Bill Gates: The World's Chief Moral Engineer

The front page of yesterday's Financial Times is dominated by the news of Bill Gates' transition from Chief Software Architect to Chief Moral Architect. Gates' shift from Microsoft employee to Gates Foundation visionary is great news for the world. Now the question is how to invest his $50 billion to make the planet more habitable.

Adjacent to the FT's full color photo of a sweatered Bill Gates, is a single column news piece about cities. We are told of a United Nations report predicting more than half the world's population will live in cities by 2007. In contrast with Gates' latest career move, this is ominous news. As yesterday's FT reported:

In many places, most of that growth will come from slums.... A new wave of megacities, with more than 10 million inhabitants, and "metacities" -- conurbations of more than 20 million -- are gaining ground across Asia, Latin America and Africa."

This is more than a simply a problem of economic injustice. The consequences of these increasingly lawless megacities will have a huge impact on the industrialized world. Not only are these places the most fertile grounds for the breeding of Al Qaeda style movements of rage, but they also will compound the economic, cultural and political lawlessness of an increasingly hyperpolar world.

For a focused problem solver like Bill Gates, the new wave of megacities represents the most rigorous challenge imaginable. The world is faced with no more pressing an environmental, political, economic or ethical issue. Gates is only 51 years old. Let's hope that his not inconsiderable success as Chief Software Architect at Microsoft will be a footnote to his truly incredible achievements as the world's Chief Moral Architect.