Friday, June 27, 2008

Gates's Legacy

No doubt the ample offerings of video clips and articles commenting on Bill Gates' upcoming last day as a Microsoft employee have folks lamenting enough already...fair enough. However, while the common meditation has been one that asks who'll fill Gates' shoes or how he'll continue to build the Gates Foundation I am excited to think about the context that he's been so influential in creating. For those in technology tribes this may seem obvious, taken for granted even, but the legacy I have found myself coming back to is that of hope and excitement. Certainly such a feeling could be just a geneaological extension of this year's election commentary. But, I don't think it is. I am really excited about what Bill Gates has made possible. I am equally, if not more, excited about what I anticipate he'll do in his future endeavors. Teaching in a humanities cohort I am all too familiar with the critiques of MSFT and Gates, sadly critiques that betray an intellectually irresponsible theorizing of the hegemony in which we exist and operate; regardless of one's feelings about Gates' tenacious approach to building MSFT, the fact is that he's enabled a new way of knowing and living that holds potential for better lives. As Wired iterated, he enabled a technolgy industry (that does have potential to empower) that we couldn't have dreamed of just a few decades ago. We're not there, in fact we're a long way off; but the work of Bill Gates has created a context from which we can strive for utopias. As a techno-humanist I thinks that's the project at hand, and it's a very very exciting one. To pursue this project means to challenge today's tech leaders to best Gates' record of innovation and articulation of utopia...only then can a critique be levied. I'd surmise though, that at that point lauding Gates' legacy once again will probably seem more apropos.

1 comment:

brownstudy said...

At a software company I worked at in the mid-90s, several of the Windows developers loved the consistency and expectations that Windows brought to their profession. They had a consistent platform that they could concentrate on and get to know well, rather than having to code for Apple II, CPM, DOS, and other OS dialects. (I loved playing Infocom text adventure games back in the day, and they had to have versions for Commodore 64/128, Apple, DOS, Mac, and maybe a few others.)

It's interesting to read this blog post and compare it to your previous one on the growing ubiquity of the iPhone, and wondering what a major player in the mobile app market could do to establish a common platform that works well enough and easily enough to encourage more consumers and more developers to get on board.