t thinking about malaria.

    • Aaron Miller

      Mr. Stensrud,

      Perfectly pointed out. Thank you. Past Gates and apparently, Present Gates lacks a sense of self-awareness that borders on ignorance. Odd for such an otherwise now brilliant humanitarian.

  • godert van Diermen

    My idea is that Mr.gates was much further ahead of his peers technology and solutionwise than the techplayers of today are .
    This allows for more time on reflexion on how companies , organisations countries and individuals should act to take resposability for the world they live in.

  • Brent Crossland

    I have a tremendous amount of respect for what Bill Gates has done professionally and in the past several years as he has sought to make a real difference in the world. For perspective, perhaps he could point out what impact Microsoft has had in humanitarian efforts — either during his tenure or since he left the company.

  • RK

    I find Mr. Gates’ dismissive attitude *extremely* troubling.

    If someone had an emergency under one of those balloons, and there was a communication device that was GPS-enabled, wouldn’t that assist in bringing help sooner? It doesn’t have to be everyone with a device. But just someone in the village with access. In seeing pictures from these “remote” areas in near real-time, perhaps the rest of us will have a better appreciation for conditions on the ground, and understand how to best invest one’s resources. This is not to say that a balloon is the best solution. Perhaps there should be a string of solar-powered repeaters. But at least someone is trying to figure out the communication problem.

    As for power, there are other innovators generating electricity from stoves designed to extract maximum energy for cooking, thus reducing the need to forage for wood. Any single technology by itself might be useless to the unprivileged. But if you can give some of them access to the technology ecosystem, perhaps that will make a difference for the community as a whole.

    Not everyone can solve the problem of malaria. Mr. Gates should be thankful that there are people working in other ways to better the people’s condition.