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Bill Gates, Microsoft’s founder and co-chair of the Bill & Melissa Gates Foundation, took to the internet yesterday to directly engage and communicate with the public.
Through Reddit’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) forum, Gates candidly answered questions, ranging from what he’d be doing had he not started Microsoft, who he’d think would play him in a biographic film, and how he unwinds.
Here are 10 interesting exchanges we picked out from the Q&A, and you can read the full session here.
Q: What is different about Bill Gates age 20 years and today, except for the time?
A: 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 naiveté on my side. Now hopefully I am a bit more mellow but with a little extra wisdom.
Q: Hey Bill, if you didn’t go into computers and later found Microsoft, what do you think you would be doing?
A: 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.
Q:Why do you think [computer science] deserves the attention and how do you see it changing the technology game in the next 10 years?
A: 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.
Q: Who is your role model?
A: 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.
Q: Can you describe your new role at Microsoft?
A: I make sure we pick ambitious scenarios and that we have a strong architecture to deliver on them. I encourage good work (hopefully).
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.
Q: 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?
A: 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.
Q:How does Mr. Nadella’s vision differ from yours and Mr Ballmer’s?
A: 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.
Q: What is something you enjoy doing that you think no one would expect from you?
A: 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.
Q: What’s one of your goals for the next year… and how can we help?
A: 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.
Q: What is your most expensive guilty pleasure purchase?
A: 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.
Image source: Microsoft