Bill Gates was on Reddit this week covering a wide range of topics including cryptocurrencies, his leadership of Microsoft and the activities of his foundation. The full AMA is defiantly worth a read, here are top 10 of our favorite moments:
1.) Is it possible to make the world economy grow without destroying our planet’s resources?
Yes – essentially most resources don’t get “destroyed”. The elements that were here to begin with are still here. Of course it takes energy to recycle things but I am optimistic we will figure out how to avoid destroying the planet. The number of babies born has already peaked which will help limit the maximum population size.
2.) Do you miss anything about your time at Microsoft?
There was a certain urgency to everything we were doing to stay ahead that meant the speed of activity was very high. I miss this a bit. I had to take Think Weeks twice a year just to step back and see what the longer term trends were. Now I work on things like malaria where I wish there was more competition to solve the problems and things moved faster.
3.) Is a cure for alzheimer’s a real possibility in the near future, and will it be accessible to people on medicare medicaid?
There have been a lot of failed Alzheimer’s drug trials. The good news is that the new tools we have are helping us understand the disease far better – for example the role of the glial cells. I am optimistic that in the next 20 years we will have drugs to help if we stay focused on it including pooling data and helping start ups get funded. I am involved in a number of these areas.
4.) When did you consider yourself a success?
here are many domains to be successful in. I was a success in getting good grades and test scores in high school. I was a success at writing good code by my early 20s. The dream of the PC being an enabling tool came true by the 1990s. Now I am working on being a good father and the ambitious goals of the Foundation including getting rid of polio and malaria. I think it is always good to have goals where your success is in doubt and I have that in many areas including the work I do on climate change.
5.) If you were born into a low-income family, do you think you would have managed to become as rich as you are now?
I benefited from having a great education – public schools through 6th grade and then a great private School (Lakeside). So there is a good chance I would never have gotten turned on to software and math the way I did and therefore not as successful.
6.) Do you think in the near future, we will have another financial crisis similar to the one in 2008?
Yes. It is hard to say when but this is a certainty. Fortunately we got through that one reasonably well. Warren has talked about this and he understands this area far better than I do.
Despite this prediction of bumps ahead I am quite optimistic about how innovation and capitalism will improve the situation for humans everywhere.
7.) Can you discuss how the Jimmy Carter foundation has shaped your view of philanthropy?
President Carter showed us how to work in Africa and how to partner with groups like WHO through his work at the Carter Center on a number of diseases. I have had a chance to talk with him at length to get his advice. He is great at giving credit to partners to help them stay engaged in the work.
8.) Whats your opinion on Crypto Currencies?
The main feature of crypto currencies is their anonymity. I don’t think this is a good thing. The Governments ability to find money laundering and tax evasion and terrorist funding is a good thing. Right now crypto currencies are used for buying fentanyl and other drugs so it is a rare technology that has caused deaths in a fairly direct way. I think the speculative wave around ICOs and crypto currencies is super risky for those who go long.
9.) What are your hobbies, and how do you balance time between them and your work / family / other obligations?
Allocating time is always tough. Tennis is a big hobby for me and I try and play twice a week (a bit more in the summer). I always try and read a few books every month and a bunch on vacation. Melinda and I look over our schedules a lot to make sure we are balancing things well. I travel about 1/3 of the time for the Foundation which I enjoy.
10.) Do you ever like, just randomly get up when you’re home and make yourself a peanut butter sandwich? Or do you have people do that for you?
I do make myself tomato soup sometimes. It is kind of a comforting food and reminds me of doing the same when I was growing up. I don’t make sandwiches much.