Posts Tagged ‘Bill Gates’

Elon Musk, Hyperloop, and Giving

Hyperloop image: SpaceX

Hyperloop image: SpaceX

Today was a big day in the forward thinking department. Elon Musk, who has already wowed us over the years with dreaming up the Tesla Car, SpaceX (bailing out NASA and sending missions into space when they couldn’t), generating the everybody-uses-it-for-online-commerce site PayPal, and chairing the board of Solar City, today  announced his design for the Hyperloop, an 800-mile-per-hour train that could connect San Francisco and Los Angeles in a fraction of the time previously even imagined. The mag lev train will also transport cars, like a ferry system, along with people, somewhere not too far south of the speed of sound…and his plan is for a ticket to cost about twenty bucks.

I’m so pleased with so much of the recent future thinking that is not exclusively profit-driven…so I wanted to see what Mr. Musk is up to on the philanthropic and charitable side of things.

His main thrust in giving is The Musk Foundation, and its focus on aerospace, clean energy, science education, and pediatric health. Big actions of the foundation include bringing usable and inexpensive energy to disaster-hit regions (Gulf-Coast Alabama after Katrina and the BP Oil Spill, and the area near Fukushima, Japan devastated by the earthquake and tsunami) along with plenty of grants to organizations with missions falling under the umbrella focus of the Musk group.

He has also signed on for the Warren Buffet/Bill Gates Giving Pledge (pledging, along with other billionaires, to give at least half of his fortune to charitable causes), and he serves on multiple boards of foundations and organizations.

I dig the future thinking–more for the thinking of the future of people and the planet than anything else. By the way, when he published his extremely detailed plans for the high speed train today–he gave it away for free, with no patents, under open-source licensing. That, is how to be rich.

Giving Half

Some guys have all the luck. And some guys have all the dough…or at least it seems like it. I have to say I have a hefty appreciation for the super rich that are putting their money into making the whole world, not just their slice of it, a better place.

Philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett have challenged a few hundred of the richest Americans to pledge half of their fortunes to their favorite causes, either during their lifetimes or in their wills.

The Gates family already gives billions via their own Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is a truly life-changing charitable organization dedicated to conquering some of the world’s worst poverty and disease.  The Gates have invested over 30 billion dollars there and vigorously support other charitable foundations.

In 2006, Buffett took the lead with his own pledge: to donate 99% of his wealth. He says he commits it “to benefit others who, through the luck of the draw, have received the short straws in life.”

At, the three titans of finance call upon other rich people to make a conscious commitment to giving a “majority” of their wealth to philanthropy…50% or better…and to go public with their pledges to motivate others to do the same. Worldwide figures suggest that there are about 1,000 billionaires in the world, and shy of 400 in the United States (the pledge challenge is currently focused on the richest of the US, with plans to reach out internationally in the future). If every one took up the challenge, it would represent about $600 billion for philanthropic and charitable causes (chosen by the donors) around the globe.

Don’t be discouraged or feel left out if your bank balance doesn’t fall in line with the Gates family or Buffett’s…the pledge was inspired by people like you and me. The final line of the official pledge is “We are inspired by the example set by millions of Americans who give generously (and often at great personal sacrifice) to make the world a better place.”

The Lunchbox Fund

The Lunchbox Fund is a charity founded in 2004 to aid school children in Soweto, South Africa. The students of economically impoverished Meadowlands School and, now, three additional schools, are directly impacted by the Fund. The cause is simple–feed the hungry. Even simpler is the methodology–provide a free nutritious lunch at school. For far too many it may be their only healthy meal of the day, and it adds a great incentive for attendance. Keeping kids in schools and keeping minds and bodies fed. Answers to some of the world’s largest problems needn’t be complex.

The Fund also does a celebrity-driven annual fundraiser, where stars decorate lunchboxes that are then put up for auction. From Bono to Bill Gates to Bill Clinton to Beyonce to Chef Mario Batali to Bowie (and a whole bunch of folks who don’t alliterate with the B’s), everybody does a box, and the money makes an entire generation grow.