Bill Gates Unleashes Mosquitoes On Tech's Elite

Microsoft chairman's stunt highlights malaria's continuing threat to the developing world.

Paul McDougall

February 5, 2009

1 Min Read
Network Computing logo

While some critics accuse Microsoft of releasing software that contains bugs, company chairman Bill Gates unleashed a literal version of the creatures on a conference audience comprising some of the tech industry's most influential leaders.

Gates pulled the surprise stunt Wednesday at the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference in Long Beach, Calif. His point: to drive home the message that mosquito-borne viruses, particularly malaria, are a continuing threat to people in the developing world despite the dawning of the 21st century.

"Malaria is spread by mosquitoes," said Gates, according to news service Agence France-Presse. "I brought some here. I'll let them roam around. There is no reason only poor people should be infected," the Microsoft chairman told stunned observers, according to AFP.

Gates quickly informed the crowd, however, that his mosquitoes were malaria-free.

Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates is pushing for efforts to eradicate malaria from poor countries in Africa and Asia. Each year, 350 million to 500 million new cases of malaria are diagnosed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease is often fatal if left untreated.

The TED conference is running throughout the week. Speakers include Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell, self-help guru Tony Robbins, and futurist Ray Kurzweil. The conference is by invitation-only, but Webcasts of sessions are available on the TED Web site.

Beyond releasing live insects, Gates' conference activities included an expression of confidence in technology's ability to help resolve the current economic crisis. But, he warned, "only by paying attention and making people care can we make as much progress as we need to" on humanitarian issues.

About the Author(s)

Paul McDougall

Editor At Large, InformationWeek

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox
More Insights