Michael Jordan vs. Bill Gates: a second look

First, before I get to the main topic of this post, I think I need to say a little piece here. As many times as I have condemned the actions of corporations such as Microsoft, I have as of yet seen no reason to extend condemnation down to individuals working for the company. In fact, as a general rule I have not condemned the actions of individuals at all in my blog posts.

This, unfortunately, is unsustainable. Corporations are a function of the people that work for them, particularly their leadership. This is true of behemoths such as Microsoft all the way down to small garage/basement operations where the corporate filing fee is a relatively large expense.

I have not finished writing it, but I am drafting a post expressing my strong criticism of and contempt for something else Bill Gates has been doing, which is entirely disconnected from his involvement from Microsoft. There’s no sense leaving the gloves on now if I know I’m going to be taking them off later. With that said, on with the rest of the post…

I recently ran across this gem during a particularly lazy StumbleUpon session. I’ll cut out all the fat and leave the meat:

Is It Better To Be a Jock Or A Nerd…?
Michael Jordan having “retired,” with $40 million in endorsements, makes $178,100 a day, working or not.

(skip a whole bunch of silly things that put $40 million per year in some kind of perspective)

Amazing isn’t it? However…

If Jordan saves 100% of his income for the next 450 years, he’ll still have less than Bill Gates has today.

Game over. Nerd wins.

The premise is that one’s life is a success solely based on money. This is not always the case.

I never was Michael Jordan’s biggest fan, though mainly that was due to my rather strong team loyalty at the time; during the height of Jordan’s spectacular career, I was strictly a Houston Rockets fan, and even today I will quit following a sport’s post-season once my team has been eliminated. (Quick trivia note: the Houston Rockets never faced Michael Jordan as a player even once in the post-season.) These days, I can take a further step back and admire most great athletes strictly for their talent, regardless of which teams they play for.

I would much rather be Michael Jordan than Bill Gates today. I could not live with myself doing what Bill Gates has done. It is not the amount of money as much as the journey of getting it, looking back later, and being able to look myself in the mirror and being able to say (or not) that I am proud of what I have done.

I would never be proud of building walls between people, and forbidding them from helping their neighbors. This is exactly what Bill Gates has done, as the leader of Microsoft.

I just happen to have open an FSF Europe page entitled “Six questions to national standardisation bodies about MS-OOXML (Office Open XML). [edit: see note below] As a key shaper of the corporate culture at Microsoft, Gates played a strong role in making this kind of thing happen. Though his two decades plus of day-to-day involvement with the company ended recently, the corporate culture will take much longer to change. The questions FSF Europe raises here with regard to OOXML highlight just one example of Microsoft’s “holier than thou” mentality.

(I misread the Wikipedia article when I first wrote this; Gates was around day-to-day at Microsoft well into 2008, not 2006.)

Microsoft has changed in how it has countered the human tendency to help one’s neighbors. In 1976, Bill Gates himself wrote the well-known Open Letter to Hobbyists. Through the 1990s Microsoft ran an “Install One, Copy None” campaign, and by the turn of the century when CDs were the major form of physical media for software, most of Microsoft’s were imprinted with “Do Not Make Illegal Copies Of This Disc.”

And finally we have the obnoxious and draconian “product activation” that came into play with Windows XP. This is part of what fueled my desire to cut ties with Microsoft once and for all, and never give them another penny of my money. I had tolerated keeping Windows on one of my PCs, used primarily for running games not available for GNU/Linux. Today, I’m simply less picky about the games I play; today, the only time I use Windows–or any other proprietary OS such as MacOS X–today is on computers that do not actually belong to me.

Put Michael Jordan up against Richard Stallman, and I will agree the nerd wins. But if the choice is Michael Jordan or Bill Gates, sorry, the jock wins this one hands down.