Sunday, June 25, 2006

Billionaires and Weirdos

Warren Buffett is going to give most of his $44 billion fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest philanthropy with more than $29 billion. $60 billion, I figure is the equivalent of $10 per person on the planet, and several times more for the people who actually need help.

"Buffett told Fortune that he decided to start giving his money away now because he has been impressed with Bill and Melinda Gates and the work they've done through their foundation." Only a few days ago, the media was saying in response to Bill Gates' announcement that this would incite a trend among the other mega-wealthy corporate executives. And so it's true...

And so capitalism does not stop at the pursuit of self-interest and profit. This development is in line with Adam Smith's idea that "By pursuing his own interest, [an individual] frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the [common] good." (Wealth of Nations) In more than one way, the products that the company created improved standard of living in society, and after all that, the enormous profits he made go back to society.

These people are deciding to give their money away during their lifetime. There is a higher purpose than being the world's richest man and leader of one of the most successful companies.


I decided to explore downtown San Mateo this weekend. In logical CS fashion, I tried to walk the area using the shortest path covering all sidewalk storefronts once, not more not less.

There is a new "spiritual" bookstore on B street. The Web site kind of turns off normal people with its hokey-looking astrologer-karma-crystal ball-palm reader services, and the inventory of books in the store seem a little more hokey and less intellectual than perhaps the spirituality section you might find at Kepler's. However, I did find a magazine on tai chi, so not all time was wasted. There was like a weird energy vibe in the store, from an alternate universe. I got the feeling that I committed some sort of faux pas by just walking in the store and starting to browse. The owners were sitting by the front door yakking, and it was like customers are supposed to have a bonding session with them or something. Anyway, the owners are former corporate-type workers, which continues the train of thought that the world is turning upside down.

War produces hippies. This time hippie-ness is going mainstream, actually in a weird capitalistic corporate MBA-type way. This is the stuff I read in major newspapers today:

More women being pointed (and pricked) toward holistic alternative health treatments
Acupuncture might be old news, but ayurveda is new to us. Perhaps the hokey Web sites with home remedies that Google searches produced a lot of in the last few years will evolve to something less dismissable.

Crazy Healers Enter The World
Want to feel better about the state of modern medicine? Watch naturopathic doctors graduate

And a more normal:
Chinese medicine gaining respectability in West
FDA support for testing of botanical drugs helps boost credibility of ancient herbal treatments

I'm still waiting for the generation-defining music.


Are people just becoming more weird? I mean, can't people be progressive without being like aliens from outer-space? Or maybe it's because of the trend of the normal middle-class moving out of the expensive Bay Area, which leaves the super-rich, the poor, and the in-between that stays are the super-alternative-weird religion-polygamous types who can't go anywhere else. I'm just ranting because there aren't any normal people left at my once-favorite dance event. Actually it's not so much the aforementioned characteristics, but more of a pure weirdness.

The atmosphere or soul of an event in a location can be ephemeral. You can take it with you, but the community may not be there or similar when you return. At the same time, the way I view the community has probably changed.

Tai chi is the current replacement.