I’m excited to be back for my sixth AMA.

Here’s a couple of the things I won’t be doing today so I can answer your questions instead.

Melinda and I just published our 10th Annual Letter. We marked the occasion by answering 10 of the hardest questions people ask us. Check it out here: http://www.gatesletter.com.

Proof: https://twitter.com/BillGates/status/968561524280197120

Edit: You’ve all asked me a lot of tough questions. Now it’s my turn to ask you a question: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/80phz7/with_all_of_the_negative_headlines_dominating_the/

Edit: I’ve got to sign-off. Thank you, Reddit, for another great AMA: https://www.reddit.com/user/thisisbillgates/comments/80pkop/thanks_for_a_great_ama_reddit/

Comments: 20345 • Responses: 35  • Date: 

Ventilatorr29908 karma

Is it possible to get in contact with the people responsible for the Windows On-Screen Keyboard? I and a lot of other disabled users rely on it to type but it's missing a lot of features compared to mobile keyboards and even the Ubuntu keyboard.

It takes a lot of time and effort to type like this, it would be great if it got updated so we could type more efficient.

thisisbillgates36745 karma

I would be glad to pass along your thoughts on this to the right person at Microsoft - they care a lot about getting accessibility right.

herbalbert13865 karma

how different do you think your life would be if your name was Gill Bates?

thisisbillgates11167 karma

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.

jpfg25912013 karma

If you were born into a low-income family, do you think you would have managed to become as rich as you are now?

thisisbillgates28832 karma

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.

Eric_Partman11641 karma

What technology are you most looking forward to in the next 10 years and what impact do you think it could have?

thisisbillgates16116 karma

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.

sharminuchiha10226 karma

Hello Bill ! When did you consider yourself a success?

thisisbillgates27724 karma

There are many domains to be successful in. I was a success in getting good grades and test scores in high school. I was a success at writing good code by my early 20s. The dream of the PC being an enabling tool came true by the 1990s. Now I am working on being a good father and the ambitious goals of the Foundation including getting rid of polio and malaria. I think it is always good to have goals where your success is in doubt and I have that in many areas including the work I do on climate change.

bebop4710039 karma

Tabs or Spaces?

thisisbillgates20518 karma

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.

funnyctgirl9897 karma

Hi Mr. Gates! Do you ever like, just randomly get up when you're home and make yourself a peanut butter sandwich? Or do you have people do that for you?

thisisbillgates15082 karma

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.

samort78548 karma

What are your hobbies, and how do you balance time between them and your work / family / other obligations?

p.s. You're a huge inspiration in my life and a role model too! Thank you for everything you do!

thisisbillgates12747 karma

Allocating time is always tough. Tennis is a big hobby for me and I try and play twice a week (a bit more in the summer). I always try and read a few books every month and a bunch on vacation. Melinda and I look over our schedules a lot to make sure we are balancing things well. I travel about 1/3 of the time for the Foundation which I enjoy.

jutah19838249 karma

Is it true that if I forward the email in my inbox to 100 people you will give me money?

thisisbillgates11990 karma


usefulshrimp6252 karma

What do you feel/know that is one very solvable problem that society (or most likely, government) is ignoring?

thisisbillgates13709 karma

I think that health care costs, education and poverty/mobility deserve a lot more thinking and innovation than they get today. The benefit of getting these things right would be amazing. With all the talk about inequity it is interesting that we still work on vertical areas like health, education, housing, food, etc.. as separate things rather than having a full view of the challenges someone faces.

mossman855923 karma

Do you miss anything about your time at Microsoft?

thisisbillgates13910 karma

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.

cold_beer_4all5142 karma

Hey Bill, what’s your favorite beer?

thisisbillgates12706 karma

I am not a big beer drinker. When I end up at something like a baseball game I drink light beer to get with the vibe of all the other beer drinkers. Sorry to disappoint real beer drinkers.

anonymoushero14935 karma

How do you see automation affecting our economy over the next 10-20 years?

thisisbillgates7186 karma

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.

jdunk21454646 karma

Is a cure for alzheimer's a real possibility in the near future, and will it be accessible to people on medicare medicaid?

thisisbillgates7232 karma

There have been a lot of failed Alzheimer's drug trials. The good news is that the new tools we have are helping us understand the disease far better - for example the role of the glial cells. I am optimistic that in the next 20 years we will have drugs to help if we stay focused on it including pooling data and helping start ups get funded. I am involved in a number of these areas.

kingofthemonsters3830 karma

Hey Bill, how much do you know about Quantum computing, and is Microsoft delving deep into that field?

thisisbillgates7163 karma

I spent a month learning the math behind Quantum computing with help from the Microsoft team and a lot of online course material. I wanted to understand how Quantum computers could factor numbers so much faster than normal computers. It is amazing how the matrix math with complex numbers works - nature is doing arbitrary computation but it is tricky to access. These are early days but yes Microsoft is making large investments in quantum - particularly in handling the error problems that most approaches have.

slooots3410 karma

Hey Bill. First off, thanks so much for everything you do for society. You've turned your profound success into opportunities for millions more to succeed.

As for my question - I completely agree with the stance you and Melinda discussed in your annual letter, where you stress that the onus of owning future change lies in the hands of the greater population. Too often, though, I feel that even though hundreds, thousands, or sometimes millions of people can hold opinions and strive for change, corporations still hold the vast power for change. You touched on it briefly in #7, but how do you convince corporations to look beyond short-term equity growth into the big picture of their role as changemakers within an increasingly border-less world?

thisisbillgates2912 karma

Each corporation has to look at what capabilities it has and how it can use those to help people in need whether it is research or tiered pricing or having employees volunteer. When I was in Scotland I met with people at an NHS hospital there who had paired with a hospital in Zambia and it was amazing how much they helped save lives by visiting and supporting their colleagues. I think creative things like this where individuals get involved can make a big difference both locally and internationally.

Zockman1752883 karma

Who is your favorite celebrity?

thisisbillgates7755 karma

Melinda and Warren are my two favorites followed by Bono. Most celebrities I don't know very well. I do get to meet a lot of political leaders and Nelson Mandela was the most impressive ever. Jimmy Carter is also amazing.

BecauseImAwesomeDuh2871 karma

What are your top 3 goals currently?

thisisbillgates7691 karma

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.

123lift2199 karma

While the Gates Foundation is tackling several major issues, it seems like transport is an important issue that is overlooked. Specifically, the impediments of inadequate transportation or inefficient transportation is a major contributor to a number of issues including poverty, vaccine delivery, education, etc. Having spent over 25 years in the transportation analysis field, I keeps coming to the same conclusion that transportation is an important, but undervalued issue in bettering the human condition. Has this been tackled or discussed within your circles?

thisisbillgates3254 karma

I think the private market rewards innovation in this space quite well. I think electric cars and autonomous vehicles will be great things. The Foundation is experimenting with drone delivery of medical supplies with a grantee in Rwanda and Tanzania. I am not sure the hyperloop concept makes sense - making it safe is hard.

Krohnos1970 karma

What are the most promising new ways to fight malaria?

thisisbillgates2888 karma

Malaria is a super important area for the Foundation. The number of deaths has been cut in half using bed nets and spraying and new drugs. For the future we need new tools since resistance is developing to all the current tools. We don't have a vaccine that protects for long enough to help out yet but we are investing heavily in one. We do a lot of modelling to understand which tools would help the most. One that would be new is called gene drive which would reduce mosquito populations for a number of years to make it easier to clear the malaria from all of the humans - this will be ready for field testing in a few years

LukaBrazia1946 karma

Hey Bill!

What were you like in your early teens and what would you change about yourself back then?

Did you know you wanted to be a software developer from an early age? What helped you in picking your career path?

Were you always confident you'd be a successful software developer or did you have some self-doubt?

thisisbillgates3414 karma

I first saw a computer when I was 13 and it fascinated me then. I spent a lot of time figuring out what programming was - first Basic and then machine language. By the time I was 16 I got a job programming at TRW which helped me learn even more (skipping part of my senior year). So I was lucky to have something I loved to do and which became more important in the years ahead. I have had self-doubts about all of my skills but programming is one I have always had a lot of confidence in.

Krohnos1857 karma

What is the best book you've read in 2018?

thisisbillgates3671 karma

There are two amazing books. One is Enlightenment Now by Pinker and another is Factfulness by Rosling. They are both very readable and explain that the world is getting better.

Edit: I recently wrote about Enlightenment Now on my blog: https://www.gatesnotes.com/Books/Enlightenment-Now

That_Male_Nurse1692 karma

Hi Bill! What do you think needs to be done to ensure that everyone has adequate food in the future?

thisisbillgates3566 karma

There is some cool work going on to make meat without using animals which will be far more efficient.

The Foundation is funding research on improving photosynthetic efficiency and the potential there is huge.

If we can get African productivity up then we will be able to feed the world but we need to innovate to help them have much better seeds.

wmkwaz1292 karma


Can you discuss how the Jimmy Carter foundation has shaped your view of philanthropy?

thisisbillgates1908 karma

President Carter showed us how to work in Africa and how to partner with groups like WHO through his work at the Carter Center on a number of diseases. I have had a chance to talk with him at length to get his advice. He is great at giving credit to partners to help them stay engaged in the work.

jpfg2591253 karma

Do you think in the near future, we will have another financial crisis similar to the one in 2008?

thisisbillgates2560 karma

Yes. It is hard to say when but this is a certainty. Fortunately we got through that one reasonably well. Warren has talked about this and he understands this area far better than I do.

Despite this prediction of bumps ahead I am quite optimistic about how innovation and capitalism will improve the situation for humans everywhere.

RexxGunn1253 karma

Thank you for stopping by.

I have two young girls who are very interested in STEM activities, and they have a wonderful mother who is a mechanical engineer. I work in customer service and am not a massively technically inclined person. With all of the technology that you've been involved in, can you point me in any direction that might help me connect with my girls on that level?

thisisbillgates1604 karma

My wife Melinda is working with a lot of people on this. Engineering work involves working with people a lot and it is great we are trying to get more women involved. Some professions like medicine have changed to have more women but the hard sciences and computer engineering have been harder to change.

There are groups like Girls Who Code or Code.org or Anita Borg institute that work in these areas.

jpfg2591226 karma

Is it possible to make the world economy grow without destroying our planet's resources?

thisisbillgates2139 karma

Yes - essentially most resources don't get "destroyed". The elements that were here to begin with are still here. Of course it takes energy to recycle things but I am optimistic we will figure out how to avoid destroying the planet. The number of babies born has already peaked which will help limit the maximum population size.

unite_us933 karma

Mr. Gates,

You've probably heard this a thousand times, but would you consider running for President in 2020?

Yes, you said that you like your current job better, you don't think you'll get elected, and you don't want to go through the awful process of getting nominated. Please hear me out.

You are trying to maximize the good you can do for the world. Your foundation saved, and is saving, countless lives in the poorest places on the planet. This if fantastic work. However while you were saving lives in Africa, things on the home front have deteriorated. America is no longer the beacon of hope it used to be. I came to this country many years ago from a place ruled by a dictator. It is still ruled by a dictator, but if I still lived there, would I move to the USA today? Not so sure.

The States are divided. More divided than they've been any time in the last fifty years. Republicans and Democrats used to be able to work together. They used to come up with hard compromise solutions that nobody was particularly happy about, but everyone could live with. Not anymore. Now it's just about whoever is shouting the loudest. If we look at history, this is similar to 1930s Germany – they too had communists and fascists fighting it out, often in the streets, with no dialogue between factions. We all know what happened next.

This country needs a leader that can unite its people, or things will only escalate until blood is spilled. We need someone who can talk to both sides. Someone who doesn't blame the other, but works with the other. I believe this person is you. You have a sterling reputation, something that nearly every politician lacks. You are a moderate, that is what the country needs now. You might be the only moderate actually electable. And you don't care about power, you don't actually want to be President, which makes you a better candidate than anyone who does.

Mr. Gates, this country needs someone like you to carry this burden. If you want to achieve the maximum good in the world, uniting this nation may be, at this time, more important than your foundation's health programs. Would you consider sacrificing 4 years of your life to try and do it? Yes, it will be terrible. The critics will assault you everywhere you go. You will be attacked by populists both from the Left and the Right. But you will have a chance to restore this country to what it ought to be – the UNITED states. You can prevent the disaster this nation is rapidly sliding towards.

Thank you for reading this. Will you consider running for President in 2020?

Arlodottxt386 karma

Oddly enough, I like this idea and also want to hear his opinion on the topic.

thisisbillgates2499 karma

I won't be running for President because I am super committed to the work Melinda and I are doing at the Foundation and outside the Foundation. I agree it is important to have a President who thinks long term about the US role in the world and the research to solve disease burdens and costs and to tackle climate change and improve education.

I do think people are expecting too much from Government. Yes Government can do better but local groups can do a lot that government can't - helping out in schools, reaching out to people in poverty. This is also true internationally. I would like to see this civil society sector step up a lot more. Some issues like abortion or even immigration we may never get a consensus on but there are things like better health and better education that we can achieve.

AlorAISpot761 karma

Hey, What do you think about increasing economic inequality in the world? What do think is wrong in system that is causing such an economic inequality? What do you think should be done about it?

thisisbillgates1402 karma

I think the safety net and equal opportunity need to keep improving. 100 years ago there was basically no safety net at all and it is getting stronger. I am surprised more countries don't have Estate taxes since they redistribute wealth and avoid dynasties.

Our economic system has created the wealth that we can now do a better job sharing in an equitable way so our system has done amazing things during the last 200 years despite its flaws.

clifthereddoggo497 karma

Do you eat non GMO food? What does your daily food look like?

thisisbillgates3572 karma

GMO foods are perfectly healthy and the technique has the possibility to reduce starvation and malnutrition when it is reviewed in the right way. I don't stay away from non-GMO foods but it is disappointing that people view it as better.

Krohnos395 karma

What is your favorite snack?

thisisbillgates845 karma

I don't snack much. I avoid having candy bars and nuts around since I would grab almonds (salty) or M&Ms if they were just sitting there.

coolcorona322 karma

What kind of reaction (if any) do you get from politicians, concerning health, educational and social politics? Do they feel undermined by your initiatives through the Gates foundation? [loved seeing you on the Ellen show 🤣]

thisisbillgates407 karma

Politicians have been nice about the Foundation work. Many have done great work to make sure aid levels stay strong including in Europe and the US. I wish some of them had more time to dig into the specifics. Sometimes Melinda and I travel with politicians to go see the work in Africa.