To an outsider, the animations look cool but the engine that drives the animation is cooler to software engineers.
Point being, this is not something a normal philanthropist would imagine being cool and awesome. This takes someone who actually cares about shit (in this case literally) to invest time and money into it.
mindfuplay’s comment reminded me of the famous glass of shit water Gates drank from his Omniprocessor project .
But within that 2015 article, Gates mentions a long term plan for seweage and shit:
>If we can develop safe, affordable ways to get rid of human waste, we can prevent many of those deaths and help more children grow up healthy.
>Western toilets aren’t the answer, because they require a massive infrastructure of sewer lines and treatment plants that just isn’t feasible in many poor countries.
He also mentions he wrote about toilets before in a 2012 article titled “Reflections on the Reinventing the Toilet Challenge.”
Digging deeper into that article brought me to a PDF from the Gates Foundation outlining grants from their 2011 program: “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge” 
I'd say his relationship is with humans. People are his ends. Feces (i.e., the lack there of) are his means. It's a stunning example of hope (not being lost).
What's most impressive to me is a $200 million investment over 7 years, has the potential to "return" $200 billion __annually__. The lottery seems to break $200M a couple+ times per yer.
Editorial: It's amazing what you can accomplish for the price of a handful of F35 fighter jets.
sadly our investments don't align in the high return ways.
You pretty much can't be in public health, especially not developing world public health, without developing a preoccupation with poo.
What kills the most people? Of those things, which can be realistically improved?
In the sailing community more and more people are using composting toilets: https://farmingmybackyard.com/diy-composting-toilet/
As long as it is disposed of safely (properly composted), the cost here is the composting material.
RVs have holding tanks that must be emptied. Thus, they aren't called "septic tanks".
But I'm sure the term is used loosely.
Our local township has an ordinance where every residential sewage system (10k residents, not sure how many systems that is) has to be pumped out and inspected by a certified sewage hauler. This way, the homeowner knows about and is required to make simple repairs before the entire system fails.
If you let the fat and oil solidify at room temp and dispose of them in the trash, and if you use regular soap in the recommended amount, and if you septic tank additive once in a while, you will be tearing the problem at the source, and will only need to take care of the tank when it’s time to replace it in 40 years.
Septic tanks are not closed systems they are open and intended to provide an environment that can produce a bio-reactor while maintaining drainage through the soil.
Many good systems don’t need to be drained other than every few decades in fact good systems would outlast the tank and the filtering substrate it’s built on so when the time comes you need to dig out the tank and the gravel and other filtering particulate it used because that is what has degraded.
The problem with septic tanks is that they don’t scale we’ll have one on a large property in the middle no where that 5 people use and it’s a great solution have a bunch of them and worse over use one in particular and you get a polluting mess.
But septic tanks also don’t solve the other problem with western toilets and that is the amount of water they consume which is simply unfeasible for many developing regions.
TLDR; if the septic tank was installed and sized correctly it will outlast you even without pumping it, but it’s not a solution the reason we don’t use them in cities is because they don’t and can’t scale with urban population densities.
Other areas like those in which ground temperatures drop below freezing for long period of time might also require tight tanks and constant pumping since the cold may stop the reaction in the tank so it would surprise me if tanks in places like say N. Dakota would be pumped year before winter to prevent them from freezing shut and overflowing.
Every few decades for a properly sized and properly functioning system.
That sounds about right if the goal is to keep a system that's not properly functioning (not enough microbes to break down solids) from filling up to the point of causing problems. You won't go wrong if you follow that advice but depending on what goes into your septic (do you have a garbage disposal, do you do laundry with bleach, number of people in household, etc) you may be able to go an order of magnitude longer. Recommending a system be pumped every 3-4yr is like a 3k oil change, it's excessive in the overwhelming majority of use cases but it will make more money for whoever does the work and not cause a system to fail in a way that comes back to bite whoever installed it.
Sometimes legal departments force them to include those recommendations in order to err on the side of "absurdly overcautious." And sometimes the recommendations are merely prudent! I'm not saying you can wait longer, just that installers may have a motivation to exaggerate.
I suppose there will be very small amounts of minerals that don't break down but they are insignificant.
Note: this isn’t even taking into account the cost of the toilet itself or any plumbing needed.
Basically you've got to learn to crawl before you can run a 10k.
edit: You can get someone who is completely illiterate and cut off from civilization to understand the concept of digging a hole for the shit to go in. This has the added benefit of not requiring advanced manufacturing technology or materials. they just have to dig a hole and move the outhouse top over to the new hole when the old one gets full. This makes them self reliant.
It has to be deep enough, and far enough away from a home, road, water source, food supply, etc. Not all communities have a lot of extra land, so you're talking one or two communal toilets, which need to be large to support a large population, and someone has to maintain them.
If you have the land, you have to have money to construct them, as well as labor. Many households can't afford the $1 (that's one US dollar) construction cost, or the household simply can't perform the labor. In some cases, villages will come together to help fund and construct pit latrines, but these are the exception. Most just put up with the shame and disease of open defecation.
Once you do have them, you have cultural issues like India's manual scavenging problem (http://www.thealternative.in/society/manual-scavenging-thoug...) not to mention you literally have to go out and inform millions of tiny remote villages about why and how to change. It's very hard to get people to change.
Assuming outreach of one week per village, for the 600K censused villages in India, that's 11,506 years to just inform and convince them all to build pit latrines. Even 50 outreach teams would take 250 years. With 500 teams you can cut it down to 23 years.
Literally any deep hole practically anywhere is a damn sight better than open defecation straight into the river, on the bank, or all over the streets. And it doesn't take an act of congress to fund it and change building codes, a civil engineer, excavator, and team of union laborers to get this stuff done like it does in the west. You just need someone who is personally motivated and determined and a shovel ideally. like this guy:
All you need is one person who knows that digging a hole would keep his kid from getting sick and dying and you'd have more trouble trying to stop him from digging that hole for an outhouse.
When that clicks for them. That their kid or wife or husband wouldn't have died if they bothered to dig an outhouse, they will be doing the work and telling everyone they know and also nagging people till their ears fell off when they catch someone shitting in the street.
Hell, I was in Chongqing a couple months ago and saw a teenager literally unzip, in full view of everyone, and pea on (on, not into) a recycling bin. Next to a god damn public toilet.
In the middle of a shopping center.
Near a police officer.
A lot of people just don’t care.
I've seen people poop on the train platform in NJ. Really crazy, but Newark does not open the bathrooms until 7-8AM. So when you're waiting for the 3AM train to DC... what you gonna do?
Taking a shit in the street is perhaps not such a problem if you clean it up afterwards? Culture is hard to change, but perhaps it can be accommodated?
innovations drive change drive more innovation. I recommend Hans Rosling's talks. There is no such thing as the "Third World" anymore, they're all on various development trajectories. Don't think e.g. Somalia is typical for Africa.
Anyone know which country is this considering?
But when they're not kept up.
Seems Bill Gates is trying to improve the whole system, not just some technical aspect. Which also differentiated MS from most technical companies.
How do you think economies grow? Job creation at this scale has to be funded out of tax receipts and bonds. The problem is managing the corruption (note: one must assume there are corrupt actors. The trick is managing them).
If a corporation would try to do that in US, it would be called price dumping and trigger antimonopoly lawsuit against them, but somehow, when it's done to poor African countries we consider it OK, and even expect them to be gratefull for it.
EDIT: I think that China does much better job helping them by making actual investments in their economies, building railroads, factories, etc. You might question their intentions, but you cannot question the results.
>How do you think economies grow?
sometimes not by taking debt for public infrastructure they have no way of maintaining
Then what's he doing at 1:52?
Although granted, the Janicki Omniprocessor website says that it doesn't quite produce drinking water quality.
Then build it! No magic tricks there.
I think, this is the most infuriating trait I see in all Silicon Valley "sophisticated person" types.
I also assume that to ensure water pressure involves electricity - a lot of poorer countries do not have a constant or reliable electricity supply.
Building this sort of infrastructure is a massive engineering task and it can take years to complete a project like this. It requires skilled engineers and labour. During that time, people will die because it's not done yet.
In conclusion, I think Gates and co have made a good investment.
Today water pressure in the western world is mostly generated by running finely controlled electric pumps constantly, but it wasn't too long ago that water towers were used everywhere to maintain water pressure. The advantage of a water tower is that you can run an inaccurate oversized pump occasionally to fill up the reservoir on top of the tower, and gravity does the rest of the work.
Of course building a tower capable of holding many tons of water is a comparably complex civil engineering task and is costly in materials.
In most cases it's not. You park a ground level tank on one of the taller hills in town.
>It requires skilled engineers and labour
Exactly, and there are no tricks around that are known to solve that, other than to engage in massive infrastructure projects. A very simple thing.
When you have a serious issue in production that can be fixed with a global variable in 5 minutes or spending a day correctly planning and implementing a fix that routes the data correctly, what do you pick? I'd hope doing the first thing and replacing it with the second.
It's that sort of decision, only people die if you don't move in time.
In the same time, most banal sewers and septic tanks take days to build.
Without that, you have no functioning cities, and without that, no modern day economy.
> What trait?
The believes in all kinds of trickery. No will to deal with issues the straight way. Such people spend more time looking for a shortcut, than dealing with an issue at hand.
Look: Mr. Gates spent $200m on a magic toilet that is nowhere to be found. That's enough to build 5 small electric power stations, and 5 small sewage treatment plants in a third world country.
How many people lives were improved with magic toilet, and how much by building more infrastructure.
There was a nice movie about an engineer that was in Thailand (not sure about the country) to build a dam. long story short a civil war start in the country and he is a main target because infrastructure investment from outside to build an infrastructure you cannot maintain only puts you in a death spiral of debt.
Bill Gates the businessman was ruthless in his pursuit of dominating the markets he was in, and was largely successful, to many people's dismay.
Bill Gates the philanthropist is doggedly persistent in identifying and working towards fixing some of the major problems human-kind faces, and he's an actual hero to millions (me included, at this point).
The same person, with the same attitude and drive, just applied to a different goal. I think that's amazing.
He is good at solving big problems by forcing everyone to work the same way. Which is good until that becomes a stupid way of working that hurts everyone.
And the mining capabilities of the graphics hardware is cooler to cryptocurrency investors.
Charities work with the premise of preventing suffering, but most developed countries can point to a "great suffering" that made them quickly turn their shit around, akin to an addict hitting rock bottom. I would liken charity in Africa to the enabler who always features in morbidly obese people's lives, constantly bringing the person food out of a misplaced sense of love, where perhaps the truly loving thing to do would be to let the person hit rock bottom and change themselves.
One solution I could think of is a foreign investor investing a lot of money into the campaign of a candidate who isn't corrupt. The caveat of that solution is the perspective that it would be foreign intervention in the political matters of a separate sovereign entity, thus generating discourse among natives.
Another solution is to raise money to raise political awareness, and use that money for programs that get natives to understand the differing positions of candidates (and towards the infrastructure for voting itself).
BUT it's a lot easier to focus on the immediate relief of general ailments such as life threatening diseases, and proper utilities to make the lives of the general public easier. This way natives of poorer countries won't have to worry about things we take for granted in the west, and can spend their time focusing on the systematic issues that caused those time consuming problems in the first place.
My line of thought in a way aligns with Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Before one can begin worrying about psychological needs, one must have their basic needs met.
The opposing candidate will win in a landslide when the foreign-funded candidate is painted as an outsider, funded by “our enemies”, whether true or not.
An enduring solution really has to be internally self-sustaining. (Nations with good sewer systems pay for the maintenance themselves.) It's not clear how to structure voluntary donations so they lead to a sustainable solution. Good public health is necessary for developing a sustainable solution, but by itself it is not sufficient.
It's an interesting ethical question on paper, but I bet it's one you wouldn't bother to ask if it were you dying from cholera, "for the greater good". In any case, only the living can hit rock bottom, so I salute the humanitarian effort going into saving lives.
More generally, I think it's a pattern that governments which have to collect taxes from the masses need their consent, and thus tend to behave better, than governments which do not. Whether the non-tax income is from oil money or foreign aid, it probably has some similar effects.
Coming back from rock bottom isn't something I would read into the history of developed countries. And I don't know what rock bottom is, it seems like things can get unacceptably bad, and stay that way. Is famine rock bottom? Genocide? Child armies? The hole is too deep, you don't want to go there.
A cycle of incremental improvement from within seems like a better bet. But some of the critique remains: external support does not build up self-directed incremental improvement.
Where in Africa are things going well? Where have people found and created their own prosperity? Their own stable, peaceful civic structures? I entirely believe these places exist! But I have no idea where, because all the discussion is about what's going wrong, and the focus is on where things are the worst. But the answers aren't there. And I think you are right, charity can feed the dysfunction.
Africa does not have a toilet problem. Or a tech problem. Or even a resources problem. They have a lack of intelligent social organization problem; i.e. dysfunctional or non-existent institutions, laws and organizational structures, as well as myriad forms of corruption from top to bottom that make it impossible to create the systems that would otherwise keep them healthy, sanitary, safe, well-fed yada yada.
Maybe he could publicly ask, how every year, the Minister of Finance in Nigeria publishes a note indicating there is somehow billions of dollars missing from the coffers, that didn't make it over from the Ministry of Petro Resources, i.e Oil ? Or the like. Tackling the more obvious, glaring wide-open 'in our faces but we ignore anyhow' forms of corruption might be a good start, and would ultimately yield a lot more than functional toilets.
"Deaths from malaria in Africa fell from 800,000 per year in 2000 to 400,000 per year today because of the introduction of affordable mosquito nets. That fact alone refutes your entire arguement."
This statement only enhances my argument. Africa is a bountiful land of resources and ostensible human capital for labour. They should easily be able to afford (or make their own) mosquito nets.
Consider the vast numbers of unemployed people - and that making 'mosquito nets' doesn't require any skill or frankly machinery. The only ostensible 'import' would be some very inexpensive textiles. We're talking a few pennies per person. And that the 'upside' from the effort would yield dramatic benefits, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of saved lives. How on earth are zillions of people dying from something that literally only a few million dollars in 'external financing' (if they don't have the money, which they do) - and some pragmatic planning - should solve? That there needed to be intervention to solve this problem only highlights how dramatically dysfunctional the situation must be.
And as far as 'some' governments, no, it's pretty much all of them, maybe save Botswana, the shinning example, at least for now. 
Also - it's not just 'governments', and it's not just 'corruption' - it's lack of civic function all the way up and down society.
One booming industry is kidnapping . I worked on a technology that would have helped with that problem in one of those African states. We made the sale, delivered our equipment, and prepared to install and activate the first phase. The equipment vanished and the negotiations stalled on the next phase. It seems half the government was interested in preventing kidnappings, while the other half was perpetrating them. Furthermore, the budgeting process involved some kind of internal process where someone gets approval to spend some money, the money is issued, but it gets "taxed" on its way to the vendor until nothing is left. Total loss for us.
ps - Our teams visiting in country needed armed escorts, for obvious reasons.
Much more direct to affect change via the private business route. It makes sense his foundation has stayed apolitical.
But a more positive take would be that perhaps better tech offers a way to improve people's lives despite other disfunction.
London had pretty amazing communications 150 years ago, letters delivered 4-5 times a day to any of a million people. This machine took an enormous amount of human capital to run — thousands of literate & honest postmen, for a start. Today we can deliver a better outcome with much less input — just a few guys who know how to set up a cellphone base station. This doesn’t fix the dysfunction, but does offer many benefits.
Additionally, removing corrupt officials will just create a power vacuum, and oftentimes officials will become corrupt over the course of their term. I forget the political science terminology, but there's this issue where someone will only be able to take over in a dictatorship if they have the backing of many others, who, unsurprisingly, want more out of them than they get from the current official. So the end result is that nearly always, the new official will be more corrupt, particularly in destitute autocracies and oligarchies where the general public's opinions are either irrelevant or uninformed.
So while, yes, the corruption will throw wrenches into all our efforts, is there a solution to it? Or do we just have to throw enough resources to account for the corruption, and hope that an educated society with better infrastructure can start fighting the corruption problem themselves?
Education does not appear to make people less stupid somehow...
In the case of the US (assuming you're American): do you actually think that half of our country is stupid?
Which I've always more associated with the Crazification Factor than outright stupidity:
But it always helps to have Cipolla's Basic Laws of Human Stupidity bookmarked:
72% of Americans thought invading Iraq was a great idea.
He is on of the few that actually do look for problems around him and solve them.
Guinea Worm is literally a parasitic worm. The eradication programme isn't about injecting people with a vaccination, building modern water treatment plants or deploying sophisticated drone technology, it's stuff like:
- Here are some free water filters. Filter the water from that murky pond before you drink it.
- When you have a worm, don't go in the water. Yes it feels cooler, that's because the worm wants you to go to the water, go to a free treatment clinic instead.
- If your neighbour has a worm, go to the clinic, tell them who the neighbour is, you both get cash money and the clinic will treat the worm. Hooray.
The biggest obstacles to Guinea Worm Eradication are not about Africa's lack of technology or its corruption.
The big obstacles are "insecurity" (ie civil wars or just violent criminals who control outlying areas) and "inaccessibility".
Inaccessibility is hard to comprehend for most of us, we're not used to truly being far from civilisation. People who live two days walk from anything resembling a road may have only heard rumours of the existence of the Guinea Worm clinics - for them a parasitic worm chewing its way out of your leg is just a routine hazard of normal rural living.
But yeah, Gates is already investing in the very lowest technology fixes, he isn't some tech nutjob who thinks we're going to solve desperate poverty with a Docker image.
This is a contradiction.
My grandparents grew up on farms way in the back country of Canada, in ruthlessly inhospitable weather, on not exactly fertile soil. When my ancestors landed there they were 'many days walk' from anything remotely resembling civilization.
And yet there were no 'civil gang wars' etc..
If there were civility and rule of law, there wouldn't be gangs controlling territory willy nilly, and the term 'two days walk' wouldn't exist because there would at least be some form of basic transport, however crude.
I do accept that there might be some specific problems (i.e. diseases) that make it much more difficult, and I don't think Gates is wasting everyone's time - however - he's not after root causes, which are civic.
Tough if he secretly bought out a few accounting agencies and published all documents of the illicit money transfers going on that could probably have an effect as it makes the laundering harder.
I disagree. Exposing it is what is needed as a first step. Continual, explicit, widespread exposure.
The problem there I suspect is those with power to do anything fear their own exposure; or they prefer to gain from being party of the international elite; or they choose to use it as leverage for other things.
In "Star Trek: The Next Generation", Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge does not have a tech problem. He has a lack-of-properly-functioning-eyes problem.
It's been solved with technology, though.
In this case, maybe technology will enable people to create a sanitary environment even in the face of impediments from the state.
And you work with the political system you have not the one you would like.
There are already a lot of organizations working on governance -- maybe it's best if tech people focus on tech problems and let the governance people work on governance problems?
But these problems are much harder to solve than toilets and malaria nets, which is difficult enough as it is.
The corrupt leaders would use any plausible excuse to defend their fiefdoms ...'colonialism' would be an easy one to hide behind, and a lot of naive actors on our side would chime in in support. Sadly.
For all of the negative things Bill Gates did when at Microsoft I am glad to see most of the money he made from those actions are being used for such positive things now rather than just going back into SV startups and the like.
But when you consider there are what, 3.5 billion or so males on the planet, the benefits of urinal hygiene add up pretty quickly.
That must save a lot of piping and water.
Not only do they use less water, but they /smell better/ -- most of the "smell of urine" results from the pee being added to, and reacting with, water, so no water, no noticeable odour.
Seems that it could be retrofitted easily by replacing the trap if the materials aren't important.
I wonder if patent expiration is responsible for the apparent increase in use of similar systems.
Thanks for your correction.
I have several fully automatic Totos (which have to abide by California/US water usage rules).. and while the bidets, seat heating, and automisting (it sprays water every 15-30 seconds to try to keep the bowl clean) features are nice the water limits and bowl design make it a pain to clean and maintain if you get what I mean. It's also basically useless if theres no electricity, I believe you can manually flush once if the power goes out with a pull-cord. For western/developed countries I think there is still a big market for a better toilet.
In developing countries obviously infrastructure is an issue, but for sewage would a composting toilet not be a viable option? Maybe solar powered for some higher power exhaust and ventilation along with water treatment/sanitation. It's kind of the low tech version of how Star Trek would turn matter into energy.
When the original series was made, you couldn’t show a toilet on TV – it simply wasn’t allowed.
But, beginning in 1989 with the release of the feature film Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, you do get the occasional glimpse of an actual toilet here and there.
Interesting taboo nonetheless.
I always thought it was just not done because it generally isn't moving a story on to show someone on the toilet. Books don't usually mention characters using the toilet either. I've played videogames with an eating mechanic but never one where you needed to defecate (though Sims could when I last played that).
I saw some UN project but of course it was 20 toilets and 50,000 pages of reports and paperwork so that didn't really work out.
For much less money, Bill Gates could have produced some internationally accepted standard designs that could be open sourced for local production and even "flat pack" style for people to easily construct.
The guy has a great heart but this does look like a case of tech seeing everything as a technical problem.
A way to _simply_ use rainwater that can be cheaply retrofitted would be good.
If they have teleportation technology, ...
There are 892 million people without toilet as per Wikipedia. Assuming 10 people sharing toilet, cost of building one toilet is $500 (assuming government gives land for free), solving this problem will require ~$50B investment world wide. This is about half of own money Gates foundation can possibly donate. Also, critical part is ongoing maintenance. So self-maintaining toilets that is very cheap to setup is very critical research to solve this problem.
The conventional wisdom is that today, at $20 per household per month, providing piped water and sanitation is too expensive for the budget of most developing countries. The experience of Gram Vikas, an NGO that works in Orissa, India, shows, however, that it is possible to do it much more cheaply. Its CEO, Joe Madiath, a man with a self-deprecating sense of humor who attends the annual meeting of the worlds rich and powerful at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in outfits made from homespun cotton, is used to doing things differently. Madiaths career as an activist started early: He was twelve when he first got into troublefor organizing the labor on the plantation that his father owned. He came to Orissa in the early 1970s with a group of left-wing students to help out after a devastating cyclone. After the immediate relief work was over, he decided to stay and see if he could find some more permanent ways to help the poor Oriya villagers. He eventually settled on water and sanitation. What attracted him to the issue was that it was simultaneously a daily challenge and an opportunity to initiate long-term social change. He explained to us that in Orissa, water and sanitation are social issues. Madiath insists that every single household in the villages where Gram Vikas operates should be connected to the same water mains: Water is piped to each house, which contains a toilet, a tap, and a bathing room, all connected to the same system. For the high-caste households, this means sharing water with low-caste households, which, for many in Orissa, was unacceptable when first proposed. It takes the NGO a while to get the agreement of the whole village and some villages eventually refuse, but it has always stuck to the principle that it would not start its work in a village until everyone there agreed to participate. When agreement is finally reached, it is often the first time that some of the upper-caste households participate in a project that involves the rest of the community.
Once a village agrees to work with Gram Vikas, the building work starts and continues for one to two years. Only after every single house has received its tap and toilet is the system turned on. In the meantime, Gram Vikas collects data every month on who has gone to the health center to get treated for malaria or diarrhea. We can thus directly observe what happens in a village as soon as the water starts flowing. The effects are remarkable: Almost overnight, and for years into the future, the number of severe diarrhea cases falls by one-half, and the number of malaria cases falls by one-third. The monthly cost of the system for each household, including maintenance, is 190 rupees, or $4 per household (in current USD), only 20 percent of what is conventionally assumed to be the cost of such a system.
This is the seminal book on marketing, social cognition, innovation, etc. It blew my mind. Mostly that we've known this stuff for so long, but apparently must keep rediscovering it.
No info about the technology, but there is mention of 5cents a day running cost. That's cheaper than my existing provider, so count me in.
Closing quotes were good.
“I never imagined that I’d know so much about poop,” Gates said in remarks prepared for the Beijing event. “And I definitely never thought that Melinda would have to tell me to stop talking about toilets and fecal sludge at the dinner table.”
Bypass the article.
Toilets that use excrement to generate electricity, for example, like in this situation https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-41680867.
> "...may help end almost 500,000 infant deaths and save $233 billion annually in costs linked to diarrhea, cholera and other diseases..."
So I guess that's Bloomberg for you. 233 billion dollars is a way more interesting lede than a mere half a million lives.
Perhaps we need to start having a conversation about which 'version' of Gates has had a bigger impact on society(not that it matters, but an interesting intellectual pursuit). I vote for post-Microsoft Gates, though I would imagine I'm in the minority.
Journalists can't grasp that saying a rotavirus is a cell is like stretching a wrench to be a SUV? What kind of twisted education system can get somebody to become so proficient with words and so noob in basic science?
UN still doesn’t recognize International Men’s Day, which is on Nov 19 too and celebrated since 2003 . It’s a bit of a humiliation that they put Toilet Day instead.
I don't mean to overstate this, but it is life-changing. I can't imagine going back to a time when I used only paper and considered that sufficient.
Anyway, install a spray hose behind the toilet out of the way. I've used both the hose and the high-tech toilets and I'd pick the former any day.
The first seems to be that hoses / sprayers can be little more prone to leaking or, even in proper operation, creating a bit of a spray mess vs a typical Western toilet installation. Most Asian restrooms designed around toilet hoses have floor drains, so the dangers of general flooding and water mess are a lot less. Western bathrooms typically lack full-room floor drains. This point I can honestly see, which is why the built in washlet might have to be the practical solution for many Western bathroom designs unfortunately.
A more "technical" issue is that these toilet hoses may not be "up to Western code" in some countries per a few forum posts. The impression I get is the code violations are more "technicalities" due to Western code not really considering this concept. Forum posts are not what I would consider an authority, but it is enough where I think it would be a good idea to check with a plumber to see if there's any code the sprayers could somehow violate.
I wasn't aware of toilet hoses being standard in Finland, thanks for the information. I'm currently in Malaysia for a couple weeks and personally I am seeing a little bit of mis-spray when using some public restrooms; the misspray issue popped up when looking at forums as well as well. Maybe the issue can be more easily mitigated than I thought (personally, I don't have a problem making sure the spray stays inside the bowl) but plumbing codes might like the drain just in case (it's not easy looking up technical codes in an unfamiliar language so I'm not sure about this though :) ).
It is probably a lot harder to mitigate this type of issue with the "squat" type toilet (you see a random mixture of both types it seems over here).
If they do figure it out, folks are generally eager to ask about where they can get one.
The mass-market Toto toilets are ~$250. Make sure you get the elongated bowl version. I have two in my house, one elongated and one round. The washlet for the round bowl was hard to source and it makes things somewhat cramped for larger people.
If I were doing it again, I'd replace the toilet with an elongated bowl version before adding a washlet.
(and the heating is not to be underestimated)
The warmed water is nice, but it has an "eco" mode so there are definitely times when it's not warmed and it's no big deal. I'd guess the biggest advantage would be the ability to just sit there and have the robotic arm take care of things for you without having to move around.
I've installed a few toilets in my day and they were always a few hundred dollars. I was a bit blown away when I discovered that some of the nicer ones could be had for $5k.
Bathtubs similarly soar in price when one wants something a little fancier.
That aside, you can buy Toto toilets in the US. The fancy ones are north of 4k, but they are available.
Cold water sprays are readily available, $60 and a 10 minute installation later.
Edit: weird wording
My master bathroom toilet is right up against the closet my water heater is in, so the "cold" water is never that cold.
Until I die, I won't ever not have a washlet at home.
What's the point?
Here are some figures for your fingers.
A toilet lasts 10+ years easily. It costs around $200-$300 and extra to install. The installation is simple since most bathrooms have a toilet.
A bidet attachment can be picked up for $300-$500 easy. The installation is usually more expensive than the seat itself. Most bathrooms don't put power outlets next to their toilets.
People aren't not using bidets because of "funny feelings" or just being shy. It's because people are too lazy, a toilet does the same thing "in their eyes". Why add complexity when the toilet itself is dirt cheap and lasts much longer than the bidet?
Maybe when they come in with bidets, not making money and not revolutionising anything, perhaps someone will come sell hangover cure drinks even though it takes 10 seconds to realise the market doesn't exist.
Feel free to ignore these facts too. It's clear you're not looking for the right answer here, just something that will echo your own thoughts.
I think google is indirectly in that business; It used to be that only my foreign friends would be likely to have a washlet, and then usually a less fancy one. But in the last decade, more and more of my American born techie friends have bought toto toilets or washlets, I assume after experiencing that luxury at google or one of the other tech companies that provide that sort of thing.
There's a few companies selling Japanese bidet seats in the UK and some that provide translated control panels. No reason they wouldn't succeed in the US too.
Only the highest priced ones are the complete toilet.
Do you have one? Are you able to make any recommendations? I'm considering getting one, but how are they powered? The idea of a power socket in my bathroom is slightly horrifying.
Power is easy. Only sockets allowed in bathrooms are low voltage shaver sockets with isolating transformer.
For storage heaters, these seats, and heated towel rails in your bathroom you connect to a fixed, fused, double pole switch, spur outlet. Something like this: https://www.screwfix.com/p/mk-13a-dp-switched-fused-connecti...
From personal experience that seems off by a few decades.
Also, I dunno about the electrical ones, but you can get a non-electric bidet for like $25 off Amazon. Maybe a bit more for one with hot and cold hook-ups and a temperature knob. You just run it with the nozzle aimed down until it warms up.
For example, good luck finding a bathroom in a central Stockholm flat that is more than 5 years old due to the housing market 2000-2017.
The amount of money spent on bathroom remodels really baffles me. Credit expansion made people throw out new bathrooms, redo them and then revaluate their flat to make the mortgage cover the cost.
A nice bathroom renovation cost about $27k while the net annual salary probably is around $40k.
Due to this, my bet is that the people depending on bathroom remodels are the people that will get squeezed first now when the housing market has turned bearish.
I assume a lot of people buy toilets every day, otherwise Home Depot wouldn't have an entire aisle dedicated to them...
Do you have any data to back this up? I would have assumed it was far less often.
Toilets in my family would get replaced every 15 years.
Not sure if that link works but just go on amazon and search “Toto washlet”
If you question my assertion of his economic role, this podcast  goes into the questionable aspects of the philanthropy of the Gates Foundation and some of the experiments being run in Africa without popular democratic input or consent.
Prior generations of philanthropists invested heavily in peace and justice, for example, including the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Certainly our society today has major problems in those areas - arguably we have great success with tech, which he does invest in, and have been terrible and social and political issues. Also, those problems in some ways directly harm Gates' goals (for example, U.S. political and racial issues greatly affect U.S. education), in other ways they lead to policies, such as nationalist economics, that will reduce economic activity and thus investment in these issues, and in yet in other ways the problems impose costs on people that dwarf the benefits Gates' programs provide - the oppression of Western-backed dictators and the cost of potential warfare being among them.
I realize I've assumed it's a policy of Gates', but does anyone have real knowledge about why he avoids those issues?
As to reasons, why, I am not sure but I imagine there is a pragmatic angle to it in addition to reputation and other considerations. Investing in politics increases the risk that the funds get wasted if the political climate changes.
I believe that is on purpose. He doesn't want his work to become politicized in the way that others have (e.g. George Soros, Kochs). From a purely philanthropic point of view, I think this is the right move. He probably takes the view that if you make people's lives better and give them good education, the rest will follow, in the long run.
I would argue that he do invest a lot in social issues and politics, but that he invest in fixing the cause not the symptom. Improving education and reducing poverty is, in my opinion at least, one of the best ways to improve the causes leading to a lack of peace and justice. Putting more money in the pockets of corrupt politicians, aka lobbying, is at best putting a patch on the symptom.
For instance you mention education. If you poll most people on our state of education in the US the results would have little to nothing to do with reality. And that reality is that we already spend an immense amount on it - more than nearly anywhere in the world. This isn't a proxy for population size, I am referring to cost per student of course. And this also isn't just a proxy for ridiculous university costs. If you look at only education costs outside of university, we are the 5th biggest spender in the world. And similarly this isn't a proxy for private spending with wealthier folks sending their kids to private institutions. If you compare just our public spending on this same group of education, we end up 7th in the world - comparing just our public spending to everywhere else's public + private spending. And as an aside, those costs are all normalized to account for the fact that a dollar goes a lot further in many places than the US - meaning we are indeed comparing apples to apples, by multiplying other nations' nominal spending.
All numbers mentioned here from the OECD data . They list the private/public spending in GDP relative ratios which does silly things like put South Africa and Costa Rica as the world leaders in education, but you can convert those figures into something useful. For instance in the US our GDP relative share of public spending on education outside of university is 3.207. Our GDP relative share of private spending on education outside of university is 0.307. Therefore of all our spending on non-university education, 3.207/(3.207+0.307) = 91.3% is public. You can now take this and apply it to our gross spend on non-university education ($12,424.3 dollars per student) to see that we publicly spend 12423.3 * .913 = $11,342 per student per year on education outside of university - which leads to our public spending being higher than every other nation's, excepting 6, public+private spending
The point of this is that most people think that we just need to spend more money on education and everything would be dandy. No, our problems are more fundamental and require solutions that are in no way obvious. Bill Gates, though I do not particularly agree with his direction, is working towards trying to create these very sort of solutions. And these solutions, should he be correct, are what actually have the possibility of enacting real longterm change.
 - https://data.oecd.org/eduresource/education-spending.htm
In The Expanse all biological waste goes into the recycler, which, evidently, feeds a bioreactor to general clean water and new food.
It sounds like what Gates is keen to see deployed: Human waste > fertiliser > new food and hydrogen > fuel cell > energy & water.
We're still a long waste from having anything anywhere near a closed system. Baby steps.
I personally recommend it. I'm typically quite busy so I don't really make my way through more than 1-2 books a month but I think I read all the books that are currently out in about 6 weeks.
IMHO they are probably better than the series but they start getting not so good at some point - I cannot remember if i have read them all but i do remember it getting a bit boring / dragged out towards the end.
it is ultimately in that class of media where the goal is not so much about saying something to telling a story as it is about making an ongoing revenue stream.
I generally stick away from this stuff but sci-fi books seem to all be going this way these days :(
As a SF homeless guy who frequently tweets about my hardships with pooping/water/grossness, I welcome toilet innovation like this.
I not a fan of royalty, autocrats, or monarchs. Just because one person is OK when given that power doesn't make it morally just. It is good he is doing nice things, but I find it troubling.
when technology gets cheap enough, these smart toilets could then move from healthcare businesses into the home, analyzing waste matter on a daily basis to yield health insights.
A funny parody of SV but also has some neat ideas.