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Bill Gates is a rock star on so many levels. Yes, he co-founded Microsoft, built his net worth to tens of billions of dollars, and now spends his days doing philanthropy work through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, all of which are admirable in their own right. It would be easy for someone in his position to be an egotistical jerk who's disconnected from the public at large, but instead, this is the same guy who once did the Robot next to Jerry Seinfeld, made us crave churros in another Vista ad, and more recently (as in, yesterday) answered a boatload of questions on Reddit.
He didn't just answer three or four questions. The man with more money than most of us could spend in a lifetime provided nearly three dozen responses to a near non-stop barrage of inquiries ranging from silly to serious, and everything in between. If you have a free moment, it's worth reading all of his replies, but in the meantime, here are seven responses that stood out:
Question: If Microsoft didn't take off, what would you have done and be doing instead?
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.
Question: How was your relationship with Steve Jobs? I always hoped that y'all were really good friends and competitors.
Answer: He and I respected each other. Our biggest 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...
Question: What is something that needs to be changed in the world, but money won't help?
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. Africa 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. (http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/IIAG/)
Question: Do you guys really use Bing? I mean seriously...
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.
Question: How have other extremely wealthy people reacted to your excessively generous philanthropy? (This was followed up with a comment from another poster about his influence on mega trust funds).
Answer: I definitely think leaving kids massive amounts of money is not a favor to them. Warren Buffet 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.
Question: Did you ever own a Macintosh?
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 products.
Question: How did you feel about your portrayal in Pirates of Silicon Valley?
Answer: That portrayal was reasonably accurate...