Re: Bill Gates

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Sat, 04 Oct 1997 21:31:07 -0500

[In response to Lee Daniel Crocker:]

Bill Gates and Microsoft have been known to commit illegal acts. I'm not
talking about antitrust, but about acts which would remain illegal under a
Libertarian government... although, since I believe you support abolishment of
patents and copyright laws, you might not see it that way. (IMHO, this
constitutes the abolishment of private property on the informational level,
and hence Communism as we move towards an information-based economy.)

I'm not talking about the Macintosh business, which was all invented by Xerox
anyway. Pen Windows, for example, was stolen from GO computing; Microsoft
Post-It will also run if you type "3M Post-It". ("Damn, I knew we forget something.")

To some extent, Microsoft's dominance derives from their illegal and unlawful
theft of intellectual property. Even if intellectual property should be
abolished, as Lee advocates, Microsoft's competitors couldn't use Microsoft's
intellectual property, and Microsoft was either stealing or using coercion so
that only it had free access to intellectual property. Unlawful, any way you
look at it.

I do not condemn or condone Bill Gates. He is one of very few people that
have fully realized an inalienable individual right that has become unpopular
in modern times: The right to exert decisive influence on the course of history.

But it is possible that Microsoft's dominance continues because numerous small
competitors, that should by right have replaced Microsoft in its niche,
instead failed because Microsoft stole their software.

Bill Gates is neither wholly good nor wholly evil. He is a genius, and it is
ultimately his intelligence and his will that powers all of Microsoft.
Intelligence above all is power, as I believe I have said elsewhere, and it is
possible that this near-unique fact of genius in control is what maintains
Microsoft above all others. Microsoft also goes out of its way to recruit
geniuses regardless of their coding ability, in the wish to "train them up".
This tremendous fund of brainpower may also go a long way towards powering Microsoft.

Bill Gates has acted more than once to influence charitable issues he regards
as important, such as educational quality. He regards himself (or claims to)
as someone who simply happens to be a steward of a large share of humanity's
resources. He has stated that he intends to give all of his wealth away
before he dies.

He has also acted unethically, at least in my judgement, in order to preserve
Microsoft's preeminence. He has stolen, lied, cheated, and blackmailed. So,
of course, have most of the other great men of our time; he was simply the
most successful, and I doubt that he ever viewed himself as stepping outside
the bounds of fair but utterly cutthroat competition.

He's someone to be reckoned with in Silicon Valley and indeed the whole world.
He has taken on archetypical status, entered into the realm of legend. He
spends at least 10% of his time talking to the media. He has power and even
the sort of power that corrupts. He has genius-level intelligence, but not
necessarily all *kinds* of intelligence. He's not a servant of any ideology.
His "The Road Ahead" is as much a computerized failure of imagination as "To
Renew America". And he's human, and mortal, and fallible, and lacks any great
ethical imperative to override his own self-interest. He's very, very
competitive. He'd use nuclear weapons on his opponents and call it fair play,
and in Silicon Valley, he may be right. What matters to him is winning.

Bill Gates once scored in the top ten in his state. I scored second for the
Midwest for the grade above mine. I know full well that someday, we'll either
be boon allies or blood enemies. You'd better believe I'm studying him very carefully.

--       Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.