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Warren Buffett’s Best Investment (gatesnotes.com)
659 points by jonbaer 8 days ago | hide | past | web | 204 comments | favorite





It's hard not to be impressed by what the Gates Foundation is doing. I don't think they get the full recognition they deserve sometimes, maybe because much of their work is abroad in the poorest countries in the world.

Hard to fathom the number of people out there in the world thankful and who owe their lives to the foundation choosing to help their community or their cause.

With that said and not to diminish the good work. It is sad and eye-opening more progress has not been made on these issues.

I think when you really look at the numbers, besides seeing the positive trends one can also see how truly difficult, large and complex these problems are. The foundation has $50 Billion dollars! And Bill can get pretty much any world leader or other billionaire CEO to take his phone calls. Yet, sorry that is not enough not even close. The foundation has to focus on very specific issues and even then it hasn't "gotten to zero" where it wants to (though Polio is close, down to 37 cases). Private foundations can only do so much, the scale of these problems really requires the cooperation of governments. I'm not sure what can be done on that or what that means, just a bit breathtaking how governments can help people or really screw things up on a scale nothing else even comes close to.


Also, Buffett's gift is still inspiring to me 10 years later. The world's richest man never spent his enormous fortune other than living a normal upper middle class lifestyle. He not only decided to give away all the money, but is doing so without the typical pursuit of marking his name in stone on every building in the world. He didn't even create a charity in his name. Very possible that the Gates foundation will live on for many decades and Buffett won't mind that his name isn't strongly linked to it.

The Gates Foundation will be closed 20 years after the death of Bill and Melinda.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_%26_Melinda_Gates_Foundat...


> He didn't even create a charity in his name.

A charity was created in the name of his late wife though, and it is known as the Buffett Foundation for short. They are also doing amazing work:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-30/warren-bu...


While in most cases the man is frugal relative to his wealth, he still does own a private jet. Not exactly upper middle class.

https://www.google.com/amp/www.cnbc.com/amp/id/49787452


> With that said and not to diminish the good work. It is sad and eye-opening more progress has not been made on these issues.

The reasons for this are not hard to find. Indeed, you hit the nail on the head in the next paragraph by pointing out the role of governments.

> I'm not sure what can be done on that or what that means, just a bit breathtaking how governments can help people or really screw things up on a scale nothing else even comes close to.

A case study of this in Ethiopia serves as a point in William Easterly's critique of "technocratic aid" in general and Gates's approach specifically: http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/guest-the-flaw-in-bill-g... He elaborates upon this at length in his book "The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor".

The way I like to think of it is that money, especially in large sums like the $50 billion in the foundation, is a potent tactical weapon. However, wars are not won on tactics/technology alone, but also on strategy. Here that amounts to solid leadership/deployment of the capital. I think this letter shows that they have done a pretty good job with it. Nevertheless, it is easy to fall into complacency and arrogance here. I only hope that they continue to listen, observe, and learn.


What really stood out to me was Melinda going in field and talking to women. The sex worker story really touched me.

She is worth billions and could be living a life of ultimate luxury. She instead prefers to strongly fight for empowering women.

I hope Bill, Melinda, and Warren live a long life to be able to fulfill their goals.


> She could be living a life of luxury, instead prefers to fight

Let's be honest... She is doing both. Have you seen their house? No judgement, but she's not in Mali every day.


Is that not a false dichotomy?

Providing help , like bed nets to prevent mosquito bites in order to reduce malaria, does not promote nor prevent other fight for more freedom in Ethiopia. Sure, the Gates foundation could have chosen to concentrate on that other front, but criticizing one type of aid for not help with something else is pretty uninteresting.


>> "the scale of these problems really requires the cooperation of governments"

Right, it's my understanding that orginally the Gates foundation tried to do it without working with the governments governing the people they wanted to help, but were unable to make it work.


Instead of corporate or national concerns, his view is global. This is the perspective of the king of the world - or god. Like Rockefeller, everyone loves him (now). Lots of people work for his vision, perhaps more than as MS ceo. No taxes.

For the richest man in the world, it's possibly the only step up.


I wonder how much of this particular philanthropy is just giving back money that those countries spent? I.e. Microsoft licences, or balance of trade with the donor countries?

A kind of benevolent taxation?


No idea if that's true or not, but who cares? It's saving lives.

Most billionaires just hoard a few more islands for themselves.


I'd be more fearful of corruption in those countries. This is where so much foreign aid falls apart, it's siezed by the government, distributed to their favored constituents, and never makes it to the people who really need it.

Bill gates talks about corruption in his 2014 annual letter (1). Search for the word "corruption" if you don't want to the read the whole letter. TLDR: Its manageable.

(1)[http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Who-We-Are/Resources-and-Medi...]


See: United States.

> I wonder how much of this particular philanthropy is just giving back money that those countries spent? I.e. Microsoft licences, or balance of trade with the donor countries?

I mean, that's literally how capitalism works. You earn money selling a product or services to people, and use that money to purchase products or services from people.


I've seen too many pirated unactivated copies of Windows Server running large businesses (that could afford the licensing easily) in many of those countries to subscribe to that theory.

To Bill and Melinda Gates:

It was really uplifting to read this post.

Because of it, the world now looks a little brighter to me.

We're all surrounded by alarmist news every day and often lose sight of the big picture.

PLEASE write a post like this one at least once a year :-)


Not exactly the same, but they've done similar posts the last two years:

https://www.gatesnotes.com/2016-Annual-Letter

https://www.gatesnotes.com/2015-Annual-Letter

Also, the annual reports are quite interesting as well:

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Who-We-Are/Resources-and-Medi...


You don't need a Gates- or Buffett- sized pot of money to make a difference. Sure, they can, and do, place massive orders at vaccine factories to get economies of scale. That's how a dose of the pentavalent vaccine comes to cost about the same as the CD that Windows used to arrive on. You probably can't place a US$50M order at a pharma company. But that's OK.

You can find a local NGO or charity that promotes, I dunno, literacy or first-generation college students or refugee settlement, or something. What matters is that they do a good job and you're interested in their mission. You can commit to supporting them with a regular cash gift. That kind of regular gift lets a charity plan their work. (One-off gifts are good too, but they don't have the planning benefit.)

But be careful: they may want you on their board of directors. :-)


Giving money to any charity is potentially better for the world than giving money to no charity. But part of the premise of this article—and of the Gates Foundation—is that some charitable acts have much higher ROI (in lives saved per dollar, or whatever other metric you might want to measure by) than others, and you should focus on those if you want your money to go furthest in doing good in the world.

This approach is usually known as "effective altruism" — there's a whole part of the blogosphere hanging off that keyword. But conveniently, I can just link to http://www.givewell.org/charities/top-charities — this is a (very well-researched) consensus list on which charities turn "dollars contributed" into "good done in the world" most effectively.

Reasonably, the entries on GiveWell's list match pretty well with the strategy of the Gates foundation (i.e. vaccines et al.) The differences in the Gates Foundation's strategy mostly come down to the fact that economies of scale for solutions work out differently when you have millions vs. billions of dollars.

Of course, you're allowed to disagree with the ranking criteria the EA people use—maybe the global number of "quality-adjusted life-years" people get to live isn't the #1 thing you care about optimizing.

But even if you disagree about the particular charities, EA—and the parent post—still have an important point you should understand: no matter the charity, contributing money is almost always higher-ROI than volunteering. (It might feel "lazy", but it's the principle of comparative advantage: the person a charity could hire for the money you can earn in time X at your job, will almost certainly do more good for them than you'd do by volunteering X hours of your own time.) And that "get the highest ROI for my charity dollar" mindset is what's important, no matter what you're measuring ROI in terms of.


Keep the old slogan in mind: the best is the enemy of the good. Even the Gates Foundation had to try various things as they were getting started. So can you. Don't overthink it.

You know, we get a fair number of commenters here at HN who are cynical about the world, who say everyone with any power is corrupt, things are getting worse, and there is nothing you can do about it.

Whenever someone like that shows up, perhaps we can refer them to this letter.


I doubt that'll work. Once we develop a cynical view of the world, it's quite easy to see the negative side of everything.

Just for example, take the biggest benefit claimed in the letter of 122 million children saved. It seems to suggest that it's because of their work. Has nobody else anywhere , including those in the affected countries done anything to save the children. Why do they or anybody think that all of this can be attributed to to the Gates foundation!!

Moreover as the Gates foundation is focussing on childrens' lives, does it make any sense for anybody with lesser resources than them to tackle this problem? There is no chance of getting any recognition, as Gates foundation will claim it and it will be hard to argue against as well.

These are not my views, I'm just saying that it's possible to have these thoughts if you are cynical.


To your first point, if a cynic prefers to credit more than a single foundation or individual for those gains, then that must be so benevolent of them to think so well of a greater number of people. Let us all be cynics then.

Not your views but I'll respond anyway:

You can look at GiveWell's recommendations which do take into account room for more funding. Apparently since vaccines seem to be fully funded, their top charity is bed nets to prevent malaria.

(Also, fame isn't the only or even the best reason to donate to charity.)


I truly applaud the efforts of the funds. I don't think I could come up with any more noble endeavor, and I know there are some very capable people throughout their organizations who are dedicated to spending the funds wisely and impactfully.

However, is it fair to credit philanthropy as the sole cause of quality of life improvements across the most destitute populations?

    It's a story about the stunning gains the poorest people in the world have made
    over the last 25 years. This incredible progress has been made possible not
    only by the generosity of Warren and other philanthropists, the charitable
    giving of individuals across the world, and the efforts of the poor on their
    own behalf, but also by the huge contributions made by donor nations, which
    account for the vast majority of global health and development funding.
I think there is a fair amount of evidence that suggests development funding can have as much disastrous consequence as good. In his book The Great Escape[1], Angus Deaton (Nobel Prize economist) describes how non-interventionist economic development seems to have been the main driver of better outcomes across the world, and not the flush pockets of westerners, as convenient as that would be. Another book called The Road To Hell[2] provides many examples where large charitable efforts regularly produce even worse outcomes than no intervention at all. Is there some good evidence to suggest that the money spent by the Gates Foundation and other charities were solely responsible for the improved qualities of life across whole populations?

If you want to posit that their efforts have been invaluable in improving access to medical services across the globe, you'll get no argument from me. However, that's a small part of what makes up "stunning gains."

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Great-Escape-Health-Origins-Inequalit...

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Road-Hell-Michael-Maren/dp/0743227867


Even the quote you've pulled doesn't claim the outcomes are due solely to the efforts of charities. The Gates foundation has a strong focus on health issues (just about everything listed in the report, for instance) and not the sort of aid the books you mention are criticizing.

I was wondering today after reading this - what are the statistics on the next stages of the lives of these children? Saving their lives is, undoubtedly, the most important thing anyone can do. I think it's also important to see that they continue to have good lives well into adulthood (perhaps even learning about the frameworks that helped them survive as a baby?). In countries like India (where I'm originally from), child mortality rates have improved, but there seems to be this gravity well made of a mixture of superstition, religion, illiteracy, caste-based nonsense that is difficult to escape from. And this does not help translate this victory into winning the long-term war on poverty.

I wish Bill or Warren would have run for presidency as an "outsider" instead of Trump. I guess our only hope will be their successor Mark (Zuckerberg)

I would argue that in the long term, Bill Gates running his foundation has a much deeper impact on humanity than being president, which would effectively cut him off from his philanthropic activities for 4-8 years. In other words, we're better off with Bill helming the Gates foundation rather than presiding the USA.

I would argue the otherwise. Imagine the resources and the influence power he would have on both U.S. and other nations, compared to few billion dollars spared by few people.

Countries where the president can't go because of diplomacy, Bill can. Bill also doesn't have to deal with things like the debt ceiling, F35 contract, nominating supreme court justices etc etc. He can focus on global health.

You're forgetting he'd be hampered by Congress. POTUS isn't a dictatorial position.

He can move more or less unilaterally.


You're assuming they would run as Democrats.

No my comment holds true regardless of party.

How many would vote for him if they knew he hoped to help non-Americans with US txpayer dollars?

That depends on how good his marketing team is.

Would it? If it's permissible now to run a major international business while President, would it not also be permissible to run a giant charity?

I believe the comment was in regards to time spent on either venture, not the legality of doing both.

Back in October, no, it was not permissible to run a giant charity. Apparently.

I know it's called the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but isn't it Melinda that runs and manages everything? I'm pretty sure Bill just donates to the foundation. I could be wrong tho.

Did you notice the format that report took? Melinda, Bill, Melinda, Bill...

Not that I feel this is the case, but one could argue that having Bill sign his name to something doesn't mean he's not "just a donor" and they're using his name for marketing purposes. Of course, I don't feel this is true, but I wanted to point it out nonetheless :)

I can't help but shudder at the thought of the dystopian future that leads to a Zuckerberg presidency.

think of all the denied pluralities-to-be; those poor, slighted real estate tycoons. It's not hard to argue we're already in that simulation - first it starts with FB trialling their electioneering-algo with Trump as a proof-of-concept. Then once they work out all the kinks, initiate stage 2, reusing the mechanism!

Arguably, a better plan would be to appear apolitically neutral until a surprise election result occurs, then roll out an algorithm in response to the calls for more filtering...

Agreed. That said, I'd gladly read a book based on that premise.

Already a short story is written about this premise.

Democracy 3.0: A science-fiction story about what comes next in America https://qz.com/884971/democracy-3-0-a-science-fiction-story-...


Bill and Melinda are better where they are, because they are free from political interference. Can you imagine the opposition they'd get from the GOP for pushing contraception so centrally? And if they get into power, probably from the democrats too, for not focusing on their favourite bandwagons.

OT: Can someone explain the GOP's strident opposition to funding contraception, both domestically and in the US's foreign aid? Apart from the obvious problems with unrestrained population growth, I'd have thought that aversion to abortion would imply whole-hearted support for contraception.


So I just reviewed the official GOP platform for 2016[1]. Contraception is addressed twice, specifically in the context of providing contraception or abortion counseling to teens in schools (they favor teaching abstinence) and in opposing abortion drugs such as RU-486 and over-the-counter availability of "morning-after" contraceptive drugs.

I don't read anywhere any opposition to contraceptives in the context of family planning, nor have I ever heard any conservative outside of Catholic church clergy speak against use of contraceptives in that context.

[1] https://prod-cdn-static.gop.com/static/home/data/platform.pd...


Since Nixon's very successful plan to distract the electorate with cultural issues, the GOP has taken the strategy to heart. Of course, some Republicans are true believers in the cultural mission, but it started as a plan to set economic policy for their own interests. Case in point, Trump.

Their three most important tools, vaccination, contraception, and women empowerment, all seem to be add odds with GOP program (or at least of a vocal part of their voters).

There are a lot of Catholics on the conservative side of things, and contraception has been verboten to Catholics since the early days ("sex is for making babies, not fun" is the company line)

This is quite false. Catholics split the democrat/republican vote ~50/50. They voted for Gore, Bush, Obama, and Trump with small margins. [1]

They care about this question, but not very much. Evangelicals, on the other hand overwhelmingly vote republican.

Catholics, in general, are the most liberal religious denomination in the US.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/how-the-fait...


Looking more closely at your link, the white catholics were more likely to vote for Trump than protestants were (higher than anyone except evangelicals), and as I understand it, it's white catholics that are the most prominent in congress.

Sorry, I meant politicians (as the parent referenced the GOP) rather than laypeople.


Trump overwhelmingly won among white voters - with 58% of their vote. White white catholics voted... Pretty much the same way as white non-catholics.

Comparing white catholics to all protestants is comparing apples to oranges.

Catholics are only slightly over-represented in congress, at 30% of Christians in congress (While making up 24% of the Christian population in the US.) They are also split 68/70 between democrat and republican. [1]

They may be prominent, but they aren't trying to turn the country into a theocracy.

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/05/congress-religious-...


> Catholics, in general, are the most liberal religious denomination in the US.

More than Jedi? Or even Scientology?


Generally, religions with a leadership hierarchy are more authoritarian than those that are tenets-based and decentralized. Thus, those religions tend to take political direction on the liberal-conservative axes from their leadership.

Based on their treatment of heresy and apostasy, and self-policing of their own "ethics", I would consider Scientologists to be extremely conservative. While the leadership never endorses any candidate, the membership generally votes conservative-libertarian. I would guess that many of them voted for Trump in the last election, though I have no hard data to back that up.

Of the mainstream religions, Mormons (70%) are the most reliably Republican, followed by Southern Baptists (64%), Nazarenes (63%), and Presbyterians (60%). The most reliably Democratic are African Methodist Episcopal (92%), National Baptist (87%), God in Christ (75%), the "historically black" churches, along with Unitarians (84%).

Catholics break 44% Democrat, 37% Republican, and 19% no-preference, a distribution that closely matches the whole of America.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/02/23/u-s-religiou...

Catholicism is often the most liberal religion in Mexico and Latin America, and members from that cultural region are often considered liberal among other Catholics. As Pope Francis is from there, and I consider him to be very liberal for a Catholic, I would expect Catholics worldwide to gradually become more liberal as his tenure in office continues.


'Most liberal religious denomination' is a great measure. It's somewhere up there with the 'least nepotistic monarchy'.

> Can someone explain the GOP's strident opposition to funding contraception, both domestically and in the US's foreign aid?

It's a culture war thing from the 80's and 90's.

Contraception is for godless libs who fuck like rabbits out of wedlock. (Setting aside the fact that most religious right voters probably use birth control themselves...)


Why would I ever want Zuckerberg as president?

Why would I want any of these intelligent, but unqualified people as president?

Trump has about the same qualifications. Look at that so far.


(I'm not trying to be partisan here even though it might appear to be)

I don't think it is possible for anyone to have the kind of broad and deep qualifications to be POTUS at any age, much less thirty five. This is one job which effectively requires on the job training and (I imagine) lots of delegating.

Sorry if this sounds partisan. It isn't my intention. I'm not saying this as anything in defense of or in opposition to the incumbent. I'm just making a general comment.


Governors of large states are about as close as you can get, i think. They lack the military, intelligence and a lot of foreign policy experience though.

I pretty much agree - OJT is intrinsically part of the deal.


Of course, it's a unique job.

However, it does require a certain bit of humility, something that I think our current POTUS knows nothing about.


As far as I can tell, Trump lacks intelligence. I'd rather have a Gates or Buffet presidency. They've at least shown to care about philanthropy a bit. Trump has his foundation, but it mostly seems to do stuff like pay his legal fees and buy portraits of himself.

> Trump lacks intelligence

I keep seeing people say this, but I'm not sure it's true.

He took a loan of a few million from his father and turned it in to a billion dollar empire.

It's difficult to do that without some measure of intelligence.

He almost lost that billion dollar empire in '94, but recovered and built it back up again in to a billion dollar empire.

It's more difficult to do that without some intelligence.

He also out-played all his Republican opponents in the primaries and then Hillary in the general election.

It's even more difficult to do that without some intelligence.

I remember all the pundits talking about Trump's strategy to win the election and how he didn't have ground game, and it was stupid to be doing all those rallies and campaigning in the states he was campaigning in, and yet it was that very strategy that won him the election.

And all those outrage inducing comments and tweets that keep him in the media spotlight and earned him some $2 billion in free advertising..

If Trump is not intelligent, what does it say when Trump seemingly always manages to outsmart his opponents?

How many times does it have to happen before you can no longer dismiss it as dumb luck?


> He took a loan of a few million from his father and turned it in to a billion dollar empire.

http://fortune.com/2015/08/20/donald-trump-index-funds/

What kind of business genius does it take to lag S&P 500 that badly? If he had done absolutely nothing with his dad's money, except park it in an index fund, he'd be 4 times richer.

The article linked also compares the investment performance of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. You can see quite a big difference.


> If he had done absolutely nothing with his dad's money, except park it in an index fund, he'd be 4 times richer.

That's actually not correct. He says he got a $1,000,000 loan in 1975.

The Fortune article picks a time 13 years after his first loan, and coincidentally at the start of a bull market. I'm not sure how that comparison is valid.

See a more thorough analysis here:

https://dqydj.com/donald-trump-beat-sp-500-index-funds/

Which indicates that if you count from when he started, he did beat the market.


Except that all the numbers on his net worth are based just on his word and he's clearly a serial liar.

Interestingly, I think the fact that he's quite stupid may be how he succeeded at the presidential election. An intelligent, principled person would have a vision and philosophy that guides their actions. When questioned on details or specifics they would use their philosophy to arrive at a reasoned answer.

Trump has essentially no record of this. He has no governing philosophy or sophisticated understanding of how the world works. He seems to do nothing but say what he feels in that moment -- even if how he feels isn't backed up by any reality.

However, in certain election environments that can also be a huge benefit. If the electorate is looking for a foil, someone to reflect their feelings, and the electorate itself isn't acting on calculated reasoning, the dunce with an acute sense of emotional environment is the perfect avatar.

In a sense, the reasoned candidate is at an inherent disadvantage since they will attempt to articulate a particular philosophy. If the electorate is mostly a coalition based on shared emotional reaction, stating a clear philosophy can do nothing but weaken support among your own constituency. In essence, being specific allows people to disagree with you. If you hand wave, they just imagine you think like they do, since they already think you feel like they do.

I can think of another group of people who a similar skillset: confidence artists. They're often not very bright or very skilled, but they are good at reading a room, a person, and an emotion. Interestingly, I don't believe Trump believes himself to be a con-artist; he's just a natural.


> Except that all the numbers on his net worth are based just on his word and he's clearly a serial liar.

No they're not, the link I provided also showed figures based on Forbes estimate of his net worth.

$40,000,000 (Trump's share of his father's fortune) invested in the market in 1974 would be worth $1.22 billion in 2015 (when he announced his campaign).

Compared to Forbes estimate of his net worth at $4.5 billion and Trump's own estimate of his net worth at $10.0 billion at the same date. Both beat the market handily and in fact Forbes could have overestimated his fortune by triple the amount and Trump would still be ahead.

> An intelligent, principled person

Again, I'm not talking about principled, I'm making the argument purely that Trump is intelligent. Not whether he is principled, or a good person, or a good businessman or even if he's a good president.

> He has no governing philosophy

I don't know about that. From what I can tell, he seems to consistently follow the same or similar playbook outlined in 'The Art of the Deal'.


> $40,000,000 (Trump's share of his father's fortune) invested in the market in 1974 would be worth $1.22 billion in 2015 (when he announced his campaign).

How did you get that number? Did you include re-invested dividends?

If you start in October 1974 and end in June 2015, you get a return of 9817.096% with dividends reinvested and only 2923.171% without [1]. So starting with $40 million you would end up closer to $4 billion. Admittedly that is after fiddling with the months to maximise the return.

> Compared to Forbes estimate of his net worth at $4.5 billion ...

There is a good chance that the $4.5 billion Forbes estimate is a significant overestimation. There is no downside for Forbes to overestimating his fortune, but a significant one in underestimating: they risk getting sued by Trump. See [2], on how he lost a lawsuit in 2006 when a journalist claimed that he was only worth $250 million. It also contains examples of how Trump inflates his net worth. The fact that he still hasn't released his tax returns and has no plans to do so, also speaks volumes.

> ...and Trump's own estimate of his net worth at $10.0 billion at the same date.

Given his long history of lying his own claim is useless.

[1] https://dqydj.com/sp-500-return-calculator/

[2] http://www.forbes.com/sites/chasewithorn/2016/03/31/how-dona...


> How did you get that number? Did you include re-invested dividends?

From the site I linked to above (which incidentally is the site [1] you linked to in your post). It includes re-invested dividends and also taxes, which were significantly higher in the late 70's and early 80's compared to what they are now. The page I linked to goes through their methodology.

You make good points about his net worth, but even if I was to concede that, I believe my main point still stands.

He might not be an astute investor, but even if his entire businesses are only worth hundreds of millions, you can't run a company of that size for so long if you "lack intelligence" - even more so if you're building it back up after losing a billion dollars a few decades earlier.


> From the site I linked to above (which incidentally is the site [1] you linked to in your post). It includes re-invested dividends and also taxes, which were significantly higher in the late 70's and early 80's compared to what they are now. The page I linked to goes through their methodology.

I missed that link. It makes some good points. Of course, if you had $200 million in 1974, and your marginal tax rate was 75%, you would not hold it in person but would shield it in a corporation. I'm sure his tax lawyer would have found some structure that would have brought down his taxes significantly.

> you can't run a company of that size for so long if you "lack intelligence"

He is not a complete moron, but he is far from a brilliant businessman. And he doesn't seem to have many intelligent insights outside of business.

He is good at selling an image that appeals to a lot of Americans, though.

> even more so if you're building it back up after losing a billion dollars a few decades earlier.

How do you lose a billion dollars? Does that take a special kind of intelligence? Or does it maybe indicate that he takes irresponsible risks that sometimes pay off, but sometimes go horribly wrong? Could his relative success be explained by survivorship bias?


> but he is far from a brilliant businessman.

I'm not claiming he is a brilliant businessman. I'm only disputing the assertion that he "lacks intelligence", which is what started this side-thread.

> How do you lose a billion dollars?

Many different ways. For example, Hillary spent over a billion dollars on her losing campaign, but I don't assume that Hillary lacks intelligence because of this.

> Could his relative success be explained by survivorship bias?

It could well be, and again I'm not ascribing any sort of "special intelligence" to Trump, just that I don't agree that he "lacks intelligence".


> Hillary spent

Not her personal wealth


Well, how about this one then: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-12/soros-los...

Losing a billion dollars is easier than you think, because even if you're intelligent, sometimes circumstances conspire against you.


> figures based on Forbes estimate of his net worth.

You know Forbes is just a business magazine, and just a small one at that?

They don't have any privileged information. They probably just based their reporting on his self-reported wealth. At best they could look at the public valuations of some of his properties, but since the Trump organization is privately held they have no way of knowing how badly he's leveraged.

Here's a hint: check how much Forbes said Elizabeth Holmes was worth in 2015.

> I don't know about that. From what I can tell, he seems to consistently follow the same or similar playbook outlined in 'The Art of the Deal'.

That you don't see the difference between a set of strategies for making money in real estate and a governing philosophy of how you see the world and act as a person is the crux of the problem.


> That you don't see the difference ... is the crux of the problem.

I'm simply pointing out observable reality.

'Art of the Deal' may just be a set of strategies for making money in real estate, but those same strategies seem to guide how he sees the world and acts as a person.

I'm not making any judgement about whether that is a good or bad thing, but failing to understand that means failing to understand Trump.


This is the Art of the Deal:

  1. Think big
  2. Protect the downside and the upside will take care of itself
  3. Maximize your options
  4. Know your market
  5. Use your leverage
  6. Enhance your location
  7. Get the word out
  8. Fight back
  9. Deliver the goods
  10. Contain the costs
  11. Have fun
Aside from the last one, these are simply statements of strategy on how to achieve your goals. This is not a framework for arriving at the goals themselves. You could use this strategy to work for autocracy or democracy or really any world you want. The first question to ask is which world you want to live in, not how to get there.

His only statements on normative, not positive, values come from things like "America winning" and "being great" and "going back." But it absolutely true that, for many Americans, these are a contradiction in terms.

I can attempt to infer his values from these vague statements, but I think that it is improper for a leader to not start with a set of first principles, independent from ill-defined notions like "winning", that guide what it means to win and what it means to be great.


> I can attempt to infer his values from these vague statements,

Well, there's a whole book that goes in to specific details about those vague statements, so you don't have to infer much at all about what he means by them.

Much of the crazy, and supposedly unpredictable things Trump does, follows the playbook laid out by Art of the Deal. He's been following the same script for decades, and people are somehow surprised when he keeps doing the same thing.

> but I think that it is improper

I'm not commenting on the propriety or value of Trump doing this, just pointing out that he does do it (whether others think it improper or not).

Love him or hate him, if you want to understand him, the Art of Deal provides insight on that.


By "vague statements" I was referring to his comments on "America winning" or "being great again." Does Art of the Deal describe those statements in detail?

It does!

Well, not those statements specifically, it describes that type of statement and Trump's rationale for using them.

Here's a quote -

"The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular.

I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion."

So, it's a promotion tactic to get people thinking positive and thinking big, but also, the vagueness means that each person can attribute it to whatever is important to them, which leads to much stronger engagement and emotional connection.


Once again, I think that's more of a statement on how he achieves his goals, not how he arrives at goals in the first place.

For instance, there's an inherent conflict between freedom and security. The government and the people must strike a balance on these issues. How does Trump decide what the right balance is? What philosophical principles does he use to decide how much freedom we should be willing to trade for security?


> Art of the Deal

The ghostwriter of that book says he made the whole thing up, because Trump got bored so quickly he wouldn't sit for an interview longer than 10 minutes.


Regardless of whether or not his ghostwriter is telling the truth, Trump didn't need to write it in order to follow the book's advice.

If you look at what the book talks about and you see how Trump acts, there are many similarities.


The cognitive dissonance is just breathtaking.

I see no contradiction.

You seem to believe that either winning elections or making money are satisfactory demonstrations of intelligence (as meant by IQ, or g). I do not.

I would be happy to reconsider if he released a simple IQ test, or even his old SAT scores (assuming he took the SAT).


An important note: this assumes he spent no money. Obviously, this is a ridiculous assumption, as he has lived a very ostentatious and expensive lifestyle.

> He took a loan of a few million from his father and turned it in to a billion dollar empire.

See the other comment about how he'd have much more money if he'd plowed his inheritance into an index fund. It's been a story that cropped up every few years for the last decade. He's a bad businessman who keeps going bankrupt and borrowing money from greater fools. This last time, it seems he went into debt to the Russians. Maybe Putin is not so foolish.

Honestly, I think he didn't release his tax returns because they'd show he's actually broke and living off borrowed cash.

> always manages to outsmart his opponents?

Right time, right place. I've seen inept people "succeed" so many times, it makes me weep. But hey, no one likes to hear bad beat stories.


> See the other comment about how he'd have much more money if he'd plowed his inheritance into an index fund

See my other comment about how that's not actually true, but in any case we are not talking about how much money he could have made, or whether he is the most intelligent out of all businessmen, but whether or not he is intelligent.

I would argue it takes more intelligence to run a multi-billion dollar empire than it takes to invest in an index fund, even if the index makes larger returns in the long run. Not everyone is motivated by money, especially if your net worth is several hundred million dollars, which it was for Trump at the point when Fortune started the calculation that he would have been better off investing in an index fund.

> He's a bad businessman who keeps going bankrupt

6 times out of 100+ businesses? That's not a bad strike rate.

> This last time, it seems he went into debt to the Russians. Maybe Putin is not so foolish.

> Honestly, I think he didn't release his tax returns because they'd show he's actually broke and living off borrowed cash.

And there was me thinking it was the Right that was in to conspiracy theories.


> conspiracy

No conspiracy, just one guy. He's said in court deposition (for a lawsuit he lost) that he claims his net worth is however he's feeling that day.

> 6 out of 100+

Not all the businesses are equivalent, nor are most of them really his, beyond selling a license to his name.

The Trump Organization is less than 200 people, closer to 100. It's mostly real estate deals, not even building management. Not really what comes to mind for the phrase "empire". He certainly wants that, though.


> Not all the businesses are equivalent

No, they're not, but the fact still stands that bankruptcies make up only a small portion of his total businesses, even when taking away ones he's only licensed his name to.

> The Trump Organization is less than 200 people, closer to 100.

CNN (notoriously anti-Trump) calculates Trump has created around 34,000 jobs.

http://money.cnn.com/2015/09/03/news/economy/donald-trump-jo...

Not sure where the 100-200 people statistic comes from, but it seems a little on the low side.

There are plenty of things to criticize Trump about, but making things up to make him look bad reflects badly on the person making things up, not on Trump.


"Responsible for" is different than employed by. The article you linked says he employs 22k people, not 34k. Either way, that's much larger than 200.

I did a brief search for "Trump Organization employees" and can't find the article I read last week. So, my apologies, I'll just have to say that I read it in a reputable newspaper.

Still, I find it plausible that Trump Organization directly employs a handful of people and the rest of the 22k are employees of subsidiaries.


Obama had minimal qualifications, himself.

Other than being a senator, a lawyer, and a constitutional scholar, you mean?

Have you compared his to others who have had the job? What did they have that he lacked? Don't get me wrong, I don't like the guy, but his qualifications seem alright.

It's a funny observation that Mark Zuckerberg (32) actually isn't old enough to run for president at the moment (35). The next election would be the first where he's legally able.

(all this irrespective of whether or not that's in his or others' best interests)


SO there is a minimum age - how about a maximum one ?

There is no maximum age requirement. The requirements are well-articulated: http://americanhistory.about.com/od/uspresidents/f/president...

I wouldn't be averse to an amendment establishing the maximum age of eligibility for any elected federal office to be 130 years old on election day.

I figure that if we ever get people to routinely outlive that mark, we may have a problem getting the elder generations to voluntarily yield power to the younger.


Paraphrasing Oliver Wendell Holmes, one generation of sociopaths is enough. Zuck should stick with "curing all diseases".

I get Bill and Warren, but Mark?

A reference to the rumors that he's preparing to run for office.

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/01/zucke...


Don't know about Buffett, but I don't get Gates either. He was a ruthless businessman using every trick in the book (legal and illegal) to solidify his company's monopoly.

Every illegal trick? Come on. I competed against Microsoft (compilers) and they were a tough competitor. But I never saw anything illegal. Microsoft benefited a lot from their competitors simply being incompetent (see "In Search Of Stupidity" by Chapman.)

Compilers were one thing they didn't bundle. Whether they let you know everything about their operating system they knew is quite another matter. We now know there was no "Chinese Wall" between OS dev and app dev. Then toss in FUD for good measure, OED contracts that got them a DOJ consent decree for illegal activity and more...

I'm familiar with the famous IE "bundling" thing that the case revolved around. Microsoft gave away IE for free. How this was supposedly different from Microsoft giving away a long list of other tools, like a text editor, escapes me.

As for me, I started with Netscape (free). I switched to IE (free) because IE crashed less often. I eventually switched to Chrome (free) because IE hung accessing github. Every operating system I have (OSX, Linux, FreeBSD, Windows) comes with a bundled browser. My phone comes with one. My Kindle comes with one. Most of the software I use daily is free.

There was no evidence of monopoly pricing. The very fact that IE was given away was de facto proof they did not have a monopoly. The case never made any sense.


Absolutely spot on. How an average user was expected to download an "alternative browser" without having a browser pre-installed was beyond me. The whole "browser choice" prompt was a farce.

This is before we get into the part about removing Windows Media Player from some EU releases...


I still have IE "installed" on my computer. I never use it, for reasons stated. Who cares if it is installed? I don't. I did use it to download Chrome, though :-)

Window 10 is now finding excuses to open itself to tell me about travel spots whenever I open the computer. Again and again there's a new bit of Microsoftmalware for me to disable.

Don't trust me for these details, but IIRC it wasn't just the free pricing. I recall OEMs only getting the best most competitive pricing if they didn't bundle a competing browser. Microsoft ensured the DLLs used by their browser were preloaded at boot time regardless of whether the user wanted the browser or not. Microsoft did not let a user uninstall the browser (so even if a competing browser did preload at boot time it cause the overall boot time to take longer, a penalty never avoidable with MS's browser since it was always installed to preload at boot b/c it was not uninstallable). Microsoft making their help system dependent on their browser. Microsoft forged videos in front of the court (!) trying to obscure these and other differences that went to the heart of whether the browser was part of the OS or an additional piece of software. Microsoft initially charged for IE in certain cases IIRC but later gave it away for free with email documents from execs discussing doing so "to cut off Netscape's air supply", clear evidence of attempting to maintain their monopoly or extend it into adjacent markets. Which is illegal and why they were convicted.

Sorry, the whole thing was a crock. Why shouldn't Microsoft make it part of their OS? And events have proved me right - everybody bundles in a free browser as part of their OS, and people still use alternatives on Windows. Still, all free.

That whole "air supply" thing was laughable. People competing with others always talk about "killing", "nuking", "blowing away", "crushing", etc., their competitors. This goes on in football games, ice skating, and business. Nobody means it literally. It isn't evidence of a crime.

Netscape would have fared better if their browser didn't crash a dozen times an hour. That was their fault, not Microsoft's.

Oh, and I could buy a Linux computer with one click from Amazon at the time. Anybody could buy parts, assemble them, and go into business selling Linux computers, complete with a full suite of free bundled software. There was nothing MS did or could have done to stop it.


Bundling law goes away back, it's not new to this century, although recent decisions have been far more liberal than historical ones.

Well it wouldn't be Gates of 1992 running, it would be Gates of today.

Have you changed in the past 25 years? I sure have.


He'd have to be a fool to change the thing that made him one of the richest men alive. So I assume he's still quite ruthless.

Why? If somebody was the best marathon runner in the world and they retired and took up fly fishing, would you say they were fools for doing so?

I'd say they were a fool if they willfully forgot how to walk.

IMO, anyone with over a Billion dollars is more like an insider than an outsider. Probably anybody over ~4 Million, actually.

If you conflate "insider" with economic class, there's no benefit to using the term anymore.

It is very fair to say that there is a class of people of various professions who have a great deal of influence but not a great deal of money. To what degree would you buy my notion that most of those people work for people in a higher economic class? Where do you see decisions being made independent of (or out of proportion to) their economic impact?

Now you're going in a different direction. I'm just saying that not all wealthy people are "insiders".

I'm more sure that wealthy people tend to be insiders than the professional non-wealthy. Once you've acquired enough to be considered wealthy, you care about the stability of currencies, banking systems, countries at least to the degree that it preserves your own wealth.

'The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.' - Ecc 5:12


The way you phrased it previously suggested equivalence (all wealthy are insiders) rather than tendency (more wealthy are insiders).

It would help my argumentation skills if you could you point out where I suggested equivalence. I started with 'more like an insider than an outsider'.

Good point. Unfortunately, the threading view of Hacker News doesn't show me the comment I responded to by default and I just try to remember it.

I remembered your comment as, "anyone with more than $4 million is an insider."

If there's any lesson to draw, perhaps it's that more concise statements are less likely to be misunderstood. The more words, the more room for overlooking some of them.

It also might be the context. You were responding to someone saying Gates or Buffet is an outsider (again, I don't have that comment visible). Your comment in isolation would imply "more like" just as you wrote. However, as a response it sounds like a direct contradiction: he's an insider, not an outsider.


It is true that I believe both Gates and Buffet are insiders. They're at the far end of the economic distribution, and, by simple self interest, have to take an interest in all the concerns I mentioned. I'd wager you could do an image search on Bill Gates and most world leaders and find a picture of them together. I suppose it depends on what you mean by 'insider', but I don't see how outsider' applies.

While I applaud Bill Gates for his philanthropic work, I would be extremely doubtful of him if he decided to run for public office. His behavior during Microsoft antitrust trial wasn't exactly awe inspiring.

when I read comments on the internet like this, where people wish for a single influential person to run the country like, i begin to wonder how many Americans are out there who believe in and long for a "philosopher-king" system without any of the check and balances that the Federal Government has in place...

a country like Singapore, with the benevolent dictator Lee Kuan Yew, perhaps? Whose single-mindedness and ability to execute has made the country one of the most successful (by several measures) in the world?

Perhaps the US will benefit from blowing up the existing structure, whose rigidity was supposed to prevent demagoguery but appeared to have failed in the new era, and so we're left with is all the bureaucracy and no benefits.


None of those have the charisma necessary to run a successful presidential campaign

Do you think George Bush (junior) did?

Chances are that they'd want to disturb the military industrial complex and secret government foreign operations, possibly leading to an drastic shortening of their life expectancy.

or Mark Cuban. His latest twitter spat with Trump is quite interesting.

http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/news/a53079/trump-cuban...


be careful what you whish for. very careful.

"All lives have equal value"

I hope one day all governments across the world operate with this principle.

Gates foundation is doing some amazing work. Looking forward to their contribution in the coming years.


That's only true if you ignore the practicalities and only speak of life in the abstract. Some people, through their deplorable deeds, have made their own lives distinctly less valuable.

It is an envious position to be in where you can positively impact such an incomprehensible number of human lives in the best of ways.

It's incredibly heart warming how many people have been saved by the Gates Foundation. Although, the realist in me worries about the possibility that in the long-run, civil liberties and human rights are also of importance to humanity in saving human lives, and human dignity.

Without going into an argument about the relative importance, shouldn't at least some significant portion be distributed towards solving the human and civil rights, liberties, and justice abuses here in America?

After all, the reason Bill Gates and Buffet are in a position to be able to help so many people is due the world they grew up in. The opportunities they were given. A large part of that is individual human liberty. Had Gates lived in another time, and been arbitrarily detained during one of his two arrests for refusing to unlock his electronic devices, would he have encountered a legal battle that derailed his entrepreneurship? If he was a minority, would the police had treated him the same way? If he was abused by the police the way Ian Murdock allegedly was, what would have happened to Gates? Would we have lost the opportunity to save 122 million lives to date through the Gates foundation?


> Without going into an argument about the relative importance, shouldn't at least some significant portion be distributed towards solving the human and civil rights, liberties, and justice abuses here in America?

I would guess that a country with stable institutions, high GDP per capita value, democracy and the highest absolute military spending this issue could be addressed in the ballot box. In the richest democracies on earth fixing these issues is a question of resource allocation. And plenty of organizations are working towards that already.


> this issue could be addressed in the ballot box

I don't believe that is true. Recent history is especially illustrative of this.


>Recent history is especially illustrative of this.

Are you referring to Trump's election?

Well, some people's problems were solved by the ballot box, and they got their man elected. The fact that you disagree with the politics doesn't negate the system working as intended.


Well, for instance, I supported clemency for Bradley Manning, and that Edward Snowden should be honored as a patriot for risking his own welfare to stand up for the people of America against illegal government abuses. I had no choice in the election in that matter. I did have some hope with Bernie, but all of the subversion against him by the DNC my hope was burned to shreds.

So there's an example of how, one of the most important issues, has no ability to be addressed in the ballot box in recent history.


More money wouldn't help that cause though. The US doesn't need the billions to solve issues, it already has it. The lack of solutions in the US is due to people not working towards them, not the resources being lacked.

I disagree. Money is not the only motivation, but it is the most reliable to model as the primary reason why people work.

Read the article...:

> Warren, your gift doubled the foundation’s resources. It’s allowed us to expand our work in US education, support smallholder farmers, and create financial services for the poor. But in this letter, we’re going to tell you about our work in global health—because that was the starting point of our philanthropy, and it’s the majority of what we do.


Read my comment.... > civil and human rights abuses

What should they do, exactly? In my eyes improving education and helping the poor aim exactly at the root of your problems.

Easy. Give money to the EFF, ACLU, etc. Or create a similar organization with that kind of money.

Is there any credible objective evidence that Ian Murdock was abused by the police? I think that you could have chosen a clearer example of police abuse to better support your point.

Don't want to derail this to be about choosing better examples because there are plenty of examples out there and if you'd like to offer another you are more than welcome to contribute yourself.

Murdock was just what came to mind because he contributed so much to open source software and to a large community of people. He was a trailblazer in the realm of OSS and I think that was an important role for humanity to have people willing to take those steps. Gates did a lot to give us the MS OS, Murdock did a lot to bring Debian/Linux to more people.

I believe Ian Murdock is a credible source. Of the people involved, the most credible and respectable source available; but outside of that small group of people, only the universe knows for certain. Or things that exist in other dimensions. Or outside the realm of dimensions. Whatever.


I appreciate these efforts, but my mind is drawn to a somewhat orthogonal set of tactics.

When I see stats like $1 of vaccines releasing $44 of economic value, I think: there is a market opportunity here.

The question I keep asking is: what would a hedge fund look like that was making a bet that most people in poverty could produce the $44 if we invested the $1? What kind of corporate structure would be needed to distribute the resource AND reap part of the economic value?

Similar hedges can be made everywhere. If I believe black people are worth more than their social status (and commensurate credit access) would suggest.... how do I make that bet with cash?

You can answer "microfinance" but that's just phrasing the question in a different way. The real issue is: how, exactly?

It's not an easy question to answer, but I think unlocking it is a trillion dollar opportunity. You are essentially betting against the entire class of employers. Seems stupid, but so did Michael Burry's bet against the entire class of mortgage lenders.


It's not like there's a simple way to invest $1 and extract $44. That $44 is diluted in the total GDP. There's also a quite low limit on how many people you can vaccinate, even if you offer it for free.

This kind of thing is quite profitable for the government though, because they get to collect that $44, even if it is diluted.


I don't need a simple way, I just need a way.

The way I am currently pursuing it is basically to build an agency (like a Hollywood agency) for people in poverty and use automation to get economies of scale so it can survive on many slices of small payouts. It's not simple, but it's the only thing I can think of.

Arguably TaskRabbit and Uber are a version of this, but they target poor working class people, not those in actual poverty.

Would be interested to hear other ideas. I don't expect any of them to be simple.



Thank you, Bill, Melinda and Warren.

I see a lots of charts saying things are improving, which is great, but unless I missed it I can't see the piece that says "We spent $xxx on initiative YYY which caused this improvement."

Yeah, nobody here appears to have paid attention, but in this piece Gates fails to differentiate things the foundation has actually done from all the major international public health accomplishments of the last 25 or so years -- it's pretty out there when you think about it. The most specific claims made were about the foundation's participation in groups addressing two of the issues.

One of the coolest things about this letter is it's presented in numbers--the format Warren appreciates the most.

Ghostery identifies 10 trackers and uBlock shows 7 advertising scripts, which seems like a lot for a page that you'd think shouldn't need advertising.

The page doesn't even display if you block some of these scripts. This is terrible.



Yep, I just unblocked the whole site in uBlock. There is tracking but no annoying adverts that I would want to block so I just let it through.

It looks to contain a lot of logic about what is shown when it is shared on Twitter, Facebook, etc. I think all the images use this logic.

Firefox's 'Reader View' makes it readable.

This is amazing. Thank you Bill, Melinda, and Warren.

For anyone interested in why polio hasn't been eradicated, it is likely related to the capture of Osama Bin Laden.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jul/11/cia-fake-vacci...


I highly doubt this is truly the reason

"Over the weekend, relations were pummelled further when the US announced that it would cut $800m (£500m) worth of military aid as punishment for Pakistan's perceived lack of co-operation in the anti-terror fight." It might not be THE reason, but I guess there would be less than the [1]20 cases of polio that there are now in Pakistan if that $800m hadn't been cut.

[1] http://www.endpolio.com.pk/polio-cases-district-wise-2016


It is not the sole reason. But I spoke with a Gates Foundation employee after this happened and it was directly effecting their ability to safely send out vaccinators. So it played a part in the persistence of polio in Pakistan.

Care to elaborate?

not likely related at all, but interesting story!

How is it not related? Polio was on the brink of eradication with the last strongholds in Pakistan... CIA spooks Pakistanis into thinking vaccinations are not good...Citizens refuse Rotary polio vaccines... polio remains present in Pakistan.

okay, I can concede to that perspective.

Rich people circle jerk. Yes I'm impressed but still.

Nice <3

On the opposite number side, I hope they can help to find ways to reduce the population growth. It is unsustainable, especially in Africa and Arabic countries. (Pity one cannot just implement a China-like one child policy:))


They are -- "Saving children’s lives is the goal that launched our global work. It’s an end in itself. But then we learned it has all these other benefits as well. If parents believe their children will survive—and if they have the power to time and space their pregnancies—they choose to have fewer children."

Here is the Hans Rosling video explaining why that's not a problem: https://www.gapminder.org/videos/will-saving-poor-children-l...

Seems like he's assuming changing one of these changes all: child mortality == poverty == lack of education == large families

High fertility rates, poverty, low education, lack of affordable birth control, child mortality... these and other things cluster together. What's causing what?

If you found a genie and wished for an end to kids dying in Africa, with no intervention in any other parameters, how much do you really think that would change the fertility rate? They're not having lots of kids just to have lots of kids, right? There's some other underlying motivation or cause. Either the kids are accidents, or there's a reason — perhaps an economic motivation — to have lots of kids? What underlying reason for high fertility rates is going to be addressed by stopping kids from dying?



The harsh reality is that Hans spent his life trying to educate people and get them draw conclusions from data instead of repeating their prejudices.

Sorry, but the harsh reality is that data (models) not always work. Especially for complex things. Remember 'The Limits to Growth'?

His videos are certainly well made. Motion Charts let you visualize/see numbers nicely and help popularize certain insights. But don't be too hasty with conclusions. Much didn't work in the past. Or was know already but knowledge alone doesn't mean that it can be implemented.


To support your point: look at the fertility rate of Mexican-Americans.

That's Hans Rosling explaining why population growth is not as big a problem as some people think it will be.

It is still a problem, make no mistake.

edit: the problem comes from factors such as fresh water supplies, energy production, food production and transport. Once you start using more power to produce fresh water, you end up in a precarious highly industrialised future where the entire population becomes much more vulnerable to sabotage or incompetence. Even worse, most power production schemes of the scale required will also consume fresh water themselves.

We need to find a way to maintain an acceptable quality of life with minimal energy expenditure, so that the entire population can live at that standard without destroying the planet in doing so.


I'm not convinced. If we took a Star Trek "Prime Directive" approach and didn't interfere with Africa, why wouldn't their population be at a naturally lower carrying capacity?

Is it really wise to use all of that money in a part of the world where their carbon footprint is small, versus spending it on reducing the carbon footprint in the first world? Why are we exacerbating the problem by making Africa more developed and therefore worse for climate change? In the short term, we could be left with a greater number of Africans who leave Africa because of climate change issues way before 2100 when their population will supposedly level off.


Because humans are good at increasing Earth's human carrying capacity

We're actually horrible at it, considering that we're producing CO2 at an unsustainable rate.

Check what Hans Rosling said about this. You don't need to do anything.

Well that's not quite true.

You have to fight poverty and improve educational attainments for those most in need.

Contributing to those causes will have the side effect of stopping overpopulation.


What i mean by "not do anything" is not trying to attack the overpopulation issue by putting restraints on population directly. Hans Rosling has shown that as level of life increases around the world, developing countries move towards having less children and therefore the population balances itself in the mid run, at about 10 billion folks.

Fighting poverty is done by improving economic openness - while people are always bitching about "inequalities" on the whole even the poorest are getting richer compared to 20 years ago and global poverty is steadily decreasing over time. And starvation is very much a thing of the past (except in conflict zones, for obvious reasons) while it was certainly not the case back in the 80s.


You didn't read the link, did you.

I say that because one of its topics is promoting contraception.

Or perhaps you did read the link, and decided to pretend that it hadn't talked about contraception.


Of course I did. I'm just not sure if the link 'child_mortality->lower_birthrate|ending_poverty' and/or 'Africa|Some_Arabic_country->getting_richer->lower_birthrate' will work strong enough and come soon enough if at all.

Some of this I heard since the 80ties.

Currently I think it's more a cultural, religious and bad governance thing. And unfortunately I see 'no market incentives' which could fix that.

Why are e.g. oil-rich countries like Nigeria and Irak not able to provide good life for a large middle class of citiziens? What could be done? (I have no idea - what I see though is that China improved living conditions for hundreds of millions of citizens, it's likely singular but maybe some things could be learned?)

For me not the 122 Mio children saved should be at the top but - what they also do - tackle the 'too many Homo sapiens' issue.


RISUG seems so promising, I'm not sure why Gates isn't helping put that on a fast track.

I find Gates' lack of focus on environmental issues disheartening. I know he does invest in clean energy and feels strongly about climate change, but this doesn't really do anything to prevent deforestation NOW. I know that bringing people out of poverty may have a side-effect of improving some environmental parameters, but it also makes whole swathes of people start demanding more meat, more palm oil, more cars, more disposable goods. The big international benefactors don't seem that interested in rainforest biodiversity.

I am so tired of the "yeah that's nice but what about X" posts on the internet. This foundation focuses on making life better for poor children and that's a worthwhile thing to focus on.

If you actually read the full text of the post you'd see that they're simultaneously reducing the infant mortality rate while increasing access to family-planning education and contraceptives... these are all things that actually tend to REDUCE population growth in developing nations.

So the one argument you came here to have isn't even true... and even if it was you're suggesting that we'd be better off if more poor children died, which is just some shitty roundabout eugenics.

Maybe spend your time advocating on environmental issues instead of shitposting about it.


So some trees are more important than saving 122 million children? I know I'm going to get all the nasty replies that it's a larger issue than just a few trees, that without trees there won't be people, etc. But comments like these are the reason that people dismiss environmentalists as nutjobs that care more about trees than people.

Climate change is not just about trees, but about the massive loss of biodiversity that goes along with rapid climate change.

Sure most of Europe will be covered in pine trees, but at the same time a lot of species, essentially all that are not able to migrate with the same speed that the climate changes in their habitat will die out.

This article for example claims that 1/2 of the known species have died out within this century and 1/6 will die out if nothing is done about climate change:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/apr/30/one-in-s...


Again, you completely missed the point. Bill Gates is one man with a certain amount of resources. He chose to go after a huge problem with known solutions: hundreds of millions of poverty-induced, completely preventable, childhood deaths. Climate change may be another worthy cause, but no one has any business criticizing him for not choosing that particular one over saving a massive number of children because they might cause some additional demand for palm oil.

Find a billionaire that is doing nothing for the world and criticize them for not doing something about climate change. Bill Gates is busy doing great things for humanity.


I think Bill Gates would agree that when you control the philanthropic funds of the 2 richest people on earth then you have some obligation to spend the money in proportion to the importance of the issues being addressed.

I won't argue the relative merits of the marginal value of a human life vs. mass extinction of species because I'm sure we both have different values underlying our respective views and will never convince each other of anything.


I won't argue the relative merits of the marginal value of a human life vs. mass extinction of species

We aren't going anywhere anytime soon, and when we do, it likely won't be from the effects of preventable climate change. We may in fact have another ice age sometime in the next several million years - but no amount of money, protests, cutting back on emissions, carbon taxes, or other measures will stop it. Dinosaurs had an ice age, and as far as we know they didn't have cars.


This is precisely not about the survival of the human species, we are doing fine and humans are the most likely to be able to adapt to rapidly changing climate and collapse of biodiversity. The issue is that the biodiversity will recover only slowly (in the order of 10 million years) and probably won't completely because we have left very few natural habitats anyways.

Humans have completely bypassed all the usual regulatory mechanisms that balance the populations of all the other species and caused mass extinction simply by reproducing well beyond what a natural ecosystem could sustain. Even the ice age set in way slower than how fast we are currently changing the temperature on earth.

As much as I understand that most people have an anthropocentric outlook, especially the >30% religious fundamentalists in the US, I feel like we should value overall biodiversity over pure human survival. Most of the programs the Gates foundation are probably helpful in the long run for this as well. Lower infant mortality, better access to birth control and reducing poverty will hopefully result in slowed down population growth.


He's probably looked at it and felt that it wasn't as important in terms of the best ROI for his foundation.

His foundation takes a very analytical approach and he wouldn't dismiss that issue lightly.

They can't tackle everything. You have to pick your battles, even when you're the richest man in the world.



Think of it this way: now there are 122 million more potential climate change researchers on Earth that didn't die before the age of 5.

This is like how anti-abortion activists think that every aborted baby was going to be a doctor. In reality, abortion has likely reduced crime.

Smart people, and people in general, are more productive doing what they're passionate about. Buffett on investing, Musk on space, and Gates on curing childhood diseases.



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