It is official – Bill Gates won’t give you money if you forward that email in your inbox to 100 people.
This statement formed part of a recent Ask Me Anything on Reddit, where Gates answered questions from users.
The top questions from the AMA are detailed below.
What are your top 3 goals currently?
For the Foundation reducing childhood death and malnutrition and ending polio would be the biggest 3 things. For innovation it would be an energy breakthrough and improving the way we educate kids. For my family it is making sure the kids are ready to go to college and have a great experience there. That is more than 3 and I didn’t mention my tennis goals yet.
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.
How do you see automation affecting our economy over the next 10-20 years?
Automation has been driving productivity ever since the industrial revolution, including things like tractors and garment making. With software, this will continue to accelerate so we need to think about how we educate people for the new jobs that will emerge. Overall, automation is a great thing – eventually we won’t have to work as much but we are still at least a generation away from a big change there.
What technology are you most looking forward to?
The most amazing thing will be when computers can read and understand the text like humans do. Today, computers can do simple things like search for specific words, but concepts like vacation or career or family are not “understood”. Microsoft and others are working on this to create a helpful assistant. It has always been kind of a holy grail of software, particularly now that vision and speech are largely solved. Another frontier is robotics, where the human ability to move and manipulate is amazing and experts disagree on whether it will take just a decade or a lot longer (Brooks) to achieve the equivalent.
Do you ever just randomly get up when you’re home and make a peanut butter sandwich?
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.
Tabs or Spaces?
When I code I use tabs because you want the columns to line up. For some word documents I use tabs. You want things to adjust when you go back and edit them, and tabs help.
If you were born into a low-income family, do you think you would have managed to become as rich as you are?
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.
Is it true that if I forward the email in my inbox to 100 people you will give me money?
How different do you think your life would be if your name was Gill Bates?
Why is this question so popular? Hello to all the Gills out there. You probably run into someone with the same name less than I do. I don’t think my name has affected me much. My formal name is William.