Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos is now defending his pursuit for space travel. Talking to a crowd during Wired’s 25th anniversary in San Francisco, Bezos said that it’s only when humans take risks in pursuing visions that we can progress in a meaningful way. The Amazon founder became the wealthiest person in the world in July with Amazon being the second company in history after Apple to hit $1 trillion in valuation.
Bezos has often been criticized about how he spends his money but in recent weeks he announced the launch of a new $2 billion nonprofit that will fund public preschools in the US. Bezos said that he doesn’t intend to spend one minute of his time in something he doesn’t think can contribute positively to the civilization. Reporters in the event took issue with his push towards space travel arguing that this kind of money could be used for other pressing concerns such as poverty and hunger.
The Amazon CEO is estimated to have a net worth of $150 billion but even with that personal wealth, Amazon hasn’t escaped controversy about how it treats its contract workers. The e-commerce giant has been accused of paying its workers very little even as it gobbles up billions of dollars in profit. But just recently, Amazon announced that it will start paying all its workers at least $15 an hour.
The company also noted that the move is designed to set up momentum moving forward on lifting the Federal minimum wage to $15 an hour in the near future. But even then, Amazon has been seen by many as a disruptive company whose sophisticated approach to shopping has led to many negative consequences. Amazon has been blamed for the increasing number of mom and pop retail stores that have gone under over the last few years. In addition to this, as the company develops advanced robots that can deliver seamless machine aided shopping, there are fears that as it expands more into retail, it’s very likely that people will lose jobs. But Amazon has maintained that its expansion has, in fact, created more jobs than other companies out there.
For many reporters and much of the audience who were present during the address, there seemed to be a collective agreement that such ambitious investments like space travel should be left to governments. But Bezos was quick to disagree saying that anyone should be allowed to pursue their vision. The Amazon CEO noted that even though the government is free to pursue such projects if it sees fit, sometimes due to many red tape constraints it can be very hard to be as ambitious as possible. But for individuals who aren’t bound by bureaucracy, the sky is indeed the limit.
Bezos is also building a 10,000-year clock inside a hollowed mountain in Texas. The project will cost about $42 million and has been criticized as a waste of funds that could otherwise be used to support important programs that can solve Earth’s most immediate concerns.