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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!

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Question 1

killfirejack asks

How do you measure the success of the foundation? How does the foundation differ from other large philanthropic organizations? Thanks for all that you and Melinda have done and continue to do!

My answer

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

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Question 2

Salacious asks

What do people give you for your birthday, given that you can buy anything you want?

My answer

Free software. Just kidding. Books actually.  |  Read the Reddit Comments

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Question 3

Salacious asks

What one Microsoft program or product that was never fully developed or released do you wish had made it to market?

My answer

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

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Question 4

falter asks

Since becoming wealthy, what's the cheapest thing that gives you the most pleasure?

My answer

Kids. Cheap cheeseburgers. Open Course Ware courses...  |  Read the Reddit Comments

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Question 5

Salacious asks

How have other extremely wealthy people reacted to your excessively generous philanthropy?

My answer

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

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Question 6

idancer asks

I'm not Bill Gates, but he has made a huge positive influence. Many wealthy people I know point to Bill Gates as their idol. Not for his Microsoft days, but for his philanthropy. He also simultaneously killed many of my friend's hundred million dollar trust funds after their parents discovered that Bill was only leaving $10 million for his children.

My answer

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

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Question 7

cyberbemon asks

Do you still code? If so which language? :)

My answer

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

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Question 8

samaritan_lee asks

First of all: Thank you for all you've given and all you've done to make the world a better place. Given the recent targeting of health professionals in Pakistan and Nigeria, do you think eradication of polio is attainable in the next decade? How is the Gates Foundation going to get over this barrier to eradication? Also, what is your opinion on the anti-vaccination movement in general?

My answer

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

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Question 9

sletica asks

What type of computer are you using right now?

My answer

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

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Question 10

DirtyDutchPoser asks

Can you still jump over chairs?

My answer

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

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Question 11

Fozzy420 asks

Do you guys really use Bing? I mean seriously...

My answer

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

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Question 12

Zexyterrestrial asks

What emerging technology today do you think will cause another big stir for the average consumer in the same way that the home computer did years ago?

My answer

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

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Question 13

U_Cant_Touch_This asks

How was your relationship with Steve Jobs? I always hoped that y'all were really good friends and competitors.

My answer

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

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Question 14

parkerjh asks

Which world-wide health cause are we perfectly capable of easily solving and on the cusp of achieving but just need to put it over the top with a little more attention or resources to actually solve?

My answer

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

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Question 15

p8ntballnxj asks

What is something that needs to be changed in the world, but money won't help?

My answer

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

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Question 16

grimguitar asks

First of all, thanks Mr. Gates for doing this. I've been a fan of you since I was a little kid, taking solace in your success as a professional nerd and philanthropist. If Microsoft didn't take off, what would you have done and be doing instead? You are a leader in the ultra-wealthy philanthropists, but what do you think that people of median income can do to help improve the world the most?

My answer

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

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Question 17

boodhabelly asks

I just wanted to say thanks for responding to my letter that I wrote to you in the second grade. I still have your autograph. Out of all the celebrities that were written to in my class you were the only to to respond. Thanks for making me the coolest second grader for a little while.

My answer

I am glad you kept it! Read the Reddit Comments

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Question 18

tiger_rider asks

What is the greatest achievement of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in your opinion and how do you choose which causes to support?

My answer

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

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Question 19

Sindi182 asks

Is Weezer still your favorite band?

My answer

Weezer....Actually U2 is a favorite. I keep waiting for Spinal Tap to go back on tour...   |   Read the Reddit Comments

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Question 20

Shellin asks

Hi Mr. Gates,
The anti-vaccine movement does not only exist in developing countries, such as Pakistan, but is quite popular here in the United States as well. As a result, the number of flu and whooping cough cases are bigger than ever. Are you planning on working domestically as well? Which countries do you think serve as models for their initiatives towards an overall healthier society? ie. who's doing the best?

My answer

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

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Question 21

Mutinix asks

Hi Bill, I have a few questions for you:
1) I'm from India. What do you think are some of the biggest challenges India currently faces that's hindering its progress?
2) At what point did you decide that it was time to retire and put the Microsoft part of your life behind you and focus completely on philanthropy?
3) Lastly, have you been involved at all with Microsoft after your retirement? Maybe helped them out a bit?
P.S. I've been a huge fan of you since I was a kid. Maybe I'll get a chance to meet you one day!

My answer

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

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Question 22

squatly asks

Hi, welcome to reddit!
What are your thoughts on the push against the open and free Internet that we have been seeing in the recent past and present (such as sopa, etc)?

My answer

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

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Question 23

dylanstalker asks

What do you do for fun? I find it hard to fathom how someone like you can just disconnect. Disconnect from the emails, calls, the media. All of it. What would be your definition of a chill and fun day?

My answer

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

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Question 24

indrora asks

What's your worst fear for the future of the world?

My answer

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

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Question 25

loucatelli asks

How did you feel about your portrayal in Pirates of Silicon Valley, and who do you want to play you next in a movie?

My answer

That portrayal was reasonably accurate....   |   Read the Reddit Comments

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Question 26

Gooflactus asks

Hi Bill,
I am just wondering what your thoughts are on Windows 8. Do you think in general it has failed? I am not saying it has, but there are people saying it is not good, and I wanted to hear your thoughts on it.

My answer

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

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Question 27

doublething1 asks

Anything left on your bucket list?

My answer

Don't die...   |   Read the Reddit Comments

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Question 28

Sindi182 asks

Did you ever own a Macintosh?

My answer

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

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Question 29

juturn4 asks

Windows 7 or Windows 8? Be honest Bill.

My answer

Higher is better.   |   Read the Reddit Comments

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Question 30

kkthnxbye asks

What is your view on the world's reliance on crude oil, and will you be investing into researching other sources of energy?

My answer

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

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Question 31

DaimyoNoNeko asks

Mr. Gates I was happy to see you last year at the Math Strategy Group at Sunnylands. My question is how do you see technology enhancing Mathematics education without actually replacing it?

My answer

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

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