Bill Gates
Inventor, philanthropist, computer programmer, and business man

Bill Gates is the co-founder of Microsoft, the largest PC software company in the world. He co-founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to pursue many philanthropic endeavors by donating large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs. He is one of the most richest men in the world. 

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My question for you is regarding medical research funding. I know your foundation focuses largely on global health issues, but do you have thoughts on research back here in the USA? Governmental funding is reaching dangerously low levels, and many bright and talented clinicians and scientists aren't even applying for federal grants knowing they have little chance of being funded. What can we do about this?

Research is very underfunded compared to the ideal. Society captures so much benefit from innovation that inventors don't so there is not enough risk taking. Government (and Foundation) funding of research helps but it still should be more. The United States funds a lot more than any other country even relative to its success. It should do more medical and energy and educational and other research. Politicians often think short term unless the voters tell them to avoid that. Perhaps the most outrageous thing is we have not raised Energy research funding to help solve climate change!

What is your favorite expensive food?

Nathan Myhrvold has some amazing modern cuisine stuff that is super tasty. I am not a foodie but his new concoctions are amazing.

I also like Thai and Indian food but it doesn't have to be expensive.

Do you feel that we are facing an overpopulation problem on this planet? If so, what do you think needs to be done about it?
Fortunately as people get healthy they choose to have less kids. We have already had the maximum number of births - that number is starting to go down. We still need to help provide health and contraception in poor countries but all of the global ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
One of the themes in this year's Gates letter is helping to improve agricultural practices in Africa. As a person who was raised in an agricultural community in Canada, the ideas you presented really resonated with me. As individuals, is there anything we can do to help Africa achieve food security?
Government aid funding from rich countries to develop new seeds and help the countries educate their farmers and provide credit to them can make a huge difference. Canada does some of this like the United States. We need to raise African productiv...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
What is your opinion on bitcoins or cyptocurency as a whole? Also do you own any yourself?
Bitcoin is an exciting new technology. For our Foundation work we are doing digital currency to help the poor get banking services. We don't use bitcoin specifically for two reasons. One is that the poor shouldn't have a currency whose value goes ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
What innovation has been brought to you but sadly never worked out for what ever reason, but you really wanted it to work?
So far we have not being able to use technology to connect people to the needs of the poorest in countries that are far away to tap into their empathy. I think this can be done but it needs some missing creativity.
Is it safe to choose a career in programming or will most coders below the expert level be replaced by automation solutions in the next decade?
It is safe for now! It is also a lot of fun and helps shape your thinking on all issues to be more logical. There is a prospect for change in this area for the next generation but that is true for most fields and understanding how to program will ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
I was watching a video last night on Thorium reactors and saw that you were also in the video discussing this topic as well. This is a technology that I have been following because it makes so much sense. My question is, how feasible is the technology at this point in your view and how long before we will see that technology in practice here in the US?
Right now there isn't enough R&D going into safe and cheap nuclear energy. I am supporting Terrapower which has a 4th generation design that looks good. It doesn't use Thorium - it uses the 97% of Uranium that normally can't be used for a reactor ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
As there are so many great philanthropic causes, how did you and Melinda decided on the causes that you wanted to put the majority of your effort?
There are a lot of great causes. It is important not to be frozen trying to pick since it is important to specialize and really learn the area you are trying to help. We picked health inequity as our global thing and educational inequity as our na...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
What do you think is the hardest challenge that the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is currently facing?
We have some tough scientific challenges like an HIV cure. However the toughest thing is helping teachers learn from the best teachers. There are great teachers and the kids who get them are lucky. We should be able to spread those skills but the...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
What is a life lesson you learned the hard way?
Don't stay up too late even if the book is really exciting. You will regret it in the morning. I am still working on this problem.
What is in your opinion the main obstacle to the success to poop water machine? and how can we overcome that obstacle?
Sewage is a problem. Since it costs money to process it just gets dumped in slums in poor countries. The system the rich world uses of pumping in clean water and pumping it to a processing plant is too expensive. I challenged engineers to create a...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
I admire the work you've done to eradicate diseases such as polio from the world. What can we do as citizens to help keep these diseases gone for good?
Polio eradication is a big focus for me. Our last case in Africa was 6 months ago and we are hoping no more show up. It takes over a year to be sure. We still have cases in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Until we get rid of it there it can spread back ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
What do you think about life-extending and immortality research?
It seems pretty egocentric while we still have malaria and TB for rich people to fund things so they can live longer. It would be nice to live longer though I admit.
Although you are a billionaire do you sometimes buy generic products over brand-name ones? If so, what are the products that you buy?
I am pretty basic when it comes to clothes and food. My big splurge is having a plane to fly around in.
2015 will mark the 30th anniversary of Microsoft Windows. What do you think the next 30 years holds in terms of technology? What will personal computing will look like in 2045?
There will be more progress in the next 30 years than ever. Even in the next 10 problems like vision and speech understanding and translation will be very good. Mechanical robot tasks like picking fruit or moving a hospital patient will be solved....This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Is there anything in life that you regret doing or not doing?
I feel pretty stupid that I don't know any foreign languages. I took Latin and Greek in High School and got A's and I guess it helps my vocabulary but I wish I knew French or Arabic or Chinese. I keep hoping to get time to study one of these - pro...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
What do you think has improved life the most in poor countries in the last 5 years?
Vaccines make the top of the list. Being able to grow up healthy is the most basic thing. So many kids get infectious diseases and don't develop mentally and physically. I was in Berlin yesterday helping raise $7.5B for vaccines for kids in poor c...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Your foundation is called the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations. If you hadn’t married Melinda, do you think this is the way your career would have developed?
When Melinda and I first met, we talked about how getting this wealth back to society in some intelligent way was one of the responsibilities we had in a life together. There’s no doubt her thinking has massively shaped what we thought about the F...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Can you share some of the lessons of pain and failure from your early career?
My basic theory in my twenties is that IQ was fungible. I would hire a great physicists, biologists, someone who was smart, and I would assign them some task, and they would figure out how to do because they have a high IQ. I basically thought th...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Do Chinese companies need to change their corporate governance as they go global?
Does Rupert Murdoch need to change his corporate governance? I’m not sure corporate governance is the key indicator of future success in all industries. These are world-class companies doing world-class research.
What’s your take of Alibaba as a company, and beyond that, the role China is playing in a global, digital world?
It will be interesting to see as the Western champions try to invade China, as they fight over other markets like Indonesia and India, and as the Chinese companies try to enter the US, how successful they’ll be. So far, they haven’t had much succe...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
You mentioned some private tech companies are overvalued. Uber has been valued at $50bn, Palantir at $20bn, Snapchat at over $15bn. Which are the companies that are overvalued?
When Microsoft was worth $500bn, which inflation-adjusted meant we were briefly the most valuable company of the world, I said to my friend Warren Buffett, what is the CEO of a company that is overvalued supposed to do? Am I supposed to say, hey, ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
How do you feel about divesting from fossil fuels and shifting that to investing in renewables and energy storage?
I don’t see a direct path between divesting and solving climate change. I think it’s wonderful that students care and now the Pope cares. But that energy of caring, I think you need to direct it towards something that solves the problem.
You once said you were a hyper-intense person in your twenties. Is that still the case?
In my twenties, I didn’t believe in vacations. I didn’t believe in weekends. They told me I had to have a board of directors meeting, so I said come in on Saturday morning. I am not as fanatical as I was in my twenties and early-thirties. I focus...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
If you had one piece of advice to a young person, who wanted to be an innovator, what would it be?
The sciences change the game. Entrepreneurs are the people who take it on, but the thing that shifts the rules of the game is science. If you really want to be part of driving that change yourself, just pick some state-of-the-art science and get i...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
What was your biggest failure?
At Microsoft, the search market, the phone market, there’s a long list of things.
You once said success is a lousy teacher. What did you mean by that?
Anybody who’s super-successful has been misled a little bit. They don’t really know the actual magic factors of luck and skill that led them to this wonderful success. Hopefully they’re engaged in an effort where they have lots of failures, things...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Tell us about the “high wind” option.
There’s lots of energy in lots of places of the planet. One of them is the jetstream. And the jetstream, unlike ground wind, is virtually constant. Actually capturing that energy is very difficult because you’re talking about a kite-like structure...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Lets talk a little about how best we can tackle climate change.
People get a little a misled. They’ll take something like solar PVs [photovoltaic panels], and say, when the sun is shining that daytime energy will replace hydrocarbons. That is completely uninteresting, because you still want to heat apartments ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
So we’re not in the tech bubble?
It’s not as extreme as it was in 2000 all the way up to March 2001. But we will have a few of these companies who have these pre-IPO billion-dollar valuations won’t make that transition.
Are these tech companies overvalued?
I wouldn’t go long on a basket of pre-IPO tech companies. I don’t think I’d go short either. Yes, a lot of them are overvalued. But the fact that they are a significant change agent that is changing the rules of the game for everything from drug d...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free

On the role of government. Reagan said that nine of the most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” Are you sympathetic to that point of view?

The government has a vital role in helping to tackle these problems. The voice of poor people, the price of that marketplace is nil. So some non-bottom line activity, of which government is a big piece and which philanthropy is a small piece has t...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Are today’s tech companies overreaching?
The guys who invented the steam engine, if you met them you might say they were a bunch of arrogant assholes. But the steam engine still changed the world. It doesn’t matter.
In this Uber economy, do you have a message for the London taxi driver?
The real Rubicon there is the self-driving car. Uber is just a reorganisation of the labour pool into a more dynamic form. The serious revolution is when that capability is machine-based.
Subsided by who?
By the government, by society, if there is desire to have those people have employment.
You’re talking about a world of serious labour substitution. What areas of the labour market are most at risk?
For those high-school-educated or below is where there will be substitution. We’ve been destroying manufacturing jobs at quite a rate, and that’s good. It makes things cheaper. People demand more things. It does mean that if you’re not educating ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Can you assure us that the world of Blade Runner, where the robots will take over, that’s some time away, we don’t have to worry about that?
They will be benign for quite some time.
Why do you believe the rate of innovation is accelerating?
The magic of software is we can take something and figure it out and replicate it for very little cost. The kind of change we’ve had over the past 250 years, we’ll get more than that in the next 50 years.