Friday, April 23, 2010

Famous People Like to Come to MIT

This Wednesday, Bill Gates, came to MIT. He's kind of a big deal - being the past CEO of Microsoft and the #1 person on Forbes list of "The World's Richest People" from 1995 to 2007 and in 2009. I was lucky enough to "win" the student lottery to get a ticket and hear him talk in person. He's currently visiting schools right now to talk about his work as a Philanthropist. His talk focused on an interesting question: "How do we get the world’s brightest people focused on its biggest problems?"

This, of course, is a deep, intense and controversial question.

I have a lot I could say, but something I found concerning was that he kind of implies that brightness is defined by education. While I should agree with this since education has done a lot for me, I actually don't. Some times level of education is a personal choice, just because a person does not choose to get a PhD or go to a top tier college does not mean they are less intelligent than I am. And, just because a) I was lucky enough to have a family situation that allowed me to go to college and b) I was able to be successful in the relatively narrow education system we have and get into highly ranked schools does not mean I am any more capable than the next person. Anyway, my point is - there are people out there doing amazing things for this world without MBAs or fancy colleges on their diplomas. I would be interested to know if he plans to do similar talks to less "prestigious" crowds... maybe community colleges? Hospital administrations? High schools?

Also, world problems are so broad. His topics ranged from the quality of our teachers to death rates of children under 5 in certain areas of the world. How do you define what is most important? People of different age, ethnic background and social class would disagree violently on which issue deserves the most attention. So, who is right? I guess this is part of his point. There are A LOT of issues in our world. And, no matter, who you are, we should all try to do something to help the situation.

I must admit, overall I enjoyed the talk. I was impressed by his ability to speak intelligently on multiple topics; he bounced from nuclear energy to population growth just in the Q&A session and raised some important points. And, he's using his wealth to help. But, I am also a bit skeptical. I think, in the end, he's still a businessman and that must drive his motivations to some extent.

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