Answering questions about everything from his favorite book (The Better Angels of our Nature) to his favorite band (Weezer) to the Microsoft product he wished made it to the market (WinFS), Bill Gates just completed his first Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) this morning.
The Microsoft co-founder and chairman touched on a variety of subjects, whether it was the computer he currently uses or the cheapest thing that gives him the most pleasure.
His humor also came through and especially with his closing remarks. “I’d just like to leave you with the thought that helping others can be very gratifying,” he wrote, leaving a link to an image that Gates is trying to delete from the internet.
Here’s a recap of all the questions and answers:
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)?
Gates: “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.”
Since becoming wealthy, what’s the cheapest thing that gives you the most pleasure?
Gates: Kids. Cheap cheeseburgers. Open Course Ware courses…
Reddit user: Where are you acquiring these cheap kids from?
Gates: The stork.
What one Microsoft program or product that was never fully developed or released do you wish had made it to market?
Gates: 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.
How have other extremely wealthy people reacted to your excessively generous philanthropy?
Gates: 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…
Reddit user: 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.
Gates: 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.
What do people give you for your birthday, given that you can buy anything you want?
Gates: Free software. Just kidding. Books actually.
Do you still code ?, if so which language ? :)
Gates: 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…
Oh! What’s your favorite book?
Gates: 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 gatesnotes.com (is that too self-promotional?)
Given the recent targeting of health professionals in Pakistan and Nigeria, do you think eradication of polio is attainable in the next decade? How is the Gates Foundation going to get over this barrier to eradication? Also, what is your opinion on the anti-vaccination movement in general?
Gates: The violence against the vaccinators in both Pakistan and Nigeria is a terrible thing. However both countries are committed to finishing the eradication. This is the project I spent most of my time on. We should be able to finish by 2018 although that will require raising funds and some great execution. We have some innovations like the way we use satellite maps to find all the villages and GPS tracking to make sure the teams go to every hut that are helping out. Polio is a harder disease than smallpox was but it is doable. (I discuss this more at www.billsletter.com)
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