Infinite outliers

May 23, 2010
2 minutes read

You’ve probably heard the tale of success several times. He was determined. His will to keep moving never wavered. He kept doing the smart thing over and over until someone recognized it. The extreme poverty taught him lessons necessary for the cut throat business world (eh?)

In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell argues how a person’s success isn’t because he’s talented, hardworking, etc. There are other factors as well, like opportunities, your surroundings, and even your ancestors.

Sure, you need to be hardworking and all that good stuff. But there are other critical factors that determine whether you’ll be successful or not. Things that are beyond your control. The book is full of examples. One of them being Bill Gates.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Obviously, he was talented, hardworking, sincere, etc. But the one critical factor that determined his success? He got a “time-shared” computer in 1968, when he was 13 years old. In 1968, the top colleges didn’t have even a punch-card based computer, let alone time-shared. Thus his interest in software took off.

And why did this happen? Because his parents were super rich. They could afford a computer when colleges and universities couldn’t

So, the author raises a question. Why didn’t the scientists provide computers to all 13 year olds in the world in 1968. We’d have millions of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs today (a meagre 0.1% of the population of a billion). And that would be great. Just imagine products like iPods and Windows 7 coming out every day from each of these companies. Why not start doing this now?

Well, here’s a possible answer.

The Earth can’t support so much. It doesn’t have enough resources (oil, electricity, minerals, et al). Imagine a million Googles running around the world. Would we have enough electricity to power their complexes? Or rather, would these million Googles have enough cement, steel, silicon, etc to construct their complexes?

The society has “caused” such systems to be formed. A system in which people are deliberately discriminated. The lucky ones reach the very top of the pyramid. The others reach varying distances from the apex.