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Bill Gates
Bill Gates takes part in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” on Tuesday. (The Gates Notes LLC Photo)

Bill Gates returned to Reddit Tuesday for his sixth Ask Me Anything (AMA), and as always the questions for the Microsoft co-founder ranged from the philanthropic work he and his wife are doing at their foundation to whether he gets up in the night to make himself a sandwich.

Gates spent an hour on Tuesday answering dozens of questions from the thousands that were submitted.

He said he will not be running for president in 2020; he’s not a big beer drinker; his wife Melinda Gates is among his favorite celebrities; he thinks the speculative wave around crypto currencies is super risky; he’s certain there will be another financial crisis similar to what happened in 1998; and he doesn’t snack much.

Gates also discussed what he missed about no longer being at Microsoft and he even offered to escalate an issue one Redditor had with the Windows On-Screen Keyboard. That reply scored the most points of the entire discussion, as people reacted to the level of customer service Gates exhibited on behalf of the tech giant.

Read on for a selection of some of the better questions and answers:


You’ve probably heard this a thousand times, but would you consider running for President in 2020? “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.”

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? “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.”

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

Technology and Microsoft

Do you miss anything about your time at Microsoft? “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.”

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. “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.”

Whats your opinion on crypto currencies? “The main feature of crypto currencies is their anonymity. I don’t think this is a good thing. The Governments ability to find money laundering and tax evasion and terrorist funding is a good thing. Right now crypto currencies are used for buying fentanyl and other drugs so it is a rare technology that has caused deaths in a fairly direct way. I think the speculative wave around ICOs and crypto currencies is super risky for those who go long.”

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

Tabs or Spaces? “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.”

Bill Gates
Bill Gates in the photo proving it’s him taking part in a Reddit AMA. (Reddit Photo)


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

What are your top 3 goals currently? “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.”

Is it possible to make the world economy grow without destroying our planet’s resources? “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.”

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

Food and drink

What is your favorite snack? “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.”

Hey Bill, what’s your favorite beer? “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.”

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? “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.”

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

What do you think needs to be done to ensure that everyone has adequate food in the future? “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.”


Is it true that if I forward the email in my inbox to 100 people you will give me money? “No.”

How different do you think your life would be if your name was Gill Bates? “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. … The Capitol Steps albums do this trick of switching first letters and it is very cool.”

Who is your favorite celebrity? “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.”

Bill Gates
(Reddit Image)

Gates opted to not answer a wide variety of questions quizzing him on everything from whether he owns an iPod to which character on “Downton Abbey” was his favorite. He concluded with a question for those following:

“You’ve all asked me a lot of tough questions, now it’s my turn to ask you a question,” Gates wrote. “With all of the negative headlines dominating the news these days, it can be difficult to spot signs of progress. What makes you optimistic about the future?”

Check out the replies on Reddit.

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