Bill Gates opened himself up to the wrath and adoration of the reddit community by doing an AMA ("ask me anything") this afternoon. Gates answered questions about Microsoft, his charity work with the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, the future of computing and his favorite bands, using his reddit handle thisisbillgates. Here is some of what we learned from Bill Gates' Ask Me Anything:
1. He really likes the Nordic governments
What is something that needs to be changed in the world, but money wont help?
It would be nice if all governments were as rational as the Nordic governments - reaching compromise and providing services broadly. The Economist had a nice special section on this last week. Africa governments have often been weak but you can't write a check to change that. Fortunately the average quality is going up. Mo Ibrahim tracks this in a great way. (http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/IIAG/)
Then later, on a question about vaccines, Gates replied:
Vaccines are very important in all countries. Some of the bad rumors have lead to kids dying of measles and pertussis. We have backed some information campaigns on the importance of vaccination even in the US.
The Nordic countries do a good job on health like they do on many things...
2. He was inspired by Warren Buffett to leave "only" $10 million to his kids
Comment from idancer:
I'm not Bill Gates, but he has made a huge positive influence. Many wealthy people I know point to Bill Gates as their idol. Not for his Microsoft days, but for his philanthropy. He also simultaneously killed many of my friend's hundred million dollar trust funds after their parents discovered that Bill was only leaving $10 million for his children.
Bill Gates replies:
I definitely think leaving kids massive amounts of money is not a favor to them. Warren Buffett was part of an article in Fortune talking about this in 1986 before I met him and it made me think about it and decide he was right. Some people disagree with this but Melinda and I feel good about it.
3. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a really good thing.
You knew that already, but it's still cool to hear the details of what it's doing. Here are a few snippets related to their work (emphases mine):
So far our biggest impact has been getting vaccines for things like diarrhea and pneumonia out which has saved millions of lives. Polio will be a great achievement along with key partners when that gets done.
Polio is the first thing to get done since we are close. Within 6 years we will have the last case. After that we will go after malaria and measles. Malaria kills over 500,000 kids every year mostly in Africa and did not get enough attention until the last decade. We also need vaccines to prevent HIV and TB which are making progress...
Our goals are focused on helping the poorest (globally) and improving education (in the US). We spend half of our money on global health. One metric to look at is reducing the number of children (under 5) who die. My annual letter talks about the amazing progress that has been made on this. Amazingly as health improves families choose to have less kids so paradoxically population growth goes DOWN as you improve health helping with almost every issue - from stability to the environment..
The Rosling video I posted on Sunday talks about this: http://www.reddit.com/r/videos/comments/189bwr/most_people_still_think_of_the_world_as_being/
3. He is as up-to-date as he is supposed to be on Windows products
It would be hilarious if Bill Gates was still rocking Windows XP on a 2005 laptop, but really, if he's not going to have the latest Windows computer, who will?
Question from sletica:
What type of computer are you using right now?
Bill Gates replies:
I just got my Surface Pro a week ago and it is very nice.
I am using a Perceptive Pixel display right now - huge Windows 8 touch whiteboard. These will come down in price over time and be pervasive... (http://i.imgur.com/1JqrLVc.jpg)
That link goes to a picture of Gates standing next to a large projection of his screen. I can't tell if it's just a projection or (more likely) essentially a giant iPad (sorry, a giant Surface) where he can operate the screen through touch. Then later, juturn4 asked him, "Windows 7 or Windows 8? Be honest Bill."
Gates didn't miss a beat:
Higher is better.
4. According to Gates, our computing world will be revolutionized again very soon by robots, voice interaction and pervasive screens:
What emerging technology today do you think will cause another big stir for the average consumer in the same way that the home computer did years ago?
Bill Gates replies:
Robots, pervasive screens, speech interaction will all change the way we look at "computers". Once seeing, hearing, and reading (including handwriting) work very well you will interact in new ways..
A "pervasive screen" is like that of a iPad, but the concept goes much further. Think a display on your car windshield or a pair of glasses. And eventually on contact lenses. Sounds insane, I know, but check back in ten years.
5. Bill Gates likes tennis, bridge and Spinal Tap.
One of the charming things about Bill Gates is that he manages to seem like a normal guy at least half the time.
Question from dylanstalker:
What do you do for fun? I find it hard to fathom how someone like you can just disconnect. Disconnect from the emails, calls ,the media. All of it. What would be your definition of a chill and fun day?
I love playing tennis. I am an avid bridge player (a card game if you have not heard of it - it was more popular in the past!). I like to tour interesting things with my kids like power plants, garbage dumps, the Large Hadron Collider, Antarctica, missile Silos (Arizona),... I read a lot and watch courses (online or the Learning Company)..
Okay, so not all of us can just swing by the Large Hadron Collider on a whim...or Antarctica...or missile silos? But he still likes tennis and bridge like a normal upper class white person. Also: Weezer.
Is Weezer still your favorite band?
Weezer.... Actually U2 is a favorite.. I keep waiting for Spinal Tap to go back on tour...
Actually Gates was pretty noncommital on Weezer there. And as for Spinal Tap, as redditor sd4 points out: "With all due respect, Mr Gates, I'm pretty sure you could be very persuasive if you wanted to..."