I have an odd love-hate relationship with Bill Gates. Like many, I use Microsoft products and have issues with their design and stability. More personally, I grew up in Washington state and experienced the changes -- both positive and negative -- resulting from the growth of Microsoft and the transformation of the Seattle region that accompanied it. But whatever you think of Microsoft, you have to admit Gates has both an unusually analytic mind and an exceedingly well developed ability to understand the big picture. He also puts evidence ahead of ideology and, as a result, his thought tends to evolve in relation to changing circumstances rather than stay fixed. He first used those abilities to identify a series of opportunities in computer technology and rather ruthlessly grow a business.
But, as he has moved into retirement, he has progressively applied those same abilities to a wider context. Thus in the late 1990's, much to the surprise of his Silicon Valley competitors, he argued that what the developing world needed was not computer technology (which they were pushing) but, rather, innovation in the area of health. Thus, he created the Gates Foundation and proceeded to fund innovation in the areas of vaccines and seeds. Now, in this wake of the Copenhagen debacle, Gates has shifted again, arguing that energy and climate are the central problem. His recent TED talk provides an exceptionally clear analysis of the benefits and, in particular, the technical and logistical hurdles associated with a variety of clean energy solutions. Interestingly, he is now seriously supporting development of a relatively unknown form of nuclear power, the traveling wave nuclear reactor (aka TerraPower). And, irrespective of whatever one may think of him, this is an interesting development in that his pedigree as the world's most successful late-20th century capitalist means his statements and views might reach climate skeptics in ways that others can't.