Bill Gates On Reddit: About Satya Nadella, Personal Financial Advice, Future Of Desktop And More (Part 2)


10, 2014

Bill Gates, former chairman of Microsoft did a AmA on Reddit. Here are some his answers.

Hi Bill, So awesome for you to do an AMA! University student here with an entrepreneurial mindset. What role would you say higher education (university and beyond) played in your success? What is your current opinion of the higher education system? What is the best advice you can give to someone looking to create successful startup ventures? I would be honored if you could answer these questions!

I love college courses. I still watch a lot of them. I read a lot about people who had been successful. College was fun for me. So the part of the higher education system I got to experience was amazing – unfortunately most people don’t get to go to Harvard or the equivalent.

It is strange to call me a college drop out in all but the most literal sense. I went for 3 years and took enough courses to graduate. So I am kind of a failure as a drop out and I don’t have a degree….

You and Melinda recently posted a piece of writing about your optimism for future. Could you elaborate as to the path you see the world taking in the next 50 years or so?

I think in the next 20-30 years we will be able to almost eliminate gross inequity like the fact a child in a poor country has 30x more chance of dying than a child in a middle income or rich country. Literacy, nutrition,… These are basic things that we can afford to give to every child. In the meantime the rich world needs to make sure we handle the environment and the diseases of the rich.

What is your best personal financial advice for people who make under $100,000 per year?

Invest in your education.

I am going to hit you with a tough one. What is the worst case that you know of where your philanthropy backfired?  Here I mean the worst party possible benefitted from the gift. I am curious because I think there are important lessons to be learned from these kinds of stories for myself and others passionate about giving to the people who need it most .

A lot of our failures have been backing science that didn’t work out. One thing that is tough is when you think the government will take over something you start but they don’t – we had that with a school lunch program. It might have been better if we hadn’t done it.

Is the Desktop computer really dead? What does that say for the future of computer programming?

The boundaries between form factors is blurring but the range of screen sizes and different input techniques will still mean there are desktop devices and wall devices. However applications will be able to run across multiple devices including the whiteboard.

Hi Bill! What is your favorite project you have ever worked on at Microsoft?

The Windows project which required a lot of patience was great. Office was also great. Together they defined the big success of the 1990s for Microsoft. Office connected to the cloud has a LOT of potential and we are off to a good start. Cloud Storage needs to be a lot richer though.

What smartphone and/or tablet are you currently using?

I am using a Surface 2 PRO which works well for me.

Dear Mr. Gates…can you still do this?

Yes. A small enough chair I can still jump over.

No I cannot. I can still jump but not over a full sized garbage can like I used to be able to. Be careful – it can hurt if you don’t succeed.

Steve Jobs had Ashton Kutcher. Who do you want to portray you in a biopic?

Samuel L Jackson.

Melinda would probably watch that version.

What is the biggest obstacle the developed world needs to overcome, in order to help the developing world?

The greatest tragedy is kids who die or never get enough food to develop physically or mentally to achieve their potential. We need vaccines and nutrition to solve this. We are making progress but not fast enough.

Cynicism is the biggest barrier – talks about this.

Hey Bill, I love your book lists. What are you currently reading, or plan to read next, that you suggest Reddit pick up? Thanks for doing another one of these, your first one was great.

Well Smil keeps writing great books like Made in the USA and Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization. Paul Farmer has 3 books recently – to Repair the World is very accessible. In the Company of the Poor is a harder read but also good. tracks my reading closely. (

Hey Bill, have you made any plans to artificially prolong your life? Honest.

No I don’t. Other people think about that but I wouldn’t want to extend my last few years unless that is happening for most people.

How close are you to wiping out polio worldwide?

We are very close. India just went 3 years with no cases. Pakistan is our toughest location right now because some parts of the Taliban have not allowed vaccinators to come in and have even attacked vaccinators. We are hopeful this will get resolved since no one wants their kid to be paralyzed. I spend a lot of time making sure the polio campaign is doing the best it can. We have great computer models that help guide our activities.

What’s one of your goals for the next year… and how can we help?

Wow. That is a nice thing to ask. I wish the debate about education would focus on helping teachers improve and what we know about that. Right now it is caught up in state versus federal and testing versus no-testing. In general politics needs to focus on the problems rather than attacking the other side.  Asian countries are helping their teachers improve and the impact is huge.

Are you a fan of Video Games? If so, What is your favourite Video Game?

I am not a huge gamer. My son knows a LOT more than I do about what is cool on Xbox. I played Halo but the sports games that the whole family can use are the things I use the most. I threw the javelin very very far!

1) How does Mr. Nadella’s vision differ from yours and Mr Ballmer’s? 2) A couple of articles I read recently mentioned that the board is going to be putting pressure on the new CEO to exit the devices business and focus more sharply on enterprise customers. Your thoughts on that? If it means anything, I am a huge fan of the Surface. Can’t afford one, but I have used the first one . Hugely impressed. 3) Also, this is pertinent to where I live — India. A few people have a somewhat negative impression of the work that the B&MGF is doing; specifically, they claim it has an agenda to push products manufactured by American drug companies. Would you like to respond to that?

Satya is taking a fresh view of where Microsoft is – strengths and weaknesses. A new person gets to step back and change the focus in some ways. He is off to a great start.

In terms of the Foundation we fund vaccines that save childrens lives. The majority of those are made in India. In fact ironically India makes a lot of vaccines that are used in other countries but not in India. The Foundation is not trying to help anyone make money – simply to reduce the number of children who die from things like diarrhea and pneumonia.

Read other two posts from the links below.

Bill Gates On Reddit: About His New Role At Microsoft, NSA, Bitcoin And More (Part 1)

Bill Gates On Reddit: US Foreign Aid, His Role Model, Favorite Fast Food And More (Part 3)

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