Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings

By Charles Lemert | Go to book overview

alter those webs incrementally. Culture and social relations, however, do not alter unpredictably; they interact, and they obey strong constraints as they interact.❖

Bill Gates ( 1955-) was born and grew up in Seattle, Washington. He is sometimes considered the world's most famous college dropout. He left Harvard to found the Microsoft Corporation in 1976. Today, Gates is the chairman and chief executive officer of Microsoft, which is a dominant force in the marketplace of software products. Gates is among the wealthiest individuals in the world. His fortune owes to the power and ingenious simplicity of the software tools he envisaged and then created soon after leaving school. The selection is from The Road Ahead, his bestselling book.


The Information Age

Bill Gates( 1996)

This is an exciting time in the Information Age. It is the very beginning. Almost everywhere I go, whether to speak to a group or have dinner with friends, questions come up about how information technology will change our lives. People want to understand how it will make the future different, whether it will make our lives better or worse.

It should be obvious by now that I'm an optimist about the impact of the new technology. It will enhance our leisure time and enrich our culture by expanding the distribution of information. It will help relieve pressures on urban areas by enabling people to work from home or remote-site offices. It will relieve pressures on natural resources because increasing numbers of products will take the form of bits rather than manufactured goods. It will give us more control over our lives, enabling us to tailor our experiences and the products we use to our interests. Citizens of the information society will enjoy new opportunities for productivity, learning, and entertainment. Countries that move boldly and in concert with each other will enjoy economic rewards. Whole new markets will emerge, and a myriad of new opportunities for employment will be created.

For the past few hundred years every generation has found more efficient ways of getting work done, and the cumulative benefits have been enormous. The average person today enjoys a much better life than the nobility did a few centuries ago. It would be great to have a medieval king's land, but what about his lice? Medical advances alone have greatly increased life spans and improved standards of living.

In the first part of the twentieth century, Henry Ford was the automotive industry, but your car is superior to anything he ever drove. It's safer and more reliable, and it certainly has a better sound system. This pattern of improvement isn't going to change. Advancing productivity propels societies forward, and it's only a matter of time before the average person in a developed country will be "richer" in many ways than anyone is today.

Just because I'm optimistic doesn't mean that I don't have concerns about what's going to happen to all of us. Major changes always involve tradeoffs, and the benefits

____________________
From The Road Ahead ( New York: Viking Penguin, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by William H. Gates III. Used by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc.

-615-

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