Ultimately, all the work Bill Gates did at Microsoft will be remembered by very few. Instead, he’ll be remembered as one of the world’s greatest philanthropists. Don’t believe me? Then answer this: How did Andrew Carnegie make his fortune?
If you’re like most people, you don’t know that Carnegie made his fortune by founding the Carnegie Steel Company, which later became U.S. Steel. Steel sounds as old economy as it gets, but in his time, stell was the engine that drove the economy, much as technoloogy drives ours.
But today people know of Carnegie for the myriad endowments, institutes, and universities he founded By the time of his death, he had given away $350 million, and in his will, he gave away the final $300 million of his fortune — astonishing numbers for those times. Gates is similarly giving away massive amounts of his fortune, and Warren Buffet is adding most of his fortune as well.
As computers become embedded in our daily lives, and therefore invisible, people will forget how computers initially revolutionized the way we live and work. They’ll become background — like steel is today.
What won’t become background, though, are the foundations that Gates is founding, and which will do incalculable good in the world — and that’s how people will remember the man.
I’ve been a frequent critic of Gates’ business practices, which I have thought bordered on the illegal, and sometimes crossed over. But in giving away so much of his fortune, he’s making the world a far better place than he found it, and that’s what he’ll be remembered for.