Bill Gates, former Microsoft head and co-chair of the Bill & Melina Gates Foundation, did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit, where he answered various questions on technology, his work with the foundation, and more pressing matters like how much money he has in his wallet. Below is a short recap of the best QnA’s from the AMA, and a short animated video where Bill Gates answers basic questions ahead of his Reddit meeting.
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)..
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?
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..
Windows 7 or Windows 8?
Higher is better.
How do you measure the success of the foundation?How does the foundation differ from other large philanthropic organizations?
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..
What’s your worst fear for the future of the world?
Hopefully we won’t have terrorists using nuclear weapons or biological weapons. We should make sure that stays hard. I am disappointed more isn’t being done to reduce carbon emissions. Governments need to spend more on basic energy R&D to make sure we get cheap non-CO2 emitting sources as soon as possible.
Overall I am pretty optimistic. Things are a lot better than they were 200 years ago..
Since becoming wealthy, what’s the cheapest thing that gives you the most pleasure?
Kids. Cheap cheeseburgers. Open Course Ware courses… Where are you acquiring these cheap kids from? The stork.
What type of computer are you using right now?
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)
If Microsoft didn’t take off, what would you have done and be doing instead?
If the microprocessor had NOT come along I am not sure what I would have done. Maybe medicine or theoretical math but it is hard to say.
Did you ever own a Macintosh?
Microsoft does a lot of software for the Mac. I mostly use Windows machines but from time to time I have tried all of Apple products.
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.
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.
How was your relationship with Steve jobs? I always hoped that y’all were really good friends and competitors.
He and I respected each other. Our biggest joint project was the Mac where Microsoft had more people on the project than Apple did as we wrote a lot of applications. I saw Steve regularly over the years including spending an afternoon with him a few months before he tragically passed away…
What do people give you for your birthday, given that you can buy anything you want?
Free software. Just kidding. Books actually.
Check out the full AMA here – it’s quite informative and gives an excellent perspective of what he thinks and his plans for the future. Oh, and he also has a small request: http://i.imgur.com/D3qRaty.jpg