As the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates is certainly no stranger to technological advancement. In a recent interview with Axios, however, the businessman and philanthropist voiced his concerns over the potential negative impact such advances could have — issues that he’ll delve more deeply into with the release of the annual letter from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation later today.
“There’s always the question how much technology is empowering a small group of people to cause damage,” Gates said, his words primarily directed at the large technology companies currently dominating the market, such as Apple.
Gates continued, pointing out that such monopolies aren’t just about computers and smartphones. “A small group can have an impact — in the case of nuclear [weapons], on millions; and in the case of bio[terror], on billions. That is scary to me.”
The warning was directed at those in Silicon Valley, as Gates worries the companies’ activities could hinder the ability of the government to do its job ( that is, “under appropriate review,” he was careful to note). Gates specifically honed in on the issue of information access, alluding to tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Apple, who may have an “enthusiasm about making financial transactions anonymous and invisible, and their view that even a clear mass-murdering criminal’s communication should never be available to the government.”
Gates suggests the companies self-evaluate to see if the issues they’re facing could be solved by utilizing government oversight — and he’s not offering advice with a lack of experience to back it up. Gates told Axios that if these companies heed his warning, they might avoid what Gates described as the “nightmarish government intervention” he contended with for Microsoft.
Whatever a company’s goals, values, and ideals may be, they are not above or aside the law. “The tech companies have to be … careful that they’re not trying to think their view is more important than the government’s view,” Gates said. “Or than the government being able to function in some key areas.”