Warren Buffett's Grandson Follows in Grandpa's Humanitarian Footsteps
byDec 21st 2010 9:00AM
Howard Warren Buffett, grandson of world-renowned investor Warren E. Buffett, is in some ways a chip off the old philanthropic block.
With some prodding from media mogul Ted Turner, the elder Buffett in recent years has been giving away his enormous wealth. Last summer, he and Microsoft founder Bill Gates launched the Giving Pledge, a campaign to enlist rich individuals to donate at least half of their fortunes to charity.
The younger Buffett has adopted his elder's concern for the greater good of mankind: At the moment, the 27-year-old is working as program director of agriculture development in Afghanistan for the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, a Defense Department initiative. And he's a member of the board of visitors for the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
Howard Warren Buffett spoke at the recent Social Good Summit, co-sponsored by Mashable and the 92nd Street Y in New York, about the need, in this age of technology, to preserve our human connections to those who are suffering.
Although technology, "has made it easier for people to give money," he said, "it has also created powerful new barriers to personal engagement. More than ever, people watch on a screen when they should see with their eyes."
"A Story of Unrealized Potential"
"Our faith in technology has led us to believe that we become empowered to remedy social injustice by simply carrying a technological device, that a mobile phone can somehow strengthen our individual potential, and that it can place the capacity to create massive change in our pockets," he continued.
This model leads, he warned, to short-term relationships between people and crises. "After a terrible event occurs, public interest surges, but the attention quickly shifts to the next news cycle. In these cases, technology satisfies the idealistic need to get involved, but it fails to create the true sense of personal responsibility required for long-term commitment," he added.
"Meanwhile, the work of caring -- of feeding the poor, healing the sick and fighting injustice -- cannot end when our interest has waned. That is why the story of technology as a means for solving social problems is a story of unrealized potential," he said.
Although many believe the technological revolution "will be our generation's greatest contribution to the history of our planet, I believe that we can -- and must -- do better, that our legacy should be defined not by our development of the tools we need to rid the world of injustice, but by our ability to use those tools to bring more people to front lines of the battle, and to inspire new leaders to go out on the field and commit their lives to the cause," he added.
"If we fail to reconcile our technology with our humanity, our capacity for caring will remain stagnant while our technological abilities expand," he concluded. "The void between those two elements will eventually become so large that we will forget that the purpose for what we do, the purpose for all innovation, is to make us better at being human."