Thursday, February 18, 2010

You've Come a Long Way Baby

The May 1996 issue of Boardwatch Magazine featured the now infamous Billgatus of Borg with a story of Microsoft's ongoing assimilation of all that is software in the personal computer industry and the Internet. What's happened since then to the infamous billionaire and his proclamations and philanthropy?

Well, on February 12th at the TED conference, he proclaimed that his top priority is now getting to zero emissions by 2050. End of story. Finis. Just as we have all been assimilated by Microsoft (not). But this is an important public commitment for him to make, since at this point his corporate and phlianthropic policies are close to trumping the political policies of entire countries. No behind-the-scenes here like we get with the oil companies (2 wars in Iraq and counting, one in Afghanistan, several in the oven) and the financial/banking industry (one global fiscal collapse so far). Right out there were everyone can see it and let the marketing department know how it plays out in Peoria.

It remains to be seen how we wrangle out the details, since reducing emissions involves a carbon tax, not cap-and-trade. Along with drastic lifestyle alterations and fewer people. But I'm optimistic that people will want to choose how we shrink our planetary impact as opposed to just driving it over the edge and having the whole thing come down. Like we've watched the global financial meltdown over the last year...somehow just selling paper and crunching funny numbers doesn't work. You have to actually accomplish something in the real world.