I had a lot of fun doing last year’s AMA and am excited to come back for another round of questions about everything from philanthropy to technology to how to lose a chess match in less than 90 seconds (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84NwnSltHFo). (Step 1: Play the world champion. There is no step 2.)

I hope you’ll read my annual letter (http://annualletter.gatesfoundation.org/). Melinda and I talk about three myths that block progress for the poor.

I’ll be answering your questions live from my office, starting at 10 a.m. Pacific time.

Proof: http://i.imgur.com/iqvPs7N.jpg

UPDATE: I’ve responded to a few myths ahead of time, including one that involves me and a $100 bill. Take a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZnmpDrjtDc

UPDATE: This is great… though I have to admit I’m a bit surprised by the turnout. http://i.imgur.com/U5PNnZi.jpg

UPDATE: Thanks for hanging out with me today, Reddit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynQ5ZhxYAss

UPDATE: OK, final update. Thanks for all the great questions – this has been a lot of fun. I hope you’ll read the Annual Letter, www.gatesletter.com, and check out my blog, www.thegatesnotes.com.

Comments: 19234 • Responses: 41  • Date: 

thisisbillgates3721 karma

I tried to answer as many questions as I could, but I’ve got to go. I do have one question for you: How can we help more people understand that foreign aid isn’t 25% or even 10% of the U.S. federal budget, but less than 1%?

Danjorgo3469 karma

What is your most expensive guilty pleasure purchase?

EDIT: I left for class and came back to see that Bill Gates answered my question and CNET decided to make it a headline. I am so starstruck right now.


thisisbillgates3697 karma

Owning a plane is a guilty pleasure. Warren Buffett called his the Indefensible. I do get to a lot of places for Foundation work I wouldn't be able to go to without it.

shiruken3117 karma

What are your thoughts about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin?

thisisbillgates3187 karma

The foundation is involved in digital money but unlike Bitcoin it would not be anonymous digital money. In Kenya M-pesa is being used for almost half of all transactions. Digital money has low transaction costs which is great for the poor because they need to do financial transactions with small amounts of money. Over the next 5 years I think digital money will catch on in India and parts of Africa and help the poorest a lot. (http://www.impatientoptimists.org/posts/2011/01/mobile-phones-savings-a-powerful-pair)

dgeek3080 karma

Mr. Gates,

Any advice on how entrepreneurs of today and tomorrow should go about balancing business and philanthropy... or do they have to succeed first in order to give later?

thisisbillgates3277 karma

Just creating an innovative company is a huge contribution to the world. During my 20's and 30's that was all I focused on. Ideally people can start to mix in some philanthropy like Mark Zuckerberg has early in his career. I have enjoyed talking to some of the Valley entrepreneurs about this and I am impressed and how early they are thinking about giving back - much earlier than I did.

okmkz1023 karma

Step one: sell high.
Step two: buy low.

Source: DOS

Haiku_Description984 karma

How do you sell before you buy!?

thisisbillgates3431 karma

Its called shorting a stock.

super_slayer3064 karma

What's one of your goals for the next year... and how can we help?

thisisbillgates3554 karma

Wow. That is a nice thing to ask. I wish the debate about education would focus on helping teachers improve and what we know about that. Right now it is caught up in state versus federal and testing versus no-testing. In general politics needs to focus on the problems rather than attacking the other side. Asian countries are helping their teachers improve and the impact is huge.

KipperTheCat2899 karma

How do you feel about the NSA and its oversight of computer usage?

edit: it's to its. Also, Thanks for the response!

edit2: mrw you guys gave Bill Gates 5 months of reddit gold and just left me here with fake internet points

edit3: GOLD?!

thisisbillgates2930 karma

This is a complex issue. Privacy will be increasingly important as cameras and GPS sensors are gathering information to try and be helpful. We need to have trust in the way information is protected and gathered. There is a role for the government to try and stop crime and terrorism but it will have to be more open. I do think terrorism with biological or nuclear weapons is something we want to minimize the chance of.

Hazzman151 karma

My money is on not getting an answer to this.

thisisbillgates454 karma

I did answer unless the NSA deletes my answer.

mrh3llman2692 karma

If you were a current computer science student what area would you start studying heavily?

If you feel like expanding on that, why do you think this area deserves the attention and how do you see it changing the technology game in the next 10 years?

thisisbillgates3097 karma

The ultimate is computers that learn. So called deep learning which started at Microsoft and is now being used by many researchers looks like a real advance that may finally learn. It has already made a big difference in video and audio recognition - more progress in the last 3 years than ever before.

sathish11221 karma

My guess is that machine learning would be his answer to the first question.

thisisbillgates1840 karma

Yes - the terms are a little confusing. Learning can mean a low level thing which all machine learning algorithms do or the high level idea of reading a book and understanding what it means.

KidneyStonesAreFun2677 karma

Can you describe your new role at Microsoft?

000000FFFFFF3592 karma

Yeah... Bill, I gotta ask you, what would you say you do there?

thisisbillgates3198 karma

I make sure we pick ambitious scenarios and that we have a strong architecture to deliver on them. I encourage good work (hopefully).

thisisbillgates2292 karma

I am excited about how the cloud and new devices can help us communicate and collaborate in new ways. The OS won't just be on one device and the information won't just be files - it will be your history including being able to review memories of things like kids growing up. I was thrilled Satya asked me to pitch in to make sure Microsoft is ambitious with its innovation. Even in Office there is a lot more than can be done.

baculaat2658 karma

What do you think will be the most revolutionary technology in the coming 5 years?

mrmagoo5122999 karma

Vista 2.0

kipsndip3110 karma

Vista: First Blood Part II

thisisbillgates3852 karma

I think this was supposed to be sarcastic...

bizzyjay2650 karma

Dear Mr. Gates...can you still do this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TCxE0bWQeQ

Be honest.

thisisbillgates3048 karma

No I cannot. I can still jump but not over a full sized garbage can like I used to be able to. Be careful - it can hurt if you don't succeed.

suds50001798 karma

It probably still depends on the size of the chair...

thisisbillgates2853 karma

Yes. A small enough chair I can still jump over.

DepartmentOfWorks2572 karma

Steve Jobs had Ashton Kutcher. Who do you want to portray you in a biopic?

captain_crabs3757 karma

Samuel L Jackson.

thisisbillgates4237 karma

Melinda would probably watch that version.

alex43462542 karma

Any luck with the condom design competition?

thisisbillgates3235 karma

This is a sensitive topic. The idea was that men don't like the current design so perhaps something they would be more open to would allow for less HIV transmission. We still haven't gotten the results. One grantee is using carbon nanotubes to reduce the thickness,

_ssm2474 karma

What is different about Bill Gates age 20 years and today, except for the time?

thisisbillgates3046 karma

20 years ago I would stay in the office for days at a time and not think twice about it - so I had energy and naivete on my side. Now hopefully I am a bit more mellow but with a little extra wisdom.

darung2315 karma

Hey Bill, have you made any plans to artificially prolong your life?


thisisbillgates2836 karma

No I don't. Other people think about that but I wouldn't want to extend my last few years unless that is happening for most people.

novaape2110 karma

Hey Bill,

I'm actually an intern at Microsoft right now. How will your time be divided up between the foundation and Microsoft now that the CEO has asked you to step up. Also, could you host a talk for the interns. We'd love to hear about your work at the foundation and your thoughts on the future of tech.


thisisbillgates2447 karma

My time will be about 2/3 Foundation and 1/3 Microsoft. I will focus on product work mostly.

foxnhound331913 karma

I am going to hit you with a tough one. What is the worst case that you know of where your philanthropy backfired? Here I mean the worst party possible benefitted from the gift. I am curious because I think there are important lessons to be learned from these kinds of stories for myself and others passionate about giving to the people who need it most .

thisisbillgates2378 karma

A lot of our failures have been backing science that didn't work out. One thing that is tough is when you think the government will take over something you start but they don't - we had that with a school lunch program. It might have been better if we hadn't done it.

briannnf1652 karma

Hey Bill, thank you so much for doing this AMA.

I'd just like to know, what is something you enjoy doing that you think no one would expect from you?

thisisbillgates3020 karma

Playing Bridge is a pretty old fashioned thing in a way that I really like. I was watching my daughter ride horses this weekend and that is also a bit old fashioned but fun. I do the dishes every night - other people volunteer but I like the way I do it.

SuddenlyCarlSagan1500 karma

Besides improving the education system in the U.S., what do you believe is the next big issue that we need to address domestically?

thisisbillgates2597 karma

Education would be the top issue since it is key to individual opportunity and to the country as a whole and we are not doing as well as other countries. After that I would say immigration since the injustice of the current system is incredible.

deadfisher1466 karma

How do you deal with the anti-vaccination sentiment that seems to be growing in our society? Have you ever found yourself justifying your efforts to reduce polio?

(I'd like to give you an enormous thank you from myself personally. Thank you!!)

thisisbillgates2009 karma

In all countries vaccine rumors seem to always get ahead of vaccine facts. This is unfortunate since it has meant measles and pertussis deaths in communities where enough kids don't get vaccinated.

anonymouslives1267 karma

What is your best personal financial advice for people who make under $100,000 per year?

thisisbillgates2471 karma

Invest in your education.

Midnight_Swampwalk1255 karma

I feel like he is probably one of the least qualified people to answer this question. When was the last time Bill Gates made less than $100,000 per year?

Edit: Not to say he doesn't know the value of money or have an immense knowledge of business and finance, i just don't think Bill Gates has a lot of experience living off of a 5 figure salary.

thisisbillgates2214 karma

I never went for a big salary but your basic point is correct.

KushtyKush1235 karma

Hey Bill, if you didn't go into computers and later found Microsoft, what do you think you would be doing?

thisisbillgates1955 karma

I considered law and math. My Dad was a lawyer. I think though I would have ended up in physics if I didn't end up in computer science.

_pupil_1227 karma

You're working with TerraPower to bring a large scale source of low carbon energy onto the commercial grid.

What, in your opinion, is the biggest impediment to bringing new nuclear technology onto the global market?

thisisbillgates1789 karma

We need low cost energy that is totally reliable. Most renewables will require storage which is expensive to do this. Nuclear will make a contribution if we can make it safer, cheaper and deal with waste better. Terrapower has a design (on paper) that addresses all of these issues so now we are talking to countries about building it. It is a 4th generation reactor design that uses depleted uranium.

Wigglez11200 karma

Are you a fan of Video Games? If so, What is your favourite Video Game?

Edit: PC Master race reigns supreme

thisisbillgates1950 karma

I am not a huge gamer. My son knows a LOT more than I do about what is cool on Xbox. I played Halo but the sports games that the whole family can use are the things I use the most. I threw the javelin very very far!

h0ll0w1149 karma

What smartphone and/or tablet are you currently using?

Thanks Bill! :)

thisisbillgates2053 karma

I am using a Surface 2 PRO which works well for me.

ZeroCool11137 karma


Nuclear is notoriously expensive. How do you make sure that you manage/pick people to manage Terrapower so that it financially succeeds by building a product which makes money--and doesn't just make a dream plant?

Right now I know that Terrapower is looking at both sodium, and molten salt on the side, as a heat transfer fluid--why bridge out to so many technologies? Why not maintain a narrow focus?

Lastly, sodium plants have notoriously had issues over the history of nuclear power--both safety and cost wise--what is being done at Terrapower to make sure history isn't repeated?

I work on Molten Salts at U-Wisconsin Madison where I do a bunch of salt chemistry, which involves pushing hot salt through pipes/tubes at temperatures very similar to what Terrapower wants to run at. I'll be giving you guys a call when I get my PhD next December.

thisisbillgates1356 karma

Terrapower is like most fast reactors which use Sodium cooling. We tried to stick to proven approaches wherever we could. There have been about 10 Fast Reactors. By using this approach we have no fuel problems and very limited waste generation. Most important is the inherent safety - no human involvement for shut down.

AdventuresOfSeal1100 karma

Who is your role model?

thisisbillgates2086 karma

People who devote their lives to working in poor countries are doing amazing work with very little visibility. I have gotten to meet some of them.

monsterChomper927 karma

What is the biggest obstacle the developed world needs to overcome, in order to help the developing world?

thisisbillgates1810 karma

The greatest tragedy is kids who die or never get enough food to develop physically or mentally to achieve their potential. We need vaccines and nutrition to solve this. We are making progress but not fast enough.

Cynicism is the biggest barrier - www.gatesletter.com talks about this.

bar078907 karma

How close are you to wiping out polio worldwide?

thisisbillgates1804 karma

We are very close. India just went 3 years with no cases. Pakistan is our toughest location right now because some parts of the Taliban have not allowed vaccinators to come in and have even attacked vaccinators. We are hopeful this will get resolved since no one wants their kid to be paralyzed. I spend a lot of time making sure the polio campaign is doing the best it can. We have great computer models that help guide our activities.

stocman21716 karma

Hey Bill,

I love your book lists. What are you currently reading, or plan to read next, that you suggest Reddit pick up?

Thanks for doing another one of these, your first one was great.

thisisbillgates868 karma

Well Smil keeps writing great books like Made in the USA and Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization. Paul Farmer has 3 books recently - to Repair the World is very accessible. In the Company of the Poor is a harder read but also good. www.gatesnotes.com tracks my reading closely. (http://www.thegatesnotes.com/books)

pcs199509 karma

Hi Bill! What is your favorite project you have ever worked on at Microsoft?

thisisbillgates776 karma

The Windows project which required a lot of patience was great. Office was also great. Together they defined the big success of the 1990s for Microsoft. Office connected to the cloud has a LOT of potential and we are off to a good start. Cloud Storage needs to be a lot richer though.

iRuisu460 karma

Was that a Christopher Walken impersonation in your myth video?

thisisbillgates689 karma

I love him but any similarity was not intentional.

One of my favorite movies is Brainstorm - I highly recommend it!

Lmitation213 karma

Hi Bill,

So awesome for you to do an AMA!

University student here with an entrepreneurial mindset.

What role would you say higher education (university and beyond) played in your success? What is your current opinion of the higher education system? What is the best advice you can give to someone looking to create successful startup ventures?

I would be honored if you could answer these questions!


thisisbillgates483 karma

I love college courses. I still watch a lot of them. I read a lot about people who had been successful. College was fun for me. So the part of the higher education system I got to experience was amazing - unfortunately most people don't get to go to Harvard or the equivalent.

It is strange to call me a college drop out in all but the most literal sense. I went for 3 years and took enough courses to graduate. So I am kind of a failure as a drop out and I don't have a degree....

AnalFissureSmoothie212 karma

First of all, thanks for doing the AMA. And congrats to you on your spanking-new CEO.

My questions:

1) How does Mr. Nadella's vision differ from yours and Mr Ballmer's?

2) A couple of articles I read recently mentioned that the board is going to be putting pressure on the new CEO to exit the devices business and focus more sharply on enterprise customers. Your thoughts on that? If it means anything, I am a huge fan of the Surface. Can't afford one, but I have used the first one . Hugely impressed.

3) Also, this is pertinent to where I live -- India. A few people have a somewhat negative impression of the work that the B&MGF is doing; specifically, they claim it has an agenda to push products manufactured by American drug companies. Would you like to respond to that?

4) Can I have a tour of your home if I am ever in the area?

That's all for now. Thanks once again.

thisisbillgates344 karma

Satya is taking a fresh view of where Microsoft is - strengths and weaknesses. A new person gets to step back and change the focus in some ways. He is off to a great start.

In terms of the Foundation we fund vaccines that save childrens lives. The majority of those are made in India. In fact ironically India makes a lot of vaccines that are used in other countries but not in India. The Foundation is not trying to help anyone make money - simply to reduce the number of children who die from things like diarrhea and pneumonia.

pimple_poppins194 karma

Is the Desktop computer really dead? What does that say for the future of computer programming?

thisisbillgates21 karma

The boundaries between form factors is blurring but the range of screen sizes and different input techniques will still mean there are desktop devices and wall devices. However applications will be able to run across multiple devices including the whiteboard.

cynicaltechie120 karma

On ways to get funding and AID to developing countries: What are your thoughts on direct cash transfers like Give Directly? So instead of tying up aid into a potentially bureaucratic mess of requirements, just give cash to families and let them work out what they will do with the money.

Do you envision a bigger buy in by other Philanthropists for this type of work if the numbers look promising (they already do).

thisisbillgates201 karma

I favor improving the health of a country to enable them to be self-sufficient. I will be interested to see how cash transfer works out - in some cases like helping someone pay a school fee it could be catalytic. Our focus is health and agriculture which can transform a country. As long as kids don't have enough nutrition a country won't be able to support itself.