We need our brightest people working on our biggest problems



Bill Gates took to LinkedIn to make the case for why countries are not doing enough to draw their smartest citizens into the sciences and how doing so could solve some of the world’s greatest problems.


Ajay Bhatla

Bill Gates’ prescription for researchers to impact the world’s poorest – a constant stream of new able researchers and defining problems in ways that researchers can understand them – is, at best, currying favor with researchers by making researchers cozy in their ivory towers. What is needed is just the opposite: more researchers entering the real world by making their research globally accessible in forms that a global public can readily find, play with, tinker with and use.

It is surprising that even Bill Gates could not convey to researchers this primary take-away from the recent 40+ years-long transformation fueled by IT: Make your work so widely accessible and usable that large numbers of receptive and self-selecting individuals around the globe can discover it and use it; Only through this discovery and ease of use can driven individuals dream up and realize new ways to conquer the intransigent challenges they endure. Only these currently unknown others can unlock the true enormous value of every researcher’s work

Isn’t widespread accessibility and usability of Microsoft’s offerings the primary driver behind Bill Gates’ success and current luminary status? Don’t we admire Sir Tim Berners-Lee, knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, for inventing the World Wide Web that made the Internet accessible and usable by virtually anyone anywhere? Isn’t unlimited accessibility and usability the underpinning of today’s mobile app ecosystem everyone wants to build? And at the human level, aren’t most of today’s “experts” only previously unknown people, who came to be known as the brightest and the smartest of the smart, after they had accessed and used research done by others in their own uniquely imaginative and ingenious ways?

Bright people are everywhere and every person is bright in his/her own unique way but what they lack is access to what countless researchers already know and the ability to dream, play and use this research. Accessibility and usability puts power in the minds and hands of the truly driven masses to beneficially transform their worlds. Few researchers, entrepreneurs, government agencies, foundations or NGOs can relate as closely enough to challenges than those that endure them daily.

The successful public-benefit foundation of the 21st century will be the one that (a) recognizes that the most-qualified and brightest for a task is the one that is driven to no longer endure a difficulty and, thus, to seek a solution that works for a long time, and (b) works to deliver research on so wide a scale and in such usable forms by these self-selecting individuals. Such a foundation’s DNA is receptive and encouraging of the premise that its success depends solely on people outside the foundation’s influence. Can the Gates Foundation rise to this expectation?


Yes, other countries should be educating their kids so they can start companies that fetch your mail from your mailbox and digitize it for you, because taking your mail out of your mailbox is one of the biggest problems facing Americans today.

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