Bill Gates on what money can’t buy: AMA recap

This morning Microsoft founder Bill Gates, now co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, hosted an ‘Ask Me Anything’ session on Reddit.

Following from leaders such as US President Barack Obama, who hosted an AMA last August, Gates gave Redditers several hours to grill him on his views on government, leadership, as well as whether he prefers Windows 7 or 8 (his cryptic answer: “higher is better”).

Here are some of his more interesting answers:

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

“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 cheque to change that. Fortunately the average quality is going up. [Sudanese telecom mogul] Mo Ibrahim tracks this in a great way,” Gates wrote. Ibrahim has started the Mo Ibrahim Index, which evaluates the governance of African countries on a range of criteria, as well as the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership – which gives $5 million, plus an extra $200,000 a year for life, to African heads of state who democratically transfer power to their successors.

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?

“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.”

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

“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.” Gates was referring to WinFS.

What’s the last item on your bucket list?

“Don’t die.”


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