Monday, November 20, 2006

Living in a Bubble

Bill Gates gave a mildly interesting interview over at the Merc yesterday. I say mildly interesting because most of the content is really a rehash of things that he's been talking about for a few years now. The interview Time did when he, Melinda, and Bono were chosen as Persons of the Year was much more interesting and complete.

None the less, it was a good reminder that we live in an incredible bubble of security, comfort, and safety that isn't shared with significant parts of the world. The two most memorable visits to India for me were back in 1986 and 1992 -- during both trips I saw first hand what poverty looked like. The following quote from Gates snapped that memory back:

Do [people] know what visceral leishmaniasis is, that it kills 300,000 people a year? The way (the news media) documents things like plane crashes . . . I don't understand why are they running those articles, because that's not the tragedy that happened that day; it's the ongoing set of diseases, some of which are unique to these tropical countries.

So as we get more awareness of these problems, we can draw on more of the world's IQ, particularly if we can highlight what's missing. If we can get people who understand nanotechnology or software or instrumentation to see these problems that the market alone might not draw them to, because these are not rich consumers, then we just dramatically increase the chance of a breakthrough.



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