Bill Gates, former chairman of Microsoft did a AmA on Reddit. He spoke about his new role at Microsoft, role of NSA and more.
I had a lot of fun doing last year’s AMA and am excited to come back for another round of questions about everything from philanthropy to technology to how to lose a chess match in less than 90 seconds (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84NwnSltHFo). (Step 1: Play the world champion. There is no step 2.)
I hope you’ll read my annual letter (http://annualletter.gatesfoundation.org/). Melinda and I talk about three myths that block progress for the poor.
I’ll be answering your questions live from my office, starting at 10 a.m. Pacific time.
UPDATE: I’ve responded to a few myths ahead of time, including one that involves me and a $100 bill. Take a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZnmpDrjtDc
Read some of his answers below,
How do you feel about the NSA and it’s oversight of computer usage? My money is on not getting an answer to this.
I did answer unless the NSA deletes my answer.
Can you describe your new role at Microsoft?
I am excited about how the cloud and new devices can help us communicate and collaborate in new ways. The OS won’t just be on one device and the information won’t just be files – it will be your history including being able to review memories of things like kids growing up. I was thrilled Satya asked me to pitch in to make sure Microsoft is ambitious with its innovation. Even in Office there is a lot more than can be done.
I make sure we pick ambitious scenarios and that we have a strong architecture to deliver on them. I encourage good work (hopefully).
My time will be about 2/3 Foundation and 1/3 Microsoft. I will focus on product work mostly.
How do you feel about the NSA and it’s oversight of computer usage?
This is a complex issue. Privacy will be increasingly important as cameras and GPS sensors are gathering information to try and be helpful. We need to have trust in the way information is protected and gathered. There is a role for the government to try and stop crime and terrorism but it will have to be more open. I do think terrorism with biological or nuclear weapons is something we want to minimize the chance of.
If you were a current computer science student what area would you start studying heavily? If you feel like expanding on that, why do you think this area deserves the attention and how do you see it changing the technology game in the next 10 years?
The ultimate is computers that learn. So called deep learning which started at Microsoft and is now being used by many researchers looks like a real advance that may finally learn. It has already made a big difference in video and audio recognition – more progress in the last 3 years than ever before.
Mr. Gates, Any advice on how entrepreneurs of today and tomorrow should go about balancing business and philanthropy… or do they have to succeed first in order to give later?
Just creating an innovative company is a huge contribution to the world. During my 20’s and 30’s that was all I focused on. Ideally people can start to mix in some philanthropy like Mark Zuckerberg has early in his career. I have enjoyed talking to some of the Valley entrepreneurs about this and I am impressed and how early they are thinking about giving back – much earlier than I did.
What is your most expensive guilty pleasure purchase?
Owning a plane is a guilty pleasure. Warren Buffett called his the Indefensible. I do get to a lot of places for Foundation work I wouldn’t be able to go to without it.
Any luck with the condom design competition?
This is a sensitive topic. The idea was that men don’t like the current design so perhaps something they would be more open to would allow for less HIV transmission. We still haven’t gotten the results. One grantee is using carbon nanotubes to reduce the thickness,
What are your thoughts about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin?
The foundation is involved in digital money but unlike Bitcoin it would not be anonymous digital money. In Kenya M-pesa is being used for almost half of all transactions. Digital money has low transaction costs which is great for the poor because they need to do financial transactions with small amounts of money. Over the next 5 years I think digital money will catch on in India and parts of Africa and help the poorest a lot.
Besides improving the education system in the U.S., what do you believe is the next big issue that we need to address domestically?
Education would be the top issue since it is key to individual opportunity and to the country as a whole and we are not doing as well as other countries. After that I would say immigration since the injustice of the current system is incredible.
You’re working with TerraPower to bring a large scale source of low carbon energy onto the commercial grid. What, in your opinion, is the biggest impediment to bringing new nuclear technology onto the global market?
We need low cost energy that is totally reliable. Most renewables will require storage which is expensive to do this. Nuclear will make a contribution if we can make it safer, cheaper and deal with waste better. Terrapower has a design (on paper) that addresses all of these issues so now we are talking to countries about building it. It is a 4th generation reactor design that uses depleted uranium.
What is different about Bill Gates age 20 years and today, except for the time?
20 years ago I would stay in the office for days at a time and not think twice about it – so I had energy and naivete on my side. Now hopefully I am a bit more mellow but with a little extra wisdom.
Bill, Nuclear is notoriously expensive. How do you make sure that you manage/pick people to manage Terrapower so that it financially succeeds by building a product which makes money–and doesn’t just make a dream plant?
Terrapower is like most fast reactors which use Sodium cooling. We tried to stick to proven approaches wherever we could. There have been about 10 Fast Reactors. By using this approach we have no fuel problems and very limited waste generation. Most important is the inherent safety – no human involvement for shut down.
Read other two posts from the link below.