One of the things about being the world's richest man and also one of the most famous is that people tend to be interested in the minutiae of your life and in just about every thought you express.
And so it is, with him recently hitting his 60th birthday, we are forced to ask: is there anything left to ask Bill Gates?
On Tuesday, the multibillionaire did his fourth Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit. It is perhaps telling that in preparation, he created an entire video just for the AMA. "I'm excited to be back for my fourth AMA," he introed. "I already answered a few of the questions I get asked a lot..."
- When will we have self-driving cars?
- Would you live forever if you could?
- Is it hard for you to make new friends?
Assuming Bill is telling the truth when he says he gets asked these a lot, it only reinforces the fact that we have collectively asked him pretty much every conceivable thing and, to his credit, he has largely answered them.
Even Bill seems a little bored of the idea. So for fun he created the AMA video and also recreated his High School yearbook photo, which, to be honest, is kinda cool.
So what then did we learn from another two hours of questions of Microsoft's cofounder and head honcho of the Gates Foundation?
Well, not a lot to be honest.
Here's what he didn't answer questions on: LSD use and its impact; mental illness; the current presidential candidate madness; the Windows 10 upgrade saga.
Here's what he told us that to be honest we already knew:
- He uses Microsoft computing products: currently the Surface Book and Windows 10.
- He is concerned about the risks of terrorism, bio-terrorism, and unchecked artificial intelligence.
- He is excited about the possibilities in new forms and formats of energy, and the opportunity to rid the world of curable diseases.
- He doesn't spend much on clothes.
Here's what he told us that we didn't know but to be honest isn't that interesting, and could have come from any old bloke in a cardigan:
- He likes to finish books he starts.
- He likes to get a good night's sleep.
- We need to improve our educational facilities and approaches.
- Getting a college degree is a good idea.
Here's the really interesting thing that he actively didn't answer again:
- When will there be a new Age of Empires game?
And these are the two really quite interesting things that came out of this latest interview in the many tens of thousands of interviews that Bill Gates has given during his lifetime:
First. If he was to be launching into the world in 2016, his focuses would not be on "getting a computer in every home," it would be to make computers more intelligent. The question was "Hi Bill! You began Microsoft with the easy goal of putting a computer in every home. If you were to start all over today, what would your goal be instead?" And this is what he said:
I think it looks easier in retrospect than it did at the time. People thought we were a bit crazy – even leaders in the industry like Ken Olsen said they didn't need a computer at home. Being young allowed us to think about computers in a different way.
Today the challenge is to make computers more intelligent. Software still doesn't understand what thing I should pay attention to next – in fact the proliferation of various tools like texting and email and notifications means the user has a lot of complexity to deal with. Eventually the software will understand what you should pay attention to by knowing the context and learning about your preferences.
And second, asked about the Apple-FBI saga (after his last comments led to somewhat of a firestorm), he again argued that it was important to look at law enforcement's perspective and strike a balance.
But the more interesting thing was his response to the question: "So what would you do if you were Apple?" He responded:
Maybe they could propose an overall plan for striking the balance between government being able to know things in some cases and having safeguards to make sure those powers are confined to appropriate cases. There is no avoiding this debate and they could contribute to how the balance should be struck.
And that was it. Now back to finding out what appalling/terrifying thing Donald Trump said today. ®