World-Changing Ideas 2012, my letter to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Last week, Bill Gates previewed his fourth annual letter and invites students around the world to submit their own letters addressing what they think is the world's most pressing issue. Students can submit their letters to [email protected] through February 2nd, 2012.

I'd like for us to set the Microsoft talk aside and focus on this. I'm taking his message seriously, so here's my letter to the foundation.

Dear Bill and Melinda Gates foundation,
my name is Federico Pistono, I'm a computer scientist, author, and social activist.

I think the issues that need to be addressed swiftly are: access to clean water, food sovereignty, and education. All of them are enabled by access to the Internet. Here's a very brief overview of my plan:

  1. Millions of OLPC ($80 each, and Raspberry Pi ($25 each, to developing countries, with OSS software, Khan Academy, Wikipedia, and other educational resources preinstalled/preconfigured.
  2. Finance Open Source Ecology (, improve it and fine-tune it according to different locations and resource availability. Scale it and apply worldwide.
  3. Cost-effective water purification and desalinisation through fresnel lenses and other cheap DIY technology (I'm working on it as we speak). Open Source all designs.
  4. Free and unrestricted access to the Internet to developing countries through projects such as Buy This Satellite ( and WiMAX high-power antennas.
  5. Study, develop, and educate people about permaculture and hydroponics/aquaponics systems. Use each according to resource availability to achieve maximum efficiency. The goal is food sovereignty with as little labour as possible.

These five points require an in-depth thorough examination, which I am happy to explore if I have the chance to. There are also many more ideas that I would like to develop, as I study and learn more about the world.

Thank you for the attention and the work you do, I hope you consider the ideas presented in this letter to make the world a better place.
Federico Pistono


List of things worth mentioning, in no particular order.

Awesome YouTube channels

  • CGP Grey - incredible reason and clarity, great sense of humour, debunking misconceptions like no others.
  • potholer54 - science and reason FTW, debunking creationists, climate deniers, and generally idiots with painstaking patience and incredible irony.

Films worth watching

Science and technology sites I regularly read

  • Slashdot - news for nerds, stuff that matters
  • PhysOrg - science news, technology, physics, nanotechnology, space science, earth science, medicine
  • arXiv blog - mostly physics.
  • Not Even Wrong - an alternative view to String Theory.
  • Daniel Lemire - good analysis on the impact of technology in today's society.

Web comics I enjoy

  • xkcd - a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language. Basically a geek bible. My universe.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: excellent irony about science and society.
  • Dresden Codak - a celebration of science, death and human folly. Obligatory read if you read any of Kurzweil's works, and have a general knowledge of physics and accelerating change.
  • The Oatmeal - stinking, rancid awesomeness.
  • Dilbert - life in a cubicle.
  • PHD Comics - the life a of typical researcher. I can confirm, it's all true!
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