Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Two Faces of Bill Gates

Gates just gave a speech advocating a kindler, gentler capitalism, posing a good brother to the poor. At the same time, Microsoft is embarking on the most far reaching monitoring of workers ever contrived in which wireless sensors could read “heart rate, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, body temperature, movement facial movements, facial expressions and blood pressure”, the application states. The system could also “automatically detect frustration or stress in the user” and "offer and provide assistance accordingly".

Guth, Robert A. 2008. "Bill Gates Issues Call for Kinder Capitalism: Famously Competitive, Billionaire Now Urges Business to Aid the Poor." Wall Street Journal (24 January): p. A 1.

"In a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the software tycoon plans to call for a "creative capitalism" that uses market forces to address poor-country needs that he feels are being ignored. "We have to find a way to make the aspects of capitalism that serve wealthier people serve poorer people as well," Mr. Gates will tell world leaders at the forum, according to a copy of the speech seen by The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Gates isn't abandoning his belief in capitalism as the best economic system. But in an interview with the Journal last week at his Microsoft office in Redmond, Wash., Mr. Gates said that he has grown impatient with the shortcomings of capitalism"."

Mostrous, Alexi and David Brown. 2008. "Microsoft Seeks Patent for Office 'Spy' Software." The Times (London) (16 January).

"Microsoft is developing Big Brother-style software capable of remotely monitoring a worker’s productivity, physical wellbeing and competence. The Times has seen a patent application filed by the company for a computer system that links workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism. The system would allow managers to monitor employees’ performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure. Unions said they fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of a computer’s assessment of their physiological state."

"Microsoft submitted a patent application in the US for a “unique monitoring system” that could link workers to their computers. Wireless sensors could read “heart rate, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, body temperature, movement facial movements, facial expressions and blood pressure”, the application states. The system could also “automatically detect frustration or stress in the user” and "offer and provide assistance accordingly". Physical changes to an employee would be matched to an individual psychological profile based on a worker’s weight, age and health. If the system picked up an increase in heart rate or facial expressions suggestive of stress or frustration, it would tell management that he needed help."


Shag from Brookline said...

And might Bill Gates' call for a "creative capitalism" suffer from "creative destructionism" in due course? Is what he proposes "win-win" or a "losing sum" game?

Anonymous said...

Gates is brilliant and he is continuing the legacy of Carnegie and others before him. Just ignore the sensationalists who are taking his ideas out of context. Giving is very capitalistic, just check out the Adam Smith essay quoted by Gates, and Yunus' work.

Anonymous said...

No matter what his intentions may be such a device, or system of devices, would certainly usher in the next, and latest, step forward in Big Brotherism. We begin to see that Orwell was not wrong, but only a wee bit premature in his vision of the brave new world that Huxley described post-1984. It is telling that the application doesn't describe the device as simply for the purpose of identification of the work station user. Heart rate and galvanic skin response are the two primary parameters used as lie detectors. In spite of the evidence that such lie detectors are unreliable government agencies continue to utilize them to ill effect on the individual being tested.

Robert D Feinman said...

Just for the record Carnegie gave money for library buildings. It was up to the local communities to supply the books.

What they got was a nice building with Carnegie's name on it, next to all the other "greats" of history.

So now Carnegie is remembered as a "philanthropist" and his brutal history of head bashing of workers gets swept under the rug. This was an early form of the edifice complex.

BIll Gates is trying a similar image rebuilding effort. He's not just giving away money, but telling the recipients how they can use it. There have been many complaints about his policies. These range from those who are specialists and have a better grasp on what needs to be done, to those who see highly trained doctors and nurses being drawn away from fundamental health care so that they can administer his malaria project.

There is a difference between philanthropy and charity. In a charity you give money and the charity decides how best to spend it (the Red Cross). In a philanthropy you give the money and you decide how to spend it. The ultimate ego trip.

Gates has always been power mad, this is just a new phase for him, software now not holding much of a challenge since he has eliminated the competition.

ProGrowthLiberal said...

Kudlow is bashing Gates. For the link and some Kudlow bashing (oh why not), see my post over at Angrybear.

Anonymous said...

Gates desires a techno version of neo neoliberalism.

"The alternative should not be against economic growth. In fact, it should be adamantly in favor of economic growth. Growth need not always generate adequate poverty reduction, and it can have adverse effects on environmental sustainability. But problems of poverty and the environment are much easier to handle in the context of robust economic activity than under stagnation.

The main strike against neoliberalism is not that it has produced growth at the cost of
greater poverty, heightened inequality, and environmental degradation, but that it has actually
failed to deliver the economic growth that the world needs..."
(Rodrik, 2002)

Manifesting as the post-Washington Consensus (PWC) development model's attempts to expand market relations while, through 'progress', 'partnership' and 'participation', simultaneously gaining control over and depoliticizing village to state level institutions and politics in countries such as Indonesia.

Kevin Carson said...

Considering that almost all of Gates' wealth comes from a state-enforced monopoly (so-called "intellectual property"), maybe he should just stop stealing the money in the first place.