Hi, I’m Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Ask me anything.

Many of you know me from my Microsoft days. The company remains very important to me and I’m still chairman. But today my full time work is with the foundation. Melinda and I believe that everyone deserves the chance for a healthy and productive life – and so with the help of our amazing partners, we are working to find innovative ways to help people in need all over the world.

I’ve just finished writing my 2013 Annual Letter http://www.billsletter.com. This year I wrote about how there is a great opportunity to apply goals and measures to make global improvements in health, development and even education in the U.S.

VERIFICATION: http://i.imgur.com/vlMjEgF.jpg

I’ll be answering your questions live, starting at 10:45 am PST. I’m looking forward to my first AMA.

UPDATE: Here’s a video where I’ve answered a few popular Reddit questions - http://youtu.be/qv_F-oKvlKU

UPDATE: Thanks for the great AMA, Reddit! I hope you’ll read my annual letter www.billsletter.com and visit my website, The Gates Notes, www.gatesnotes.com to see what I’m working on. I’d just like to leave you with the thought that helping others can be very gratifying. http://i.imgur.com/D3qRaty.jpg

Comments: 27182 • Responses: 34  • Date: 

boodhabelly3492 karma

I just wanted to say thanks for responding to my letter that I wrote to you in the second grade. I still have your autograph. Out of all the celebrities that were written to in my class you were the only to to respond. Thanks for making me the coolest second grader for a little while.

Edit: Just got home from class, and the epic search for the letter and picture begins!

Edit2: http://imgur.com/qzaZYLG the search continues! We aren't stopping till we find it!

Edit3: http://imgur.com/fIXij3F Delivered!

Edit4: http://imgur.com/KusJZGB The letter!

thisisbillgates3443 karma

I am glad you kept it!

Salacious-3354 karma

What do people give you for your birthday, given that you can buy anything you want?

thisisbillgates4351 karma

Free software. Just kidding.

Books actually.

Mcdoofus2461 karma

Oh! What's your favorite book?

Edit: A book recommendation from a billionaire. Cool! Thanks, Bill!

thisisbillgates3336 karma

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? http://b-gat.es/12GKLyN)

doublething13349 karma

Anything left on your bucket list?

Edit: Thanks for responding, is it too soon to put you as a reference on my resume?

thisisbillgates4837 karma

Don't die...

falter3264 karma

Since becoming wealthy, what's the cheapest thing that gives you the most pleasure?

thisisbillgates3886 karma

Kids. Cheap cheeseburgers. Open Course Ware courses...

KeyLimePyro3770 karma

Where are you acquiring these cheap kids from?

thisisbillgates4489 karma

The stork.

p8ntballnxj3181 karma

What is something that needs to be changed in the world, but money wont help?

thisisbillgates4157 karma

It would be nice if all governments were as rational as the Nordic governments - reaching compromise and providing services broadly. The Economist had a nice special section on this last week. Africa governments have often been weak but you can't write a check to change that. Fortunately the average quality is going up. Mo Ibrahim tracks this in a great way. (http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/IIAG/)

DirtyDutchPoser3070 karma

Can you still jump over chairs?

thisisbillgates3422 karma

Less than I used to. It was part of exercise for snow skiing. I still ski but I am not as hard core...

cyberbemon3044 karma

Do you still code, If so which language? :)

EDIT: Thanks for the Reddit gold!

thisisbillgates3356 karma

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...

Salacious-3044 karma

What one Microsoft program or product that was never fully developed or released do you wish had made it to market?

thisisbillgates2960 karma

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.

Druxo1245 karma

Did it ever have a name?

Mibly2896 karma

Possibly WinFS? I always wanted to see what happened to that.


thisisbillgates3157 karma


NotThatBatman437 karma


thisisbillgates485 karma

Vista was what eventually shipped but Winfs had been dropped by then.

squatly3025 karma

Hi, welcome to reddit!

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)?

thisisbillgates2306 karma

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.

sletica3016 karma

What type of computer are you using right now?

thisisbillgates4031 karma

I just got my Surface Pro a week ago and it is very nice.

I am using a Perceptive Pixel display right now - huge Windows 8 touch whiteboard. These will come down in price over time and be pervasive... (http://i.imgur.com/1JqrLVc.jpg)

loucatelli2997 karma

How did you feel about your portrayal in Pirates of Silicon Valley, and who do you want to play you next in a movie?

thisisbillgates3863 karma

That portrayal was reasonably accurate....

Salacious-2876 karma

How have other extremely wealthy people reacted to your excessively generous philanthropy?

thisisbillgates3030 karma

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...

idancer2466 karma

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.

thisisbillgates2977 karma

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.

samaritan_lee2821 karma

First of all: Thank you for all you've given and all you've done to make the world a better place.

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?

thisisbillgates2727 karma

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 and you can learn more about the progress against polio with this infographic: http://annualletter.gatesfoundation.org/#nav=section4&slide=2)

dylanstalker2786 karma

What do you do for fun? I find it hard to fathom how someone like you can just disconnect. Disconnect from the emails, calls ,the media. All of it. What would be your definition of a chill and fun day? Edit-Thanks for the gold!

thisisbillgates3470 karma

I love playing tennis. I am an avid bridge player (a card game if you have not heard of it - it was more popular in the past!). I like to tour interesting things with my kids like power plants, garbage dumps, the Large Hadron Collider, Antarctica, missile Silos (Arizona),... I read a lot and watch courses (online or the Learning Company)..

Zexyterrestrial2691 karma

What emerging technology today do you think will cause another big stir for the average consumer in the same way that the home computer did years ago?

thisisbillgates2906 karma

Robots, pervasive screens, speech interaction will all change the way we look at "computers". Once seeing, hearing, and reading (including handwriting) work very well you will interact in new ways..

U_Cant_Touch_This2640 karma

How was your relationship with Steve jobs? I always hoped that y'all were really good friends and competitors.

thisisbillgates3066 karma

He and I respected each other. Our biggest joint project was the Mac where Microsoft had more people on the project than Apple did as we wrote a lot of applications. I saw Steve regularly over the years including spending an afternoon with him a few months before he tragically passed away...

parkerjh2534 karma

Which world-wide health cause are we perfectly capable of easily solving and on the cusp of achieving but just need to put it over the top with a little more attention or resources to actually solve?

thisisbillgates2957 karma

Polio is the first thing to get done since we are close. Within 6 years we will have the last case. After that we will go after malaria and measles. Malaria kills over 500,000 kids every year mostly in Africa and did not get enough attention until the last decade. We also need vaccines to prevent HIV and TB which are making progress...

tiger_rider2467 karma

What is the greatest achievement of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in your opinion and how do you choose which causes to support?

thisisbillgates2936 karma

So far our biggest impact has been getting vaccines for things like diarrhea and pneumonia out which has saved millions of lives. Polio will be a great achievement along with key partners when that gets done.

Sindi1822338 karma

Is Weezer still your favorite band?

thisisbillgates3243 karma

Weezer.... Actually U2 is a favorite.. I keep waiting for Spinal Tap to go back on tour...

grimguitar2176 karma

First of all, thanks Mr. Gates for doing this. I’ve been a fan of you since I was a little kid, taking solace in your success as a professional nerd and philanthropist.

If Microsoft didn’t take off, what would you have done and be doing instead?

You are a leader in the ultra-wealthy philanthropists, but what do you think that people of median income can do to help improve the world the most?

thisisbillgates2469 karma

If the microprocessor had NOT come along I am not sure what I would have done. Maybe medicine or theoretical math but it is hard to say.

Most giving is done by the middle class so it is the backbone of generosity particularly in the United States. A key thing is to support government aid which is only 1% of the budget but helps poor countries in incredible ways.

Fozzy4202099 karma

Do you guys really use Bing? I mean seriously...

thisisbillgates2264 karma

Seriously Bing is the better product at this point. Try the challenge. I am biased but the work to make Bing better has been amazing.

indrora2082 karma

What's your worst fear for the future of the world? (edit: I terms of policy/politics/etc -- e.g. SOPA/ITU)

thisisbillgates2825 karma

Hopefully we won't have terrorists using nuclear weapons or biological weapons. We should make sure that stays hard.

I am disappointed more isn't being done to reduce carbon emissions. Governments need to spend more on basic energy R&D to make sure we get cheap non-CO2 emitting sources as soon as possible.

Overall I am pretty optimistic. Things are a lot better than they were 200 years ago..

Shellin1972 karma

Hi Mr. Gates,

The anti-vaccine movement does not only exist in developing countries, such as Pakistan, but is quite popular here in the United States as well. As a result, the number of flu and whooping cough cases are bigger than ever.

Are you planning on working domestically as well?

edit for related question: Which countries do you think serve as models for their initiatives towards an overall healthier society? ie. who's doing the best?

thisisbillgates2570 karma

Vaccines are very important in all countries. Some of the bad rumors have lead to kids dying of measles and pertussis. We have backed some information campaigns on the importance of vaccination even in the US.

The Nordic countries do a good job on health like they do on many things...

Sindi1821774 karma

Did you ever own a Macintosh?

thisisbillgates2517 karma

Microsoft does a lot of software for the Mac. I mostly use Windows machines but from time to time I have tried all of Apple products.

kkthnxbye1694 karma

What is your view on the world's reliance on crude oil, and will you be investing into researching other sources of energy?

thisisbillgates2139 karma

I did a TED talk about the climate crisis. Over time we have to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions so using fossil fuels will require us to do carbon capture and sequestration. There has been far too little work on this. (http://www.thegatesnotes.com/Topics/Energy/Talking-About-Energy-Miracles-at-TED)

killfirejack1665 karma

How do you measure the success of the foundation?

How does the foundation differ from other large philanthropic organizations?

Thanks for all that you and Melinda have done and continue to do!

thisisbillgates2211 karma

Our goals are focused on helping the poorest (globally) and improving education (in the US). We spend half of our money on global health. One metric to look at is reducing the number of children (under 5) who die. My annual letter talks about the amazing progress that has been made on this. Amazingly as health improves families choose to have less kids so paradoxically population growth goes DOWN as you improve health helping with almost every issue - from stability to the environment..

The Rosling video I posted on Sunday talks about this: http://www.reddit.com/r/videos/comments/189bwr/most_people_still_think_of_the_world_as_being/

DaimyoNoNeko456 karma

Mr. Gates I was happy to see you last year at the Math Strategy Group at Sunnylands.

My question is how do you see technology enhancing Mathematics education without actually replacing it?

thisisbillgates733 karma

The ability to test your knowledge and get refreshed on a topic you are making mistakes on will personalize a lot of the learning experience. People like Sal Khan are out in front figuring out how to do this well. My foundation has funded a lot of MOOCs focused on community college kids or kids who have to take remedial math. I am optimistic these will make a big difference.

Mutinix216 karma

Hi Bill, I have a few questions for you:

1) I'm from India. What do you think are some of the biggest challenges India currently faces that's hindering its progress?

2) At what point did you decide that it was time to retire and put the Microsoft part of your life behind you and focus completely on philanthropy?

3) Lastly, have you been involved at all with Microsoft after your retirement? Maybe helped them out a bit?

P.S. I've been a huge fan of you since I was a kid. Maybe I'll get a chance to meet you one day!

thisisbillgates97 karma

India is making progress but there is still a lot to do particularly up in the North. They still need to add some of the vaccines that poorer countries are already using and saving lots of lives. India did a great job on polio and is increasing the health budget. We work closely with the federal and state governments to help out...