February 13, 2013 | By Bill Gates
It's been a busy few weeks — I just finished writing my 2013 Annual Letter, which you can read here: http://www.billsletter.com. This year I focused on the great opportunity we have to use goals and measures to make improvements in health, development and education worldwide.
I also did my first Ask Me Anything on Reddit. Thanks to all of you who asked me such good questions — I only wish I could have answered them all. Below you'll find a recap of my answers to 31 of your questions (plus the three questions I got to answer as my animated alter-ego). You'll also find related videos, articles, and infographics.
I had a great time answering questions during my AMA. Thanks again, Redditors!
Our goals are focused on helping the poorest (globally) and improving education (in the US). We spend half of our money on global health. One metric to look at is reducing the number of children (under 5) who die. My annual letter talks about the amazing progress that has been made on this. Amazingly, as health improves, families choose to have less kids, so paradoxically population growth goes DOWN as you improve health, helping with almost every issue — from stability to the environment…The Rosling video I posted on Sunday talks about this: Reddit Thread: Hans Rosling on Child Mortality in Ethiopia | Read the Reddit Comments
Free software. Just kidding. Books actually. | Read the Reddit Comments
My favorite of the last decade in Pinker's Better Angels of our Nature. It is a long but profound look at the reduction in violence and discrimination over time. I review a lot of the books I read at gatesnotes.com (is that too self-promotional? Better Angels of Our Nature: Book Review) | Read the Reddit Comments
We had a rich database as the client/cloud store that was part of a Windows release that was before its time. This is an idea that will re-emerge, since your cloud store will be rich with schema rather than just a bunch of files, and the client will be a partial replica of it, with rich schema understanding. | Read the Reddit Comments
Vista was what eventually shipped, but WinFS had been dropped by then. | Read the Reddit Comments
Correct! | Read the Reddit Comments
Kids. Cheap cheeseburgers. Open Course Ware courses... | Read the Reddit Comments
The stork. | Read the Reddit Comments
I have enjoyed meeting other philanthropists and talking about what they work on. I think there is a movement to do more, start sooner and be smarter about giving. Philanthropy is mostly about a broad set of people giving but it helps if the most wealthy set a strong example... | Read the Reddit Comments
I definitely think leaving kids massive amounts of money is not a favor to them. Warren Buffett was part of an article in Fortune talking about this — in 1986, before I met him — and it made me think about it and decide he was right. Some people disagree with this, but Melinda and I feel good about it. | Read the Reddit Comments
Not as much as I would like to. I write some C, C# and some Basic. I am surprised new languages have not made more progress in simplifying programming. It would be great if most high school kids were exposed to programming... | Read the Reddit Comments
The violence against the vaccinators in both Pakistan and Nigeria is a terrible thing. However both countries are committed to finishing the eradication. This is the project I spent most of my time on. We should be able to finish by 2018, although that will require raising funds and some great execution. We have some innovations, like the way we use satellite maps to find all the villages and GPS tracking to make sure the teams go to every hut, that are helping out. Polio is a harder disease than smallpox was, but it is doable.
(I discuss this more at www.billsletter.com, and you can learn more about the progress against polio with this infographic: Making Progress to End Polio: Infographic) | Read the Reddit Comments
I just got my Surface Pro a week ago and it is very nice.
I am using a Perceptive Pixel display right now — huge Windows 8 touch whiteboard. These will come down in price over time and be pervasive... | Read the Reddit Comments
Less than I used to. It was part of exercise for snow skiing. I still ski but I am not as hard core... | Read the Reddit Comments
Seriously Bing is the better product at this point. Try the challenge. I am biased, but the work to make Bing better has been amazing. | Read the Reddit Comments
Robots, pervasive screens, speech interaction will all change the way we look at "computers." Once seeing, hearing, and reading (including handwriting) work very well, you will interact in new ways… | Read the Reddit Comments
He and I respected each other. Our biggest joint project was the Mac, where Microsoft had more people on the project than Apple did as we wrote a lot of applications. I saw Steve regularly over the years, including spending an afternoon with him a few months before he tragically passed away... | Read the Reddit Comments
Polio is the first thing to get done since we are close. Within 6 years we will have the last case. After that we will go after malaria and measles. Malaria kills over 500,000 kids every year, mostly in Africa, and did not get enough attention until the last decade. We also need vaccines to prevent HIV and TB which are making progress... | Read the Reddit Comments
It would be nice if all governments were as rational as the Nordic governments — reaching compromise and providing services broadly. The Economist had a nice special section on this last week. African governments have often been weak, but you can't write a check to change that.
Fortunately, the average quality is going up. Mo Ibrahim tracks this in a great way. Mo Ibrahim Foundation | Read the Reddit Comments
If the microprocessor had NOT come along, I am not sure what I would have done. Maybe medicine or theoretical math, but it is hard to say.
Most giving is done by the middle class, so it is the backbone of generosity, particularly in the United States. A key thing is to support government aid, which is only 1% of the budget, but helps poor countries in incredible ways. | Read the Reddit Comments
I am glad you kept it! Read the Reddit Comments
So far, our biggest impact has been getting vaccines for things like diarrhea and pneumonia out, which has saved millions of lives. Polio will be a great achievement, …with [help from] key partners, when that gets done. | Read the Reddit Comments
Weezer....Actually U2 is a favorite. I keep waiting for Spinal Tap to go back on tour... | Read the Reddit Comments
Vaccines are very important in all countries. Some of the bad rumors have led to kids dying of measles and pertussis. We have backed some information campaigns on the importance of vaccination even in the US.
The Nordic countries do a good job on health like they do on many things... | Read the Reddit Comments
India is making progress but there is still a lot to do, particularly up in the North. They still need to add some of the vaccines that poorer countries are already using [to save] lots of lives. India did a great job on polio and is increasing the health budget. We work closely with the federal and state governments to help out... | Read the Reddit Comments
There are two things this could reference. One is the free/pay-for-software mix. The Internet has benefited from having lots of free stuff and lots of commercial software. It has been interesting see people inventing hybrid models. Even stuff that is pretty commercial often has free versions for some audiences. Even the most open stuff often have services people choose to pay for.
The second thing is the anonymous-versus-identified tension. This is another one where both will probably thrive, since you want anonymity for some things and full identity for others. I am surprised how little progress has been made in the identity space, but it will improve. | Read the Reddit Comments
I love playing tennis. I am an avid bridge player (a card game if you have not heard of it — it was more popular in the past!). I like to tour interesting things with my kids, like power plants, garbage dumps, the Large Hadron Collider, Antarctica, missile Silos (Arizona)...I read a lot and watch courses (online or the Learning Company). | Read the Reddit Comments
Hopefully we won't have terrorists using nuclear weapons or biological weapons. We should make sure that stays hard.
I am disappointed more isn't being done to reduce carbon emissions. Governments need to spend more on basic energy R&D to make sure we get cheap, non-CO2-emitting sources as soon as possible.
Overall I am pretty optimistic. Things are a lot better than they were 200 years ago... | Read the Reddit Comments
That portrayal was reasonably accurate.... | Read the Reddit Comments
It is a huge advance for Windows, which people will see even more as the great applications and hardware come out. | Read the Reddit Comments
Don't die... | Read the Reddit Comments
Microsoft does a lot of software for the Mac. I mostly use Windows machines, but from time to time I have tried all of Apple's products. | Read the Reddit Comments
Higher is better. | Read the Reddit Comments
I did a TED talk about the climate crisis. Over time, we have to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions so using fossil fuels will require us to do carbon capture and sequestration. There has been far too little work on this. Talking About Energy Miracles at TED | Read the Reddit Comments
The ability to test your knowledge and get refreshed on a topic you are making mistakes on will personalize a lot of the learning experience. People like Sal Khan are out in front figuring out how to do this well. My foundation has funded a lot of MOOCs focused on community college kids or kids who have to take remedial math. I am optimistic these will make a big difference. | Read the Reddit Comments
Looking back at 2013, I wanted to share a different kind of list.
This is my personal blog, where I share about the people I meet, about me and my work, and what I'm learning. I hope that you'll join the conversation.
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