Why is Bill Gates, “practically a social cripple,” going to save the world? Because of numbers, says Clive Thompson in Wired. More than most, the Microsoft maverick -- who spearheads tireless crusades against poverty and AIDS -- can comprehend large quantities, while research shows that most of us start losing count (or caring as much) after we tally about 8.
“The problem isn't a moral failing: It's a cognitive one,” Thompson says. We just feel more for one sufferer than we do for a photo packed with people in need. Which may mean that a Gatesian numbers man makes for a better leader. “What we need are more Bill Gateses -- people with Aspergian focus, with a direct sensual ability to understand what a million means.”