In my recent blogs on technology I’ve been looking at how it affects me directly. However to move it up a notch or two, one thing it is doing is propelling us towards a truly global economy. Now, back to the personal, I can buy anything I want from almost anywhere in the world. Most of the time unless I check the small print I won’t know where it’s been made. While this seems to be good for the consumer it also seems to be good for the largest companies with the widest reach and therefore the richest in our society. I suppose I wonder where this is taking us?
In the news recently I read that 1% of people now own more wealth than the rest of the world put together. And that 80 people own more wealth than 3.5 billion of the world’s people put together ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-30875633). I’ve blogged before about the fact that more and more wealth is increasingly in the hands of fewer and fewer people. It’s not that I’m coming from any particular political angle, I just wonder how this trend can be sustained i.e. to make the commercial world go round people have to have money to spend and if ever more of that is in the hands of fewer and fewer people I can’t see how it works. I know that those with all that money will buy things that others have to be employed to make. But some of that wealth will be used in making more wealth, or be invested, or ‘squirreled’ away.
On the other hand Bill and Melinda Gates have also been in the news talking, in the ‘2015 Gates Annual Letter’ (http://www.gatesnotes.com/2015-annual-letter) about the work of their foundation and their predictions for the next 15 years. They forsee major breakthroughs for millions of people in Africa, where they become wealthier (I knows it’s all relative):
‘They will be living longer and in better health. They will have unprecedented opportunities to get an education, eat nutritious food, and benefit from mobile banking. These breakthroughs will be driven by innovation in technology — ranging from new vaccines and hardier crops to much cheaper smartphones and tablets — and by innovations that help deliver those things to more people.’
In the last 8 years or so that I worked in the pharmaceutical industry I worked directly and indirectly with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation in the field of Malaria drug development. They put tens of billions into the foundation and changed the face of malaria (and other neglected disease) research. They also invested heavily in capacity building i.e. building up the expertise and facilities in Africa so they are better equipped on all levels to tackle the issues that affect them. So when they commit to such a fifteen year vision I believe them.
Going back to my first paragraph though, I’m struggling to see how these two pictures of the future go together. Can the rich get richer and the poor get richer too? Or is something going to have to give? Bill Gates calls on others to follow their example and I’m sure some are, but I don’t see much evidence of it in the same way that he’s committed to it. It would be great if they did and hundreds of billions were ploughed back into society, in projects such as the BMG foundation, or perhaps in space exploration as I’ve advocated before. The downside to this model of course is that the way that money is spent will be partially at least down to the views of individuals rather than via any democratic process. I guess you can’t have it all.
As always views welcome. Also in this case explanations of how a scenario of the rich continually getting richer can work for the world?