Tech Tuesday: Bill Gates Reddit Ask Me Anything Q&A Full Transcript


If you could pick the brain of five famous people who would they be?  On my list are Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Oprah, Michelle Obama to name a few.  Yesterday, Bill Gates, Microsoft cofounder and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation  answered questions on Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything).  The questions and answers were based on Bill & Melinda Gate’s philanthropy, charitable organization and Bill’s bucket list.  Bill Gates also revealed several technology insights which made for.   Bill Gates full time job and priority is his work with the foundation.  However, based on his AMA answers it is evident that Microsoft and Technology is still a very important part of Bill Gates life.  

The conversation rendered over 10,000 comments.  After the Reddit AMA Q&A, Bill Gates Tweeted:


Bill Gates Reddit Q&A  Full Transcript:

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. (

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..

What is the greatest achievement of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in your opinion and how do you choose which causes to support?

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.

How did you feel about your portrayal in Pirates of Silicon Valley, and who do you want to play you next in a movie?

That portrayal was reasonably accurate….

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)..

Which world-wide health cause are we perfectly capable of easily solving and on the cusp of achieving but just need to put it over the top with a little more attention or resources to actually solve?

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…

Anything left on your bucket list?

Don’t die…

What is your view on the world’s reliance on crude oil, and will you be investing into researching other sources of energy?

I did a TED talk about the climate crisis. Over time we have to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions so using fossil fuels will require us to do carbon capture and sequestration. There has been far too little work on this. (

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..

The Rosling video I posted on Sunday talks about this:


The anti-vaccine movement does not only exist in developing countries, such as Pakistan, but is quite popular here in the United States as well. As a result, the number of flu and whooping cough cases are bigger than ever. Are you planning on working domestically as well? Which countries do you think serve as models for their initiatives towards an overall healthier society? ie. who’s doing the best?

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…

Since becoming wealthy, what’s the cheapest thing that gives you the most pleasure?

Kids. Cheap cheeseburgers. Open Course Ware courses…

What are your thoughts on the patent war between the major players in the tech industry? Where do you stand on patent system reform.

In 1991, Bill wrote this about software patents:

If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.

I feel certain that some large company will patent some obvious thing related to interface, object orientation, algorithm, application extension or other crucial technique. If we assume this company has no need of any of our patents then they have a 17-year right to take as much of our profits as they want.

The solution to this is patent exchanges with large companies and patenting as much as we can. Amazingly we haven’t done any patent exchanges that I am aware of. Amazingly we haven’t found a way to use our licensing position to avoid having our own customers cause patent problems for us. I know these aren’t simply problems but they deserve more effort by both Legal and other groups. For example we need to do a patent exchange with HP as part of our new relationship. In many application categories straightforward thinking ahead allows you to come up with patentable ideas.

A recent paper from the League for Programming Freedom (available from the Legal department) explains some problems with the way patents are applied to software.

What’s your worst fear for the future of the world? (edit: I terms of policy/politics/etc — e.g. SOPA/ITU)

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..

Windows 7 or Windows 8?

Higher is better.

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… (

Is Weezer still your favorite band?

Weezer…. Actually U2 is a favorite.. I keep waiting for Spinal Tap to go back on tour…

Do you still code ?, if so which language ?

Not as much as I would like to. I write some C, C# and some Basic. I am surprised new languages have not made more progress in simplifying programming. It would be great if most high school kids were exposed to programming…

What one Microsoft program or product that was never fully developed or released do you wish had made it to market?

We had a rich database as the client/cloud store that was part of a Windows release that was before its time. This is an idea that will remerge since your cloud store will be rich with schema rather than just a bunch of files and the client will be a partial replica of it with rich schema understanding.

What are your thoughts on the push against the open and free Internet that we have been seeing in the recent past and present (such as sopa, etc)?

There are two things this could reference. One is the free/pay for software mix. The Internet has benefited from having lots of free stuff and lots of commercial software. It has been interesting see people inventing hybrid models. Even stuff that is pretty commercial often has free versions for some audiences. Even the most open stuff often have services people choose to pay for. The second thing is the anonymous versus identified tension. This is another one where both will probably thrive since you want anonymity for some things and full identity for others. I am surprised how little progress has been made in the identity space but it will improve.

What do people give you for your birthday, given that you can buy anything you want?

Free software. Just kidding. Books actually.

What one Microsoft program or product that was never fully developed or released do you wish had made it to market?

We had a rich database as the client/cloud store that was part of a Windows release that was before its time. This is an idea that will remerge since your cloud store will be rich with schema rather than just a bunch of files and the client will be a partial replica of it with rich schema understanding.

Was it called WinFS? I always wanted to see what happened to that.


How have other extremely wealthy people reacted to your excessively generous philanthropy?

I have enjoyed meeting other philanthropists and talking about what they work on. I think there is a movement to do more, start sooner and be smarter about giving. Philanthropy is mostly about a broad set of people giving but it helps if the most wealthy set a strong example…

What’s your favorite book?

My favorite of the last decade in Pinker’s Better Angels of our Nature. It is long but profound look at the reduction in violence and discrimination over time. I review a lot of the books I read at (is that too self-promotional?

I am just wondering what your thoughts are on Windows 8. Do you think in general it has failed? I am not saying it has, but there are people saying it is not good, and I wanted to hear your thoughts on it.

It is a huge advance for Windows which people will see even more as the great applications and hardware come out..

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.

 You can read the entire thread on Reddit as well.


Question:  If you could pick the brain of five famous people who would they be?  What question would you like to ask Bill Gates?





¡Es el momento for higher education!

In February 2010, Univision Communications Inc. launched a comprehensive, multi‐year national education initiative called Es El Momento (The Moment is Now) in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, educators and civic and community leaders from around the country. The Es El Momento initiative is aimed at improving academic achievement among K‐12 Hispanic students with a specific focus on high school graduation and college readiness.  Es El Momento higher education program has partnered with many community programs, including Latinos in Social Media, the Largest Professional Network for Latino Professionals.

The Es El Momento community-based program is useful for Spanish speaking parents, teachers and  educators that need resources to guide, mentor and inspire students to pursue higher education.

Es El Momento provides the following academic preparation tools:

1.    Resources to help parents motivate their children to have high expectations of their academic abilities in elementary, middle school and high school.

2.    Video tutorials emphasizing importance of parent participation & support to ensure children succeed in school.

3.    Resources to help educate parents on parental rights & responsibilities, how the educational system works and  Department of Education Helpline.

4.    Academic college preparation tools for parents and students to encourage their children to successfully prepare for college

5.    Financial Aid resources & scholarships.  Learn about the availability of state, federal and private financial resources.  This provides an opportunity to research grants, scholarships, loans and other financial support resources available to pay for college.  A-Z Scholarships provides access to all scholarship availability in alphabetical order.

6.    College preparation & mentoring tools to enable parents to inspire & educate their children.

7.    Latinos in Innovation Career pages.   NASA & Doctor Isabel pages provides mentoring from a perspective of an astronaut & doctor.  This will definitely be one of the favorite pages for students seeking Engineering or Physician careers.

8.   University A-Z  search tool to research favorite colleges.

Will you “accept the challenge” and take part in the movement for change by becoming involved in our children’s education?   Let’s unite and get our children the resources that they need to succeed in school.   Es El Momento para higher education!


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