Bill Gates is no Steve Jobs. He’s not a charismatic showman or messianic artist-technologist. He’s something arguably better than that: He’s an action hero. Who else but a comic-book superhuman could claim credit for saving nearly six million lives? Such is the argument made by a handsome infographic created by Frugaldad.com called "Redefining Action Hero: Bill Gates is Better than Batman." (Actually it’s more like one of those long-scrolling graphic slideshows than a true infographic, but we’ll let this one slide.)
Obviously, Bill Gates didn’t literally save every one of those lives with his own two bare hands; Frugal Dad is making a point about the impact of Gates’s philanthropic organization, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is dedicated to (among other things) eradicating diseases like malaria, whooping cough, and yellow fever. According to the sources cited, Mr. Gates’s philanthropic giving is directly responsible for saving 5,812,000 lives "by bringing vaccines and improved health care to children internationally"—and possibly 7.6 million by 2019, "all children under five." When you put it that way, Gates sounds better than Superman, Jesus, and Santa Claus put together, not just Batman.
It’s rather amazing that Gates has given $28 billion to charity so far, $2 billion more than the U.S. budget for foreign aid—part of a commitment to disbursing at least half his entire net worth within his own lifetime. But it’s not only about writing checks. According to the graphic, Gates created a multiplier on his own capital in the form of The Gavi Alliance, which brings the influence of UNICEF, the United Nations, and the World Bank to bear on pharmaceutical companies with the goal of getting them to lower the cost of lifesaving drugs. Cheaper vaccines mean more people (especially children) in developing nations don’t die of diseases the rest of us never have to worry about. The alliance successfully pushed the cost of a rotavirus vaccine down by 99%.
Not to be a jerk, but there’s no record of Steve Jobs—the saint to Gates’s Satan in the minds of many—giving a cent to philanthropic causes during his lifetime. So it’s great to see a less obviously charismatic (or even sympathetic) figure like Gates getting his due from someone in the design community. Both of these men were technology visionaries whose companies changed the world, but only one of them arguably changed the world more after he left his company behind.