I’m excited to be back for my seventh AMA. I’ve learned a lot from the Reddit community over the past year (check out this fascinating thread on robotics research), and I can’t wait to answer your questions.

If you’re wondering what I’ve been up to (besides waiting in line for hamburgers), I recently wrote about what I learned at work last year.

Melinda and I also just published our 11th Annual Letter. We wrote about nine things that have surprised us and inspired us to take action.

One of those surprises, for example, is that Africa is the youngest continent. Here is an infographic I made to explain what I mean.

Proof: https://reddit.com/user/thisisbillgates/comments/auo4qn/cant_wait_to_kick_off_my_seventh_ama/

Edit: I have to sign-off soon, but I’d love to answer a few more questions about energy innovation and climate change. If you post your questions here, I’ll answer as many as I can later on.

Edit: Although I would love to stay forever, I have to get going. Thank you, Reddit, for another great AMA: https://imgur.com/a/kXmRubr

Comments: 20291 • Responses: 27  • Date: 

habituallinestepper115649 karma

What do you think you, personally, should be paying in taxes each year?

thisisbillgates23020 karma

I think our system can be a lot more progressive (that is richer people paying a higher share).

A key element is making capital gains taxation more like ordinary income (some have suggested making them the same) and having an estate tax more like we had in the past (55% above $3.5M)

European countries collect a lot more taxes but through consumption taxes but those are not progressive.

If people want the government to do more it needs to be funded and I see us needing to improve our education and health services.

So yes I have paid $10B but I should have had to pay more on my capital gains.

Yrxe174 karma

I'd rather my taxes go to Bill's charity than not fixing these damn potholes. Midwest rant over.

thisisbillgates745 karma

Taxes are critical for the services people can count on - education, health etc..

Philanthropy is great but more to do things like try our new approaches, fund research etc.. Philanthropy even in the US is small compared to government.

We should make sure both sources are well spent.

DanielAyon11362 karma

Do you think being a billionaire has made you a happier person than if you were just a middle class person?

thisisbillgates28420 karma

Yes. I don't have to think about health costs or college costs. Being free from worry about financial things is a real blessing. Of course you don't need a billion to get to that point. We do need to reduce the cost growth in these areas so they are accessible to everyone.

vansebastian10719 karma

The internet is fascinated by seeing you do "normal" things, like wait in line for a burger. But whats the most "treat yo self" rich guy thing that you do?

thisisbillgates21892 karma

I have a nice house. It includes a trampoline room which seems kind of over the top but my kids love using it to work off their excess energy. I am not sure how guilty I should feel about being in a great house.

The other thing is that I sometimes use a private jet. It does help me do my foundation work but again it is a very privileged thing to have.

Swcomisac8188 karma

what would you still like to achieve that you haven’t?

thisisbillgates18303 karma

The goal of the Foundation is that all kids grow up healthy - no matter where they are born. That means getting rid of malaria and many of the other diseases that affect poor countries. It should be achievable in my lifetime.

Phantomass7418 karma

When was the last time you sat in front of a computer and wrote code?

thisisbillgates15527 karma

I actually do use tabs. It is easy to convert tabs to spaces and vice-versa so we shouldn't waste too much time on this issue.

I have not written code in a shipping product for a long time but I do write enough code to understand the new tools like Typescript or Github (shameless Microsoft plugs).

Realhuman2216928 karma

What do you think the greatest threat to humanity is at this moment?

thisisbillgates14616 karma

There are some things that aren't likely but we should worry about - nuclear bombs and bioterrorism (from nation states or terrorism), or a big pandemic. This is the 100th anniversary of the Spanish flu and if it came back the amount of travel would make it spread faster than it did last time.

Once you get past those threats then the biggest question is global cooperation to avoid climate change and reduce the risk of war. It is disconcerting to see a rise of countries turning inwards and not investing in alliances which have helped us avoid big wars since World War 2.

Climate change is a real test of how we can work together globally since it is a complex problem where major changes need to be done well in advance of the big harms.

KazPart26572 karma

what's your favorite prime number?

thisisbillgates11278 karma


5112345568 karma

Hi Mr Gates.

I work in health-care in South Africa and I just want to say thank you for the work that your foundation has been doing for HIV research here. Your willingness to help those who have less than you is something that I truly admire and aspire to.

My question is how do I feel like I'm doing enough? With all the pain and suffering that I see everyday, it's hard to feel like I am actually making a difference in the grand scheme of things. How do you deal with feeling like it's a never ending struggle to actually make a difference and help people?

Edit: I've noticed a lot of people giving gold and silver in this ama. Please consider donating the money instead to worthy causes. I'm sure Mr Gates would appreciate that a lot more. Thank you. And a big thank you to everyone for their kind words, I really do appreciate it.

thisisbillgates4710 karma

Your point is a great one. As soon as you get engaged in solving problems you have to face how tough things are. You need to focus on how much you can improve things and feel good about that. We need more people to visit Africa to see the progress but also to see how much needs to be done. Nothing is as good as meeting people who have to live with malaria or HIV or see their children die.

People like yourself who work on the front lines deserve immense credit. Over time the deaths and suffering will go down but I am sure some days that is hard to see.

e2e2e35446 karma

Since online courses are on the rise, What is your outlook on the Future of Education?

thisisbillgates6825 karma

Online is a great thing to compliment what teachers do. If a student is highly motivated then you can do a lot of the learning on line. The old approach to homework which was paper based can be replaced by online. There are some great online courses. However so far that material hasn't helped reduce drop out rates from high school or college by engaging students in a better way. Our Foundation funds a lot of new work in this area so I am hopeful that it will make a difference.

Jakovaseur4287 karma

Do you think you could jump that chair 20 years later ?

thisisbillgates7528 karma

I would have to pick a somewhat shorter chair.

I used to jump in and out of a plastic garbage can but I know I can't do that anymore.

HellSpam4210 karma

What do you think can be done to combat the anti-vax movements?

thisisbillgates7061 karma

Our Foundation does a lot of work to get vaccines to all the children in the world and there has been great progress. It is surprising to see how in the richer countries the consensus that kids should be protected has been lost. Unfortunately this will mean some measles or pertussis deaths. Hopefully that will help get over the negative stories that circulate. Vaccines have saved more lives than any other tool. Our Foundation is working on vaccines for Malaria, HIV and TB which will make a huge difference.

ironsheik843785 karma

What’s a piece of technology that’s theoretical now that you wish you could make possible immediately? Thanks in advance and thank you for all of your humanitarian efforts!

thisisbillgates7543 karma

I am fascinated by how hard it has been to teach computers to actually read so they understand the material. An example would be reading a text book and passing a test. This question of knowledge representation is a fascinating one that Microsoft and lots of others are working on.

However if I had one wish to make a new technology it would be a solution to malnutrition. Almost half the kids in poor countries grow up without their body or brain developing fully so they miss most of their potential.

Second would be an HIV vaccine.

SuperDuperDylan3733 karma

What are your hobbies? Nothing work related.

thisisbillgates5824 karma

I play tennis and bridge. Tennis is good exercise. Bridge is a great game but not as popular with young people as it used to be, I read a lot but I am not sure that is a hobby.

TheQueenIsASpy2703 karma

It’s well known you are an avid reader - what are a few books that come to your mind when asked to recommend reading materials for anyone that can have a true impact on their life - either professionally or personally?

(It’s awesome to see you here too!)

Thank you!

thisisbillgates4010 karma

I read a lot of non-fiction. There are so many great book. I do reviews on gatesnotes.com

I am reading Hacking Darwin now - about gene editing getting very popular and what policies should control the usage.

I love books that explain things like Smil's Energy and Civilization or all of Pinker's books.

Factfulness by the Roslings is very readable - a great place to start to get a framework for the progress of humanity.

Martles2586 karma

Hello Mr Gates.

Thank you for doing this AMA.

What are some common issues in poorer countries that isn't being talked about but needs attention?

What can the common person do other than donate money that would actually help these communities?

Thanks. -Martles

thisisbillgates2827 karma

There are a lot of great organizations that help in poor countries like Save the Children, Care, Rotary, WorldVision, etc.. My kids have given gifts where Heifer and Technoserve buy chickens or other livestock for families to lift them up.

rdanon123379 karma

Hi Bill,

I love that you're taking part in this conversation! You and Melinda have been a big role model of mine for a while so I'm so happy to see this!

My question is related to this original commenter's comment so I thought I would leave it here:

Is there something that is incredibly important in your opinion that hasn't garnered as much interest generally as it should have? (this can be financial, economical, humanitarian, political etc)

Thank you for your time; it's much appreciated :)

thisisbillgates1235 karma

In the US I would say getting bipartisan consensus on how to reduce health care costs is a critical issue that doesn't get enough focus. It does require looking at the numbers and studying what other countries do well.

tnorton06212305 karma

Hi Bill, do you support ranked choice voting? Why or why not?

Thank you for your time today.

thisisbillgates2972 karma

Yes - this would be a great thing. It is hard to explain but it would be a real advance.

SquiggleWings2292 karma

Through it all...What makes you happy? (Looking for ideas)

thisisbillgates4124 karma

Some recently said that when your children are doing well it really is very special and as a parent I completely agree.

Sometimes following through on commitments to yourself like doing more exercise also improves your happiness.

MrZmei1642 karma

Are you happy?

thisisbillgates4661 karma

Yes! When I was in my 30's I didn't think people in their 60s were very smart or had much fun. Now I have had a counter-revelation.

Ask me in 20 years and I will tell you how smart 80 year olds are.

ImStarks1540 karma

If you could go back in time and give your younger self advice. What would you say?

thisisbillgates3636 karma

I was overly intense and socially inept.

I would try and make myself more self-aware without getting rid of the focus and desire to learn.

You get a chance with your kids to help them avoid the mistakes you made.

PJHart861520 karma

Hi Bill, what do you think about Rutger Bregman's recent comments at Davos? is it even possible for governments to compel billionaires to pay their fair share of taxes, even if they wanted to?

thisisbillgates2385 karma

As far as I know most billionaires (and other people) comply with tax laws. There should be more transparency so it is clear who owns what and how loopholes are reducing tax collection. Countries need to work with each other on this.

It is pretty amazing how few countries have estate taxes - even China doesn't have one.

KubrickIsMyCopilot1458 karma

What's the most encouraging bit of progress your foundation has funded to date?

thisisbillgates2614 karma

Our biggest achievement is working with partners (including rich government aid groups like USAID and DFID) to make sure all the children in the world get vaccines. This is a big part of the reason that deaths of children under 5 has dropped from over 10M when we started to less than 6M now. GAVI is the name of the group that was created - all the donors to GAVI deserve huge thanks (mostly from the voters in the countries who gave).

c0r3l861242 karma

Universal basic income. Could it work? Should it be the way forward?

If not how do we adapt to the changing role of automation and work?

thisisbillgates2437 karma

When the world gets hyper-productive then work will be less important and people will have to decide what is important and what young people should do to have a sense of purpose.

However we are a long ways away from that world of excess. We still need people to work to produce the goods and services of society. We are not rich enough to give up work incentives.

People can do the math on UBI and figure out what the costs would be. I think we still need to focus benefits on those in need - those who can't work or who need retraining. Admittedly this means indentifying those people rather than just writing checks to everyone and government does this imperfectly.

ABrownForestShark1155 karma

Hello, how's your day going and what have you been watching on Netflix and/or TV right now?

thisisbillgates4079 karma

Melinda and I watch things like Silicon Valley, This is Us, A Million Little Things.

I watched The Americans with my son (too violent for Melinda).

I watched Narcos by myself. Billions, Lie to Me, Friday Night Lights, American Vandal, Black Mirror.

There are so many good shows - people tell me about them but I can't watch them all!

Haydaddict1121 karma

Greetings, Bill.

You spend a great deal of time furthering your education, which I love. In your opinion, do you think that humanity can self-correct this climate change crisis?

thisisbillgates2146 karma

Yes but I am worried that people think it is easy to do -" just buy renewables and drive electric cars in rich countries.". These are good things but they won't stop the temperature from continuing to rise.

Unfortunately the sources of emissions are very broad and even in the case of electricity you have to cover the times when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine and electrcitiy storage (batteries) are not likely to be cheap enough to cover this. My friend Vaclav Smil gives the example of Tokyo's electricity needs when the renewable sources are not available for a number of days.

It is surprising there hasn't been more discussion about the innovations required across all the sources including agriculture and industrial materials like steel and cement.

A good question to ask an expert is - what year is it likely that the temperature rise will stop?

I am working on getting good explanatory material out so the discussion can be more grounded in how complex it is and avoid over simplistic solutions.

ERenaissance997 karma

Would you ever consider running for President?

thisisbillgates3083 karma

No. I prefer focusing on a particular set of issues like global health or climate change where I can get very deep and stay engaged for decades working with Melinda.

We work with politicians a lot but my final job is running the Gates Foundation.