This post is completely my own formulation and the thoughts here are completely my own. They have in no way been influenced by the company I work for, media propaganda, or any other means of influence. This post is based on my personal observations and opinions.
The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will
expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about
yourself. – Bill Gates
Recently, Elon Musk announced his plans for the Hyperloop and that was when the world went gaga! This effect was particularly felt by me on Quora, however, since the question “Who is Elon Musk?” became more popular than a viral meme. One interesting answer was the comparison of Mr. Musk to famed fictional inventor, Tony Stark, who we all better know as Iron Man. But after reading some articles on Hacker News and Reddit, it has become very apparent to me who the real Tony Stark of this world is.
It would be very hard to find a person who does not know who Bill Gates is. For everyone educated, we know him as one of the richest men in the world. For everyone working in a well-paying job, we know him as the founder of the company that has in some way or the other created our job. For the uneducated and the poor, we know him as someone who spends his days and nights fighting to save people from hunger, disease and illiteracy. This article in the Wall Street Journal was what changed my perception permanently. Most of us know about the profound effects The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has had in Africa in fighting Malaria. But I never realized, even after living in India for the last 22 years, that this man made as much headway in the fight against Polio as anybody in my country. Here is an American businessman, with so much money that he could burn it to keep his house warm, trying to save people in a foreign country for no direct profit other than the humanitarian rewards. And he is mobilizing my compatriots to do it in the best way possible.
This was after a year filled with Mr. Gates pushing the envelope further. His condemnation of pseudo-altruistic actions by his peers (read about it here), his devotion to seeing children educated the right way, especially with computer literacy (see the wonderful video here) and his promotion of innovation via his company (ImagineCup, BizSpark, Microsoft Research, the list goes on), are all testimony to his efforts. Individually, they don’t seem like much. Taken together, you get a much more vivid picture.
Ask yourself once, who is Tony Stark? Genius, Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist seems to be the popular answer owing to the success of The Avengers. Tony Stark is a superhero who spent his life using his genius and resources to save mankind from the trouble that befell it. While we don’t have to worry about alien races invading us, there are much more concerning and realistic problems in this world that need our immediate attention. This TED talk provides more insight. And right now, it seems that only Mr. Gates is taking the necessary action with his genius and resources. All this, while his peers go on about fancy gadgets that will change the world, but not help a single child dying of starvation. He is being the Philanthropist.
So while Mr. Musk (and a dozen others) gladly rejoices in his magnificent achievements, which I agree are absolutely stunning, calling him our era’s Tony Stark felt plain wrong to me. No matter the amount of hate Microsoft has generated for itself from various communities, this is about more than a single company. This is about global-scale problems which we as engineers are obligated to tackle. Problems that are more meaningful and have an impact. One engineer is tackling them, and I hope to follow in his footsteps. This is why, for his heroic efforts and contributions to the world, Mr. Bill Gates is the true Tony Stark of my era.
Truly an inspiration.