Bill Gates, nerd genius and co-founder of Microsoft, recently dived back into the company to have more hands-on time with it and to mark his re-entry into the business he helped build in the 80s and 90s, he hosted an AMA on Reddit to answer general and Microsoft-related questions for fans. Some of the answers provide interesting insight into Gate’s view on modern-day Microsoft as well as nods to privacy scares by the NSA and where computing will be headed in the future. Hit the jump for more!
What is different about Bill Gates age 20 years and the Gates of today?
20 years ago I would stay in the office for days at a time and not think twice about it – so I had energy and naivete on my side. Now hopefully I am a bit more mellow but with a little extra wisdom.
What is something you enjoy doing that you think no one would expect from you?
Playing Bridge is a pretty old fashioned thing in a way that I really like. I was watching my daughter ride horses this weekend and that is also a bit old fashioned but fun. I do the dishes every night – other people volunteer but I like the way I do it.
What is the worst case that you know of where your philanthropy backfired?
A lot of our failures have been backing science that didn’t work out. One thing that is tough is when you think the government will take over something you start but they don’t – we had that with a school lunch program. It might have been better if we hadn’t done it.
If you didn’t go into computers and later founded Microsoft, what do you think you would be doing?
I considered law and math. My Dad was a lawyer. I think though I would have ended up in physics if I didn’t end up in computer science.
Steve Jobs had Ashton Kutcher. Who do you want to portray you in a biopic?
Another Redditor: “Samuel L Jackson.”
Melinda would probably watch that version.
If you were a current computer science student what area would you start studying heavily?
The ultimate is computers that learn; so-called “deep learning” which started at Microsoft and is now being used by many researchers looks like a real advance that may finally learn. It has already made a big difference in video and audio recognition – more progress in the last 3 years than ever before.
What, in your opinion, is the biggest impediment to bringing new nuclear technology onto the global market?
We need low cost energy that is totally reliable. Most renewables will require storage which is expensive. Nuclear will make a contribution if we can make it safer, cheaper and deal with waste better. Terrapower has a design (on paper) that addresses all of these issues so now we are talking to countries about building it. It is a 4th generation reactor design that uses depleted uranium.
Can you describe your new role at Microsoft?
I make sure we pick ambitious scenarios and that we have a strong architecture to deliver on them. I encourage good work (hopefully).
What smartphone and/or tablet are you currently using?
I am using a Surface Pro 2 which works well for me.
How close are you to wiping out polio worldwide?
We are very close. India just went 3 years with no cases. Pakistan is our toughest location right now because some parts of the Taliban have not allowed vaccinators to come in and have even attacked vaccinators.
What do you think will be the most revolutionary technology in the coming 5 years?
Another Redditor: Vista 2.0
Another Redditor: Vista: First Blood Part II
I think this was supposed to be sarcastic…
What is your most expensive guilty pleasure purchase?
Owning a plane is a guilty pleasure. Warren Buffett called his the Indefensible.
Are you a fan of Video Games? If so, What is your favourite Video Game?
I am not a huge gamer. My son knows a LOT more than I do about what is cool on Xbox. I played Halo but the sports games that the whole family can use are the things I use the most. I threw the javelin very very far!
How does [Satya] Nadella’s vision differ from yours and Ballmer’s?
Satya is taking a fresh view of where Microsoft is – strengths and weaknesses. A new person gets to step back and change the focus in some ways. He is off to a great start.
What is your favorite project you have ever worked on at Microsoft?
The Windows project which required a lot of patience was great. Office was also great.
What are your thoughts about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin?
The foundation is involved in digital money but unlike Bitcoin it would not be anonymous digital money. In Kenya M-pesa is being used for almost half of all transactions. Digital money has low transaction costs which is great for the poor because they need to do financial transactions with small amounts of money.
How do you feel about the NSA and its oversight of computer usage?
This is a complex issue. Privacy will be increasingly important as cameras and GPS sensors are gathering information to try and be helpful. We need to have trust in the way information is protected and gathered. There is a role for the government to try and stop crime and terrorism but it will have to be more open.
Discuss this in the forums: Linky