Bill chill

A new review in Nature of Tim Schwab’s book “The Bill Gates problem: reckoning with the myth of the good billionaire”, which talks about biases that affect philanthropy and how, often, state access to the same money would have resulted in its usage across a more diverse class of social needs, mentions a particularly interesting thing called the “Bill chill” as follows:

Schwab shows [...] Gates has pursued a charitable monopoly similar to the one he built in the corporate world. He has shown that in philanthropy—just as in business—concentrated power can manufacture ‘success’ by skewing news coverage, absorbing peers and neutralizing oversight ... he describes a phenomenon that concerned activists and researchers call the “Bill chill”. By micromanaging research and dictating methods of analysis, the foundation effectively forces scientists to go down one path — towards the results and conclusions that the charity might prefer. (emphasis added)

This brings to the fore several questions about the intent driving altruism in billionaires. Taxes have been a great driver no doubt, but if you are going to give away money anyway should you not have an independent, rotating body of academics and industry specialists deciding where it should go rather than a corporate-adjacent hierarchy you put in place yourself? But of course, as Schwab writes, “the world needs Bill Gates’s money. But it doesn’t need Bill Gates.”

How different is all this from Shell and Exxon hiding research that predicted climate change as far back as the 1960s? In the end, things come to light that funding agencies allow into the light.

This is a note, a brief thought or reflection recorded for being meaningful or for sharing things of interest. Longer writings are in the essays section.