Today Bill Gates hosted his fifth AMA on Reddit. Famously known as Microsoft's co-founder and a very wealthy man, Gates has been working full-time at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation since 2006, and he usually uses this kind of interactions with the tech community and general public to highlight some of the Foundation's work and what they are trying to achieve in the short and long term.
At the beginning of the AMA he mentioned their latest Annual Letter that has been dedicated to friend Warren Buffett, who donated the bulk of his fortune to the foundation to fight disease and reduce inequity, with some top notch success stories thus far.
Some of the top Q&As follow below, the full thing is here:
What do you think is the most pressing issue that we could feasibly solve in the next ten years?
A lot of people feel a sense of isolation. I still wonder if digital tools can help people find opportunities to get together with others - not Tinder but more like adults who want to mentor kids or hang out with each other. It is great that kids go off and pursue opportunities but when you get communities where the economy is weak and a lot of young people have left then something should be done to help.
What do you personally find as your greatest achievement?
Although the Foundation work is super promising and will be the biggest thing over the decades ahead I still think the chance to be part of the software revolution empowering people was the biggest thing I have gotten to do.
Right now I am very focused on making sure we successfully eradicate polio - that will be amazing if we do it - as good as shipping even the best software product.
Do you ever disguise yourself and just walk around incognito?
I sometimes wear a hat. For example when I did college tours with my son I wanted the focus to be totally on him. A lot less people recognize me when I have a hat on or else they realize I am trying to be incognito.
Mostly when people do recognize me they are super nice so I don't feel it is a burden to be noticed most of the time.
What kind of technological advancement do you wish to see in your lifetime?
The big milestone is when computers can read and understand information like humans do. There is a lot of work going on in this field - Google, Microsoft, Facebook, academia,... Right now computers don't know how to represent knowledge so they can't read a text book and pass a test.
Another whole area is vaccines. We need a vaccine for HIV, Malaria and TB and I hope we have them in the next 10-15 years.
Can you still jump over an office chair from a standing position
Edit: Reference for those who need it.
No. Perhaps a small chair - a stool. I do exercise and ski but my main sport is tennis which doesn't involve jumping. Some people jump over the net but that isn't part of the sport.
What are the limits of money when it comes to philanthropy?
Philanthropy is small as a part of the overall economy so it can't do things like fund health care or education for everyone. Government and the private sector are the big players so philanthropy has to be more innovative and fund pilot programs to help the other sectors. A good example is funding new medicines or charter schools where non-obvious approaches might provide the best solution.
One thing that is a challenge for our Foundation is that poor countries often have weak governance - small budgets, and the people in the ministries don't have much training. This makes it harder to get things done.
If we had more money we could do more good things - even though we are the biggest foundation we are still resource limited.
Hello Bill Gates. What is your idea of success?
Warren Buffett has always said the measure is whether the people close to you are happy and love you. It is also nice to feel like you made a difference - inventing something or raising kids or helping people in need.