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Bill Gates, Showman

This has gotten a good bit of coverage — which is the point. In his talk at the TED conference this week, about his efforts to eradicate malaria in the developing world, Gates releases some (non-malarial, I suppose?) mosquitoes while onstage, saying, “There’s no reason only poor people should experience this.”

Because of its size alone, the Gates Foundation is hugely important, but it’s also nice to see fresh thinking brought to bear on a problem like malaria, which doesn’t require a high-tech solution as much as it needs a willingness to promote a low-tech solution, mosquito nets, that no one is going to make a ton of money from. This is similar to the problem of providing clean water — there are very simple solutions available, from clay filters like those produced by Potters for Peace to low-tech UV purification. Problem is that because they’re low-tech, there’s no opportunity for a big company to come in and make a killing, and thus things don’t get done. Whether Gates’ mosquitoes transmit empathy remains to be seen.

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