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Bill Gates throws cold water on Google's dream of connecting the world

Mark Hachman | Aug. 12, 2013
The problem, according to Gates, is that challenges those poor countries face isn't a lack of Internet access, but the basic issues of poverty, income, education, and health.

That's not quite true--Google.org exists, and it's since shifted to providing accessible sources of information for people to tap into for disaster recovery, and the like--but the irascible Gates does seem to strike a nerve with his big-picture view. He calls Silicon Valley "faddish," and says one can't take that approach when designing companies for energy and other non-IT enterprises.

He also takes aim at the recent crop of entrepreneurs -- Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Charles Simonyi, and Sergey Brin, among others--who have begun investing in space travel and exploration.  "Everybody's got their own priorities. In terms of improving the state of humanity, I don't see the direct connection," Gates said. "I guess it's fun, because you shoot rockets up in the air. But it's not an area that I'll be putting money into."

It's tough to take down Google so off-handedly, as innovations like the self-driving car and Google Glass will undoubtedly alter society when they're released in their final form. Project Loon is also an experiment, providing 3G connectivty to rural or otherwise inaccessible areas--which can include the Third World, but also regions like New Zealand, where Loon is being tested.

And Google is a for-profit venture, with responsibilities to its shareholders, while the Gates Foundation, well, isn't.

But as the Neill Blomkamp class-warfare sci-fi feature movie Elysium opens this week, it's easy to see parallels: above hovers the promise of tapping into the global grid of innovation, complete with one-click shopping, restaurant reviews, and animated cat GIFs.

Gates possibly conflates the disconnected with the world's poor, but the way he puts it is stark:

"You go out in the field, which I get to do two or three times a year, and talk to mothers who've had their children die," Gates said of fighting malaria. "You're always reminded that the world you live in is not the average place."

#firstworldproblems, indeed. We now return you to news of yet another social network.

 

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