January 25, 2008
Here's an extended excerpt of Gates' remarks to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 24, 2008:
"There are billions of people who need the great inventions of the computer age, and many more basic needs as well. But they have no way of expressing their needs in ways that matter to markets. So they go without.
"If we are going to have a serious chance of changing their lives, we will need another level of innovation. Not just technology innovation — we need system innovation. That's what I want to discuss with you here in Davos today.
"Let me begin by expressing a view that might not be widely shared.
"The world is getting better.
"In significant and far-reaching ways, the world is a better place to live than it has ever been.
"Consider the status of women and minorities in society — virtually any society — compared to any time in the past.
"Consider that life expectancy has nearly doubled in the past hundred years.
"Consider governance — the number of people today who vote in elections, express their views, and enjoy economic freedom compared to any time in the past.
"In these crucial areas, the world is getting better.
"These improvements have been matched, and in some cases triggered, by advances in science, technology, and medicine. They have brought us to a high point in human welfare. We are at the start of a technology-driven revolution in what people will be able to do for one another. In the coming decades, we will have astonishing new abilities to diagnose illness, heal disease, educate the world's children, create opportunities for the poor, and harness the world's brightest minds to solve our most difficult problems.
"This is how I see the world, and it should make one thing clear: I am an optimist.
"But I am an impatient optimist.
"The world is getting better, but it’s not getting better fast enough, and it's not getting better for everyone.
"The great advances in the world have often aggravated the inequities in the world. The least needy see the most improvement, and the most needy see the least — in particular the billion people who live on less than a dollar a day...."
-- Mitch Nauffts