My father was an economist and I was always interested in history, not the history of great men, but the remorseless tide of history, a history without obvious actors, like Braudel’s Mediterranean. But I say “obvious actors.” The person who writes the books, solves the economic equation, or invents psychohistory: that is an actor. They may be less recognized; but they can have much more influence, they can make a much bigger dent in the world.
I’d contend that an early Nokia engineer — with no good intentions in mind — has done more to alleviate poverty in Africa than an aid worker committed to that end. The road to hell is paved with good intentions; the road to heaven with indifference or entire selfish motivation.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is this: there’s no point in doing the obvious. You may in fact be doing harm. But with a long enough lever and an understanding of the way the world works, you can move the world.