This world has always been in need of role models. Heroes that we want to look up to striving to follow their path, their principles and ethos (if we mean business in this life, of course). For quite many years, tech entrepreneurs and IT start-up founders worship one iConic hero wrapped in myths and adoration, with zealots standing in lines any time a new iPhone is out; and it seems they'd tear apart anyone who dares not to like Apple products. As great and outstanding an achiever and innovator as Steve Jobs is, his life was far from being a glossy success story, judging by what people say and write. There's something tragic about him, a Prometheus-like charisma, as if he's torn his heart out of himself, lightning people's way with a technology wonder, and then perished, chained to the rocks of self-oblivion.
May God bless Steve Jobs' memory and let him rest in peace. There's this other guy who looks rather laid back, than tragic, and who goes on serving the humankind. Being born same year as Jobs, 1955, he still lives and does things that reach far beyond designing devices, or making a religion out of them. Quoting from a recent Gates' interview to the Rolling Stone magazine:
At 58, Bill Gates is not only the richest man in the world, with a fortune that now exceeds $76 billion, but he may also be the most optimistic. In his view, the world is a giant operating system that just needs to be debugged. .. Huge systems, whether it's Windows 8, global poverty or climate change, can be improved if you have the right tools and the right skills. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation .. is like a giant startup whose target market is human civilization.
I am old enough to have witnessed how Microsoft evolved in the 90's, remembering this buzz about monopolism, and the image painted out of Bill Gates as a ruthless shark.
This dynamics changed closer to the mid 2000's. Gates was moved backstage, as if a by a scheduled scenery swap in a theater play, and Jobs came into spotlight. There's a rush of love for Apple, people adore iPhones, and Steve acquires his ardent fanbase. He drives the Apple empire with his spirit to stand out, to leave his technological footprint in this world, and as a result he burns himself out and falls prey to cancer. We've also witnessed the rise of Mark Zuckerberg, but I'm deliberately not letting Mark in to the super-heroes pantheon for one obvious reason: he's only 29, and his success is yet to stand the test of time. Although, I'd say humanity would hardly benefit too much, if at all, from Facebook and face recognition technologies (maybe security services will). Let's see what happens to Mark as he lives up to the age of 45, at least.
Back to Jobs and Gates. They say: "The best revenge is a life well-lived". We're not talking about a revenge here, rather about a wise path to live this life to the fullest, as a tech, and then global entrepreneur, and to have a broad outlook on the world, going beyond the realm of digital devices and designs. Is it wise to deify a person who lost his fight to stresses, and sacrificed himself to the altar of all things "I"? Probably, there's no finite answer to this question. It might be a matter of personal preference: some people feel more affinity with tragic heroes, who light up grey landscapes brightly and then fade away; some people appreciate the steady path of living and exploring, managing to care of themselves in such a way, so as to have as many years in this life as it can get, because more years bring more opportunities to serve the others.
There, I nailed it. Here's the main difference between our super-heroes. Looks like Steve Jobs' goal was to leave his footprint and be remembered for that. Bill Gates, on the contrary, seems to be more service-oriented in the way of humility. At least, the initiatives that he supports are a proof for that. Speaking of footprints, one of the projects that Bill Gates funds is a zero-CO2 emissions research, something that is very unlikely to be financed by a private or a state corporation.
All things considered, if we were to come up with the ultimate role model for aspiring tech entrepreneurs, whom would we choose now: Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?