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AMA: Bill Gates (reddit.com)
207 points by dcx 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 165 comments

>I have not written code in a shipping product for a long time but I do write enough code to understand the new tools like Typescript or Github (shameless Microsoft plugs).

Cool to see he still tries to stay up to date on new technologies.

You left out the part of that comment where he solved the tabs v spaces war.

You left that out, too :-). For anyone else wondering what his answer is:

> I actually do use tabs. It is easy to convert tabs to spaces and vice-versa so we shouldn't waste too much time on this issue.

Do people derive pleasure from these AMAs? Gates seems to reply with the same platitudes and non-answers to the point where its hard to tell if it’s him or the BMGF publicist.

I skimmed the AMA for a few minutes, and saw him say that:

- He thought nuclear weapons, bioterrorism, and climate change were the biggest threats to humanity.

- He thought paying $10B in capital gains taxes was not enough and he should have paid more.

Maybe those are platitudes but it's real enough for me.

> He thought nuclear weapons, bioterrorism, and climate change were the biggest threats to humanity.

There was some book (The Cuckoo's Egg?) where a computer scientist and a biologist talk about the biggest threats to humanity. The computer scientist thought that biological viruses were the biggest threat, and the biologist thought that computer viruses were the biggest threat.

I've asked a few people about this, over the years, and the results are remarkably consistent. Everybody is much more scared of the other field where they're not an expert.


Because micro solutions to macro problems never work.

Gates could pay his entire net worth into the treasury and it does not fix a fundamentally broken system.

Gates is commenting on how the ultra rich like him make most of their money from capital gains, which are not taxed at normal income tax rates. If capital gains were simply taxed like income taxes, it would be a huge blow against income inequality this country is facing.

Because capital gains are taxed differently, the ultra rich will continue to have their compensation geared towards stock, and away from income.

Gates is looking to change an unfair system. He alone can't do that.

It is not hypocritical for Gates to ask for macro solutions to macro problems.


Plenty of upper middle class and wealthy people that are nowhere near billionaires derive their income heavily from capital gains. It's a system issue, not a personal issue.

Same thing with your Al Gore example. Leading by example does not make systemic changes to huge, complex systems. That's never going to work.

Al Gore could be living homeless in a tent in a forest and take a vow of poverty. It wouldn't make a dent. Your Gore example is particularly egregious because the No. 1 source of CO2 emissions in the U.S. is from transportation, and the main culprit of that is the sprawl that everyday Americans insist on living in (that the government has subsidized for them).

It doesn't matter if you'll listen or not. Big problems like income inequality and catastrophic climate change need large, systemic changes. There is literally nothing you the individual could do that matters -- except supporting government and system changes that push us forward.

>Bill Gates writing billion dollar checks is not exactly micro

US GDP was $19.39 trillion in 2017. 0.01% is micro on any scale. He could write those checks again and again and it would never solve systemic problems.

Yeah, but that would require people understand big numbers. Million, billion, trillion, what's the difference?

> It is a platitude when someone like Gates says they want more taxes because, the Treasury has a means for anyone to send a check for whatever amount they want. If he wants to write a $2b check to the treasury, he could do that today.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, this is a platitude.

This argument is not logical. There's a road near me with a posted speed limit of 50. I think that's too high, and dangerous for conditions and nearby residents. If I were to publicly advocate for a lower limit (say, 35), it sounds like you'd tell me that I'm free to drive slower if I want.

Great, but that does very little to solve the problem. Everyone needs to slow down, not just one car.

It is called leading by example.

If you drive 35, and you're legally allowed to, all cars behind you will also drive 35 when they reach you. Unless they can and may pass you.

Like I said, leading by example. People copy other people's behavior.

You might think he's being disingenuous, but that's still not a platitude.


Funny how we complain that politicians are bought but the former richest man in the world apparently can't figure out how to use his massive fortune to influence policy.

It's not like he were the only billionaire to bid for influence.

Could it be that he never really was the richest, or far from it?

I have heard that people spend a lot of money keeping their wealth secret. The Panama Papers leak seemed to shed a lot of light on that.

"Worlds richest person" should actually be read "Worlds richest [publicly wealthy] person" I suppose.

He was asked how much he should pay though. He didn't give an actual answer and only said he didn't pay enough. Surely, he has an idea of an actual rate, but doesn't want to disclose it for whatever reason.

> A key element is making capital gains taxation more like ordinary income (some have suggested making them the same) and having an estate tax more like we had in the past (55% above $3.5M)

From the exact same answer.

in other words, war is dangerous and he pays too little tax. i think too they are platitudes.

What is an example of a response to a question that wouldn't be a platitude?

Big-G tells me that "platitude" means: a remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful.

He was asked: What do you think the greatest threat to humanity is at this moment?

And responded:

There are some things that aren't likely but we should worry about - nuclear bombs and bioterrorism (from nation states or terrorism), or a big pandemic. This is the 100th anniversary of the Spanish flu and if it came back the amount of travel would make it spread faster than it did last time.

Once you get past those threats then the biggest question is global cooperation to avoid climate change and reduce the risk of war. It is disconcerting to see a rise of countries turning inwards and not investing in alliances which have helped us avoid big wars since World War 2.

Climate change is a real test of how we can work together globally since it is a complex problem where major changes need to be done well in advance of the big harms.

With a link to: https://www.gatesnotes.com/2019-Annual-Letter?WT.mc_id=02_25... (a 431-word expansion on his thoughts on climate change)

I don't think any of his responses have fit the definition of "platitude".

I think an example of a "platitude" would have been the response: "War, we need to give peace a chance!"

What you're not considering: the person doing the AMA chooses which questions to answer.

I don't know if they are platitudes but they just sound like some generic PR drivel. Take from that what you will.

I'm curious what kind of answer you would consider "not PR drivel." Specifically, if sounds like there is nothing Bill Gates could write that you would consider genuine.

Some kind of personal anecdote or something that is even remotely specific instead of that generic comment that looks like something that was written by the same people who write apologies for Facebook.

Why should he have to annotate his personal beliefs with anecdotes and specifics?

"I pay way too little in capital gains tax and it is a thorough shame that nobody in Congress has fixed this issue in 30 years. In fact they've made it worse"

He did write something that amounts to that, just with more words.

And yet... how many other billionaires do you see going out and saying that the capital gains tax rate is too low and climate change is the biggest threat to humanity.

Buffett has been beating the "higher taxes for rich people" drum at least since the 2008 recession, maybe longer. He won't actually open his wallet to push for these policies mind you. That would be a bridge too far.

Are you really saying the billionares who pledged more than 90% of their wealth to charity, and will "only" leave their kids 10 million dollars isn't backing up what he says?

charity is part of the problem, and not part of the solutions.

It's not like you just send the government more money if you feel like they should tax more... People like Buffet and Gates donate so much in part because they believe that wealth should be redistributed better than the government currently does

Would his money be better spent lobbying politicians largely by swelling their campaign war chests, or directly funding charitable causes?

Well his buddy Warren Buffet also says he should pay more taxes. I find his stance refreshing - he's going to pay only what's required while advocating changing the rules so that everyone pays more. Lots of people say "well he's free to pay more if he want's to but he's not". Some call it hypocrisy. Some call it humility.

A lot? I know Warren Buffett has similar views, and I've seen other very wealthy liberals claim taxes and climate change were big concerns. When people get very wealthy, they seem to think less about their finances and more about their legacy and public perception, and honestly when you're that wealthy, you have so much that taxes don't really matter anymore.

There are a lot of very wealthy philanthropists, and I think that's because people seek meaning in their life once they no longer get benefit from earning more.

Some do, some don’t. Bill and Warren are of course prominent examples of billionaire philanthropists.

Conversely I could name on famous multimillionaire frequently in the news these days, that has a track record of treating charitable foundations as tax dodging piggy banks. So there are all sorts.

I agree they probably stop caring about their tax bill because they are billionaires. I find it disingenuous however to then look down the income ladder to people earning more than $1 million and including them in your “we don’t pay enough taxes” bucket.

It's not the same, but even if you are not a billionaire, there comes a point where giving relatively more of your added income serves a greater good (i.e. funding for gov't) than the money just being in your bank account. Once you make more than you need to keep up your lifestyle (at whatever level that may be) the suggestion to give back more is not unjustified.

The question is which is more effective at serving "the greater good": the government or charity? Or option #3: free enterprise, which creates jobs, goods, and services?

The idea that billionaires pay too little tax is considered a radical idea in mainstream media, so that doesn't seem like a platitude.

The media is not truth. The idea is not radical in any sense.

He thought paying $10B in capital gains taxes was not enough and he should have paid more.

I'm always annoyed when rich people say things like this. I had one say almost this exact thing to me in an elevator once.

There's nothing stopping him from paying more. He just writes a check to "Department of the Treasury" and sends it off to D.C. Problem solved.

But then he doesn't get to passive-aggressively whine about all of his piles of money that the government won't take from him.

Can you please stop posting shallow, indignant comments to HN? I realize that's what the internet is for (or #2 anyway), but it's definitely what we don't want on this site.

We've had to ask you repeatedly not to violate the site guidelines with uncivil and/or unsubstantive comments. Continuing to post them will eventually get you banned, and I don't want to ban you, so could you please fix this?


It's really, really simple, to the point where I suspect that most people that make the argument you are making are being disingenuous.

Bill Gates is willing to pay more taxes if other billionaires pay more taxes. If they don't, he isn't.

Just like I think my taxes should be higher, but I'm not going to voluntarily pay higher taxes, unless others in my tax bracket also pay them.

Even chimpanzees would probably understand and disagree with you [1].

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4451566/

> Even chimpanzees would probably understand and disagree with you

I think it's important to stress the practical side of the argument too, rather than just appealing to intuitions of fairness.

Bill Gates probably believes (and is probably correct) that for any sum of money he is willing to part with, he could do more good by directing it toward carefully selected philanthropic causes than by donating it to the government. So when acting alone, there's no reason for him to unilaterally pay extra tax, unless he believes it will have very good indirect effects and/or is just seeking a PR boost.

He also believes that if people in his class (including him) paid much more in taxes than they currently do, the world would be a better place than it is now.

These two beliefs are entirely consistent, for at least two reasons:

* For a lot of people in his class, the likely alternatives are not philanthropy vs. taxes, but non-altruistic spending vs. taxes.

* There are, at least arguably, some things that government is better suited to doing than private charities are. Perhaps these tend to be the kind of large-scale projects that could be funded by higher taxes on all super-rich people, rather than anything that would result from a donation to the government by a single billionaire.

Even if your opinion of government is very low and you disagree with the second point, the first should be enough to show that his position is perfectly consistent, and would be even for someone unrealistically altruistic and willing to be on the wrong end of an unfair situation.

Meaningless excuse. Like when a child is being told to stop doing something, and it replies but everyone else is doing it.

the person you're replying to will probably never agree with you because the idea of everybody individually contributing the taxes that they desire to pay to accomplish the means they desire to accomplish is a core part of hardcore libertarianism. It's like trying to argue with an antivaxxer.

I'm sorry, but that's such a non-answer. Of COURSE he could donate more money to the US Government. The point is that he thinks structurally the system should require that he and OTHER people like himself should have to pay more. By changing the structure, they change what people optimize for, and ALSO, at the same time, raise funds.

As a philanthropist, I'm sure he personally feels that he's able to direct his money to more useful causes than the government does, just as many rich people who give nothing also make the empty claim that the government would just 'waste' their money. The difference is, in his case, he might well be right. But that still doesn't mean that a structure that taxes him and others like him at a higher rate wouldn't have a net social benefit.

That seems like a straw man to me - they’re saying the tax should be higher for people in their class generally, not that they individually wish to pay more.

I think you're right.

It's not as if they personally manage every penny— and they tend to optimize for the highest return as a default.

Seems like he's saying the default should change. Makes sense to me.

Then they should say what they mean instead of being, as I mentioned, all passive aggressive about it.

I don't think they are - I think it's just a misunderstanding of phrasing maybe?

I interpret "I should have paid more" as I should be compelled to pay more, not "I wish I could pay more". The distinction being they'd rather not pay additional tax, but they probably should have to. I think the language is just somewhat ambiguous (specifically the word 'should').

If he thinks that the government can better allocate the collective amount of additional tax it could obtain from people in similar tax situations, why wouldn't he think the same about just his portion?

Either he has a much higher opinion of his personal judgement in allocating his money (which is likely) than other people who he also thinks should be paying more tax or he should turn over the BMGF to the government.

I expect that it's not so much a higher opinion of his personal judgement as a higher opinion of his values and priorities. Obviously he feels their foundation is spending money on the most important things it can be; however I expect he also feels that the government will, on average, spend it on more important things than it would be used for by most people with similar levels of wealth.

So pretty much the same way most people think that their driving skills are well above average.

To be fair, Bill Gates probably is above average in a lot of ways.

Because his portion, however huge it is, is a rounding error compared to the US government's budget. But everyone in his class put together, if you make them all pay more, then it becomes a significant amount of money.

>why wouldn't he think the same about just his portion?

well Bill Gates personally does which is why he is giving almost all of his wealth away. (The giving pledge exists for this reason, and I would assume that most billionaires who agree to higher taxation also are significant personal givers).

This criticism fails on two fronts. People who are in favour of increased tax redistribution generally also support voluntary giving. (Most of the effective altruist people I think would fall into this group), and even if they didn't it would be nothing more than a cheap personal attack, because one can hold positions in favour of tax redistribution and against charity at the same time.

This is silly. Bill Gates thinks his taxes should be higher, because he thinks all people earning money in the way he does should pay higher taxes. If he wrote a check to double his own personal tax payment it wouldn't make a dent in the US budget. But if you doubled the taxes every billionaire pays, it would make a huge dent.

So he's saying, his class of wealth should pay more. If it's just him who does it, it doesn't solve the government's problems, and he's better off spending the money himself directly on the things he cares about. But if everyone at his scale paid more, that _would_ help.

There's a big difference between personally trying to fund the US government (which doesn't scale) and his saying that people in or near his position should have to pay higher taxes.

If you doubled the amount of taxes Bill has personally paid over his lifetime, it would amount to a few tenths of a percent of a SINGLE YEAR of US government tax revenue.

I suspect Bill is saying that he-- and other very top earners-- should have paid more.

I can understand your feelings, and he is a bit contradictory in the sense that he has stated publicly that governments are not the best enablers for certain projects. He didn't give any examples, but I for one am convinced their foundation did way more with every dollar it invested in Africa than the UN or "the government" would have done with $20. In any event, he'll eventually will walk the walk in terms shedding most of his fortune: https://givingpledge.org/

But then he doesn't get to passive-aggressively whine about all of his piles of money that the government won't take from him.

Suppose you are right that he is being passive agressive. I strongly disagree with this assessment but let’s for the sake of argument agree that he is being passive aggressive. Why is his right to be passive-aggressive diminished? Is he not allowed to be passive-aggressive or hypocritical or any other negative view you have about him?

The correctness of his view that people like him ought to be taxed at a higher rate is not dependent upon his character flaws or lack thereof. The belief ought to be judged on its own merits and not analyzed based on whether or not his character passes muster.

I am sure if someone really, REALLY wanted to give money to the government it would be possible with some effort. But it is actually fairly difficult to just give money (at least, in quite a few western countries) to the state that it does not ask for - everything has to fit within a system and match a budget, tax reason, invoice, etc., and you can't just have "EXTRA - From Bill Gates" somewhere in there for 10 billion dollars.

It doesn't seem that difficult in the US. You just mail a check to a PO Box.


It's actually very easy. See, for example, https://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/reports/pd/gift/gift.htm

The money is required to go toward paying down public debt, but I'd say that's worthwhile.

Since money is fungible, you can imagine it paying for whatever aspect of government you fancy.

But it is actually fairly difficult to just give money (at least, in quite a few western countries) to the state that it does not ask for - everything has to fit within a system and match a budget, tax reason, invoice, etc., and you can't just have "EXTRA - From Bill Gates" somewhere in there for 10 billion dollars.

My accountant says otherwise. She was the one who told me all that rich people have to do is break out their checkbooks to put their money where their mouths are.

I think it's still worth saying. Sure, one can write the cheque. But the problem is most don't have to and won't do it voluntarily.

> I'm always annoyed when rich people say things like this. I had one say almost this exact thing to me in an elevator once.

Why? Surely it's better than the alternative of them not supporting progressive taxation?

The alternative in this case would be for Gates to use a part of his resources and influence to maybe advocate for such laws, instead of just talking.

This is a good point, and I totally agree.

The alternative isn't supporting progressive taxation. The alternative is picking up a pen and writing a check.

I always find it a bit disingenuous when someone who has already made tens of billions of dollars on capital gains and wouldn't be affected as much by an increase in the tax calls for it. Would the Bill Gates that had a net worth of $1 million call for increased capital gains taxes?

>Problem solved

If the problem were "if only we had $2B more we could solve so many system problems." Of course, it's not, so no, no problems were solved even hypothetically.

You're talking about a guy whose full time job for the last 10 years and remainder of his working life is spending his fortune for the benefit of mankind

It's almost like he wants to fix the system itself rather than simply pay more out of pocket.

What an awful way to look at the world.

>>There's nothing stopping him from paying more. He just writes a check to "Department of the Treasury" and sends it off to D.C. Problem solved.

And then some pr*ck in the Senate decides that 3 times as much as Bill Gates paid goes to a pork barrel project to create 25 jobs in his district? The best use of his money?

Bill Gates and all with the Bill Gates' mindset should pay the minimum required and invest the rest to better the world privately.

Do you know for a fact that he did not?

What an odd complaint to an otherwise enjoyable experience that Bill absolutely did not have to participate in.

His answers seem quite concrete to me. He even links further reading after answering questions directly. I don't really see any platitudes or non-answers at all. Maybe it's predictable? But it seems his answers are genuine, to-the-point, and even provides the reader with further reading. Not sure what more you could ask for really.

Edit: I mean, look at this answer: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/aunv58/im_bill_gates_...

Seems solidly real to me.

In response to your edit: he said the same thing on The Verge [1] a week or two ago. I think maybe what the OP is getting at is that there's really nothing revealing or exclusive that comes out of these AMAs; it's just another media outlet.

[1] https://www.theverge.com/2019/2/12/18220756/bill-gates-tax-r...

I must be missing it, but I don't see the "same thing" at all. On reddit, he is a lot more human, providing a direct answer to the question and revealing personal information and opinions (like the $10BO) that doesn't seem to be written in that Verge article or elsewhere.

Seems super valuable and interesting to me to have Reddit AMAs, and I'm just not seeing this "platitudes" thing or "just another media outlet" attitude. Sure, he's on a talking tour or whatever, but he's on reddit answering real questions with real answers not seen elsewhere.

Seems interesting enough to me, and not at all like what OP is decrying here for being "platitudes"/"non-answers".

...you listened to a 33 minute interview in 3 minutes?

I too think the answers are mostly fine. I think the medium is a problem. Personally, I’d probably prefer submitting questions and then getting answers later at some point (there’s only so much you can answer right of the top of your head like that). How the questions get selected would be a problem. Voting obviously ends up with results like “Boaty McBoat Face”.

What non-answers are you referring to? Most of the ones I read were responded with what the askers were wanting to know. They might get repetitive, but that's because people ask the same questions all the time.

He didn't really answer the billionaire happiness question.

He seems to have answered this one - https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/aunv58/im_bill_gates_...

Doesn't feel like a non-answer as well.

it's a non-answer because he doesn't describe the benefits of being a billionaire. Only the benefits of being above middle class.

It would have appeared crass of him to say, 'yeah i love living in a $200 million 66,000 sq ft mansion and having the world's biggest foundation named after me. Having a such a legacy produces genuine happiness.' But he played the false modesty card.

I think his point was that a $200 million home doesn't actually buy you all that much more happiness than a $20 million home. Well, apart from the trampoline room that he seems very fond of.

What do you mean? He said yes, then gave some reasoning. What more are you looking for?

You think the BGMF publicist decided to say Gates watches American Vandal and has a trampoline room in his house?

Well, that explains his Mario-tier jumping skills: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TCxE0bWQeQ

He talked about the trampoline on the Ellen Show, so yes, it still counts as a PR-y answer.

I'm not saying I think it was the BMGF in the AMA, but you think a publicist wouldn't say this? "Client watches X show and plays Y sport" would be a typical line to make someone appear more relatable. Politicians say these things all the time. It is not surprising that a publicist would try and make their client/employer seem normal.

Publicist sure, no. But this has been totally sanitized by Bill when he makes as one example statements like this: [1]

> 'The other thing is that I sometimes use a private jet. It does help me do my foundation work but again it is a very privileged thing to have.'

He inserts the word 'sometimes' to lessen the impact of 'private jet'. He adds that it helps him do foundation work implying that that should make it ok in normal people's eyes. [2] He doesn't mention that it's actually importantly needed for security purposes he is obviously a target and not flying like the general public. He then acknowledges that it's a privileged thing to have.

[1] Remember the movie "An Officer and a Gentlement" when Lou Gosset character fights Richard Gear character? And Gosset character replies (something like) 'oh I see you've had some training!'. Well Bill Gates has had training.

[2] Which is should be anyway. Without saying that.

If this is the same guy who was talking in front of congress and refusing to say that java was seen as a threat to MS 20 years ago, I believe he's capable of giving sanitized answers without a publicist. He's had years and years and years of practice. I hardly see a reddit AMA where you can choose your questions and response timing as much of a threat to someone like Bill. Sure, if it was musk but it's not.

Gates apparently flied coach until about 1997. I'm not his biggest fan, but I find that interesting about him.

I remember that.

That is a technique that is often used to impose frugality and get savings [1] out of the rest of the execs by setting an example. If he flies coach well then so do a hundred others.

[1] I knew a guy who owned a small company and bought a low end car until he had locked up his union contract. He knew if he was seen with a nice car it was going to cost him a boat load.

Likewise in my old school company years ago I never even drove up to the business in my nice car and I went out of my way to hide it's existence. It goes along with staying late and arriving early to set an example.

I think some people are naturally frugal. I always go out of my way to save money on business trips even when there's no benefit to doing so, and no drawback to spending the money.

I'll take Uber pools, walk, or take public transit even though I'm technically no restriction on my transportation spending. Likewise, unless I'm taking my team out to dinner, I'll usually grab a $10 gyro or something instead of going to a nice restaurant.

Interesting. I wouldn't put it past Gates to make that calculation.

Really? Sure he has some practicd answers to questions he gets hundreds of times a week, and he is careful about what he says. But I wouldn't call them "non-answers", and I don't think he pulls any punches. I feel like his personality comes through, and yes he has opinions that I don't really agree with. Maybe it's not really a worthwhile way to spend time, but it all feels real enough. Do you have some examples of what's so egregious that it doesn't seem like it's really him?

For me, not really. A live text interview is probably the worst medium for this type of content (exhibit A: Kara Swisher & Jack Dorsey). There is also a lot of subtly missed when comparing speech to text, and due to the time delay it gives the interviewee time to apply any relevant PR spin.

> The goal of the Foundation is that all kids grow up healthy - no matter where they are born. That means getting rid of malaria and many of the other diseases that affect poor countries.

There's something about this guy that seems 'off' to me. I should assume it's because he's a tech guy originally and not a politician.

Is it just me or do other people see the convoluted logic that links 'lack of money' with disease and therefore unhealthy kids?

If so, then all that needs to be done is for Mr Gates to give all his money to those poor countries, ipso facto disease is gone and kids are healthy.

I'd love to see him try it this out!

A later quote:

> However if I had one wish to make a new technology it would be a solution to malnutrition. Almost half the kids in poor countries grow up without their body or brain developing fully so they miss most of their potential.

From "How much would it cost to end hunger?" [0], the answer is $160 pp in poverty.

Or from Quora [1]:

"With say 2.5 billion people short of food, $166 billions per year would "theoretically" eliminate hunger. Just as a comparison, "During FY 2013, the federal government spent $3.45 trillion on a budget or cash basis, down $84 billion or 2.4% vs. FY 2012 ", or about 20 times as much"

Now, the US military budget was $637 billion in 2015 [2], which is enough to feed the poor several times over.

To me, it sounds like he should turn his Foundation into a lobbying group to end all war (or greatly reduce the military industrial complex) and use that money to reach his goals. Just sayin'. (This is why his words keep seeming 'off' to me)

[0] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/07/how-much-would-it-cos...

[1] https://www.quora.com/How-much-would-it-cost-to-feed-the-wor...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_...


No, it's just another stop on the publicity tour now. They're coordinated with Reddit ahead of time and most don't even bother to answer candidly or even answer questions themselves. Reddit was able to suspend disbelief until ~2014 when the Morgan Freeman AMA really exposed the whole operation.

The AMAs are not really relevant for everyone. For a subset, I would say they definitely derive pleasure.

Is that a real question? I guess you couldlook at the upvotes

The AMAs I enjoyed the most were by Jerry Seinfeld.

Hot take: Bill Gates is massively underrated today, compared to how he will be viewed by history.

When the reckoning of history books happens, I could see him in the running for “most positive social influence of anyone 1800-2100”.

His humanitarian work is second to none and we can expect 20+ more years of his direct influence on global policy. The world is a better place thanks to Mr and Mrs Gates.

Not really. You look at Andrew Carnegie who has a similar history, and even a hundred years out, no one cares. People like Einstein and Picasso are who lasts. No one really gives a shit about businessmen, regardless of their philanthropy.

> People like Einstein and Picasso are who lasts

Artists even more than scientists. When the Italian comedian Totò died in the late '60s this happened [1]:

> Totò died at the age of 69 on 15 April 1967 in Rome after a series of heart attacks. Due to overwhelming demand, there were no fewer than three funeral services: the first in Rome, a second in his birth city of Naples—and a few days later, in a third one by the local Camorra boss, an empty casket was carried along the packed streets of the popular Rione Sanità quarter where he was born

A similar thing happened when the Russian folk singer Vysotsky died in 1980 [2]:

> After a mourning ceremony involving an unauthorized mass gathering of unprecedented scale, Vysotsky was buried at the Vagankovskoye Cemetery in Moscow.[78] The attendance at the Olympic events dropped noticeably on that day, as scores of spectators left to attend the funeral. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of his coffin.

I'm pretty sure no businessman on this planet would have his/her funeral attended by tens of thousands of people nor will they be interred thrice "by popular demand", so to speak.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tot%C3%B2#Death

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Vysotsky#Death

Depends. Carnegie is remembered more than, say, Jay Gould (the industrial magnate) or commodore vanderbilt. I suspect how well an individual remembers him has a lot to do with whether they like libraries and have been to a Carnegie library. In other words, he's remembered to the extent he made a lasting impact. (For most people I agree this isn't a large extent)

So, the question with Gates is whether he manages to fund something that materially changes the world in a way people in the future will remember.

Saving some lives? Probably not that meaningful 100 years from now. Funding a technology that solves climate change and/or provides cheap clean energy? People will probably remember.

So it's hard to tell. Gates has funding in both areas of potential, and he's taking a very hands on approach to his philanthropy so he's more liable to get some credit, in the same way library afficionados do remember Carnegie.

Perhaps few will wonder why their university has an certain name or why a particular mountaintop is full of telescopes.

Except that Bill Gates was one of the precursors of modern computing. Einstein? Modern physics. Picasso? Cubism. That's why these three will be remembered for a long time.

History books will probably talk just a bit about his wealth, maybe about his humanitarian actions, but he'll definitely be remembered as the person who made personal computing a thing.

Carnegie was worth only $5 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars. Gates is worth $100 billion, so we can expect him to have a philantropic impact 20 times greater.

$372 billion for Carnegie in 2014 dollars: http://money.com/money/3977798/the-10-richest-people-of-all-...

3x gates.

They don't calculate his net worth correctly. They calculate his worth based on a percentage of GDP.

If you actually do the math based on an inflation calculator, you find $5 billion: https://www.forbes.com/sites/chloesorvino/2014/07/08/whats-b...

I don't think the general public will particularly care about his behavior a century from now but historians aren't likely to forget or ignore that he's a robber baron. I'd expect the 180º of his moral compass will make his life that much more interesting to discuss for them.

People who extract billions in economic rents from society, then return some of those rents, are the real heroes.

Completely agree with you, although I'm not sure how much of 'Hot take' that is.

Definitely not a "hot take" but there are certainly a lot of users on here who would argue otherwise. A lot of older programmers who were well into their careers during Microsoft in the 90's seem to have a different opinion of Bill and his business practices.

The irony is that ultimately Gates and MS did relatively little significant or lasting damage to the world, and FOSS eventually took over many important parts of global infrastructure.

Afterwards, Gates went on to create the most effective and well-funded philanthropy since the Carnegie Foundation, eradicated Malaria, etc. While his former competitors spent their riches on superyachts and the like.

The irony could go deeper now that MS has github. Only time will tell...

Can anyone point to a list of problems the Gates foundation has solved through program(s) it has funded?

Edit: took out some things about Gates and the dual nature of his work at Microsoft and the Gates Foundation.


I think trying to point to something "solved" is not the right approach. The goal of the foundation is to solve through research. While it's impossible to say that his funding of these goals will actually solve them, because the solution may come on a different grant from another source but where a scientist learned something from one of the scientists on a gates funded project. I feel that's a reasonable situation where complexity makes it impossible to directly attribute a solution to Mr. Gate.

Instead I'd look at the social impact of someone in the 0.1% looking to the poorest in the world with empathy (whether genuine or not) and how that's changed how we look at philanthropy.

Malaria is a bitch. It's one of the worst things about going to many countries out there and Dengue is even worse in many cases. While survivable as an adult, it is no joke, and the idea that solving this should be something we focus on even though people (for practical purposes) can't get malaria in the USA is awesome.

Anecdotal evidence inbound => As someone who has prepared for an extended stay in South America, this was 100% the worst thing to focus on. I got Salmonella in Haiti and shit man that was rough. I can't even imagine Malaria.

Anyway, back to the point. The fact that he's focusing on this is the important thing. Investigating results of his 50bn dollars would require it's own research with a ton of nuance and assumptions.

I would have to half disagree with your statement on the business side. If we looked at the products and services that Microsoft under Bill Gates have created/promoted throughout its history, we can clearly see a market leader that has helped society advance to what it is today. Even the fights that they lost (e.g. cellphone), have helped shape the economy we live in today and improved the competition. Were there errors and misjudgments in the process? Absolutely, I am not sure we can point to a single individual with power that hasn't had its ups and downs. Bill Gates is an interesting character that should be analyzed in all ways and I encourage everyone to see the good and the bad. Not just pick one aspect and characterize the whole individual.

Regarding character, three things to consider:

a) The impact his wife Melinda had on his worldview;

b) That people are nuanced and full of contradictions;

c) The person you are at 30 and the person you are at 60 is defined by the accumulation of experiences, not the accumulation of wealth.

it's almost like you've never read a single thing about the organization. nearly every annual letter and report details their impact.

Please follow the site guidelines when posting here. Your comment would be fine with just the second sentence.


Impact isn't the same thing as solving problems, which is what I'm interested in.

Yes, I have read none of the annual reports. I did pop over to the site and found this for 2017:


Maybe the site's layout is just hiding the actual report, but this just looks like an executive summary, and enumerates no solved problems.

Either way, I'd like to get something that would span multiple years of effort and billions spent. It would talk about the specific problems the Gates Foundation has solved through its efforts.

Does something like that exist?

is there a way to be notified about upcoming AMAs on reddit?

Here is a link to a Google calendar created by the IAmA team. Not sure how often it's updated, I assume as they get arranged


IAmA mod here - we have a bot that updates it every time a guest schedules a new AMA, so it should always be up to date. We also manually add events in as they come from other sources.

Bill likes to do his AmA's as "surprises", though, so we don't usually schedule those!

thank you guys

I wonder, if Gates was still driving Windows development would Windows 10 still spy on users and restrict their ability to control updates like it does with Nadella at the helm?

Automatic updates are a good thing, otherwise far too many machines would be lagging behind on security fixes.

Can we stop this tired rhetoric? Yes ideally everyone would keep their system up to date 100% of the time, however it is not a good thing that users have that control stripped away from them, especially when these updates can actually have _adverse_ effects on their systems cough randomly deleting files cough.

I may disapprove of users not updating their systems, but I'll defend to the death their right to not do so.

You can already do that. Buy the business edition. Or use Linux and run windows in a VM. Or block the windows update system in one of a million ways including firewalling it. If you are really such a power user, you can do what you want already.

For the millions of others people who don't know how to find facebook without putting it into google search... yeah the automatic updates are good for them, and I'm tired of power users thinking their opinions are the only ones that matter.

Do you know where can I buy one license of the business edition?

I recently purchased a Pro license and couldn't find this "LTSB" (I believe it's called) version.

It's called Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2019 (there was a 2016 version as well). Without getting into the Byzantine nature of Microsoft licensing for their enterprise products, I recommend you just use local group policy to set the 'defer updates' option and put yourself on the Current Branch for Business release track in your current Windows 10 Pro.


We cannot rely on people to keep their systems updated, and this behavior costs society billions of dollars annually. Because of this people need to either accept automated patching, or stay off of the public internet.

This is an entrenched aspect of our society: you're free to do what you want, until your behavior causes negative ramifications to the rest of us, at which point, we as a society reserve the right to regulate poor behavior.

> updates can actually have _adverse_ effects on their systems

While Microsoft's QA leaves much to be desired, there are plenty of instances where non-updated machines have had adverse effects on other people's systems.

I see it as an analog to public health issues. If you are going to use the public internet, then you need to have automatic updates on.

This feels a little like if you are going to attend a public school, you need to be vaccinated.

Are you willing to accept responsibility for the breach then?

Yes I remember Gates was a true Saint when he was running Microsoft.

History will forget all of that. His humanitarian efforts are going to have a much larger and longer lasting positive impact than anything he did at Microsoft.

LOL, your humor is much appreciated. :-)


I hate Windows10 like anyone with any self respect and appreciation to Privacy, and this is why I am still on a heavily fortified Win8.1 (with Classic Shell UI).

Microsoft is doing what Facebook is doing. You either 'shut up' and accept the T&C, or go your merry way and use Fedora and SMS.

They don't do it for the fun of it, they do it for the $$$ of it. And since both they got greedy shareholders to keep happy, there is only one way forward (for these/such companies).

Apologies for the follow-up, no spam intended.

For this AMA he self-identified as "co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation", and I have to admit that as a syst-admin 'some time ago', I made my living with Microsoft products.

And now as a 'wiser' (snicker) human being, I appreciate his efforts to improve Humanity via his dedication and actions.

Gates would be just as ruthless, if not more. Don't let his shift in focus to humanitarian issues fool you. Microsoft can't rely on its consumer brand prestige like Apple can (thus selling orders of magnitudes more devices), so it needs to extract as much revenue as it can from consumer machines.


I looked up that film and found a Wikipedia article on it.

I hardly find credible a "documentary" wherein multiple scientists interviewed complained to regulators that they were misrepresented[0].

Of course, many other scientists complained about the film as well [1]. One stated that "First, let's deal with the main thesis: that the presence or absence of cosmic rays in Earth's atmosphere is a better explanation for temperature variation than the concentration of CO2 and other gases. This is not a new assertion and it is patently wrong: there is no credible evidence that cosmic rays play a significant role...Let scepticism reign, but let's not play games with the evidence"

The the regulators found partially in favor of the scientists and further sanctioned the film [2] for not presenting an objective outlook on the politics surrounding global warming. The regulators only declined to take a position on the science of the piece as it was beyond their regulatory scope.

It seems as though that film is misinformation propaganda that doesn't belong on HN. Am I missing something?

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Global_Warming_Swind...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Global_Warming_Swind...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Global_Warming_Swind...

Thanks for a rational response.

The main, central, key point I was passing to Gates is that we don't have anything like enough solid evidence to spend $trillions to stop human sources of CO2 to stop its effects on climate change. Or, to spend $trillions, we need some biggie evidence, and we don't have that. I don't believe we have good enough evidence to spend 10 cents, but the $trillions are a huge issue.

To spend $trillions, we need some good evidence. The claim is CO2 is and will cause harmful climate change. Well, we could claim the short skirts of young women cause climate change. For any claim for spending $trillions, CO2 or short skirts, we need some good evidence. Well, we are without good evidence.

For CO2, sure, it absorbs infrared -- and gets warm -- in three narrow bands from bending, stretching, and twisting of the molecule with the infrared from Planck black body radiation from the surface of the earth heated by the sun, and without the CO2, e.g., from humans, some of that infrared, not absorbed by, e.g., water vapor, would escape into outer space and not warm the atmosphere. Okay, all true enough.

But, how much warming from how much CO2? Well, there were computer models from whatever, the Navier-Stokes equations, diffusion calculations, physical chemistry, flows in the atmosphere, effects of water vapor, the seasons, asphalt, etc. Lots of models. As in the graph I referenced, dozens of models. So the models made predictions. The time of the predictions has passed, and the predictions are seen to have been wildly wrong. So, in science, we have to junk the models. CO2 still heats the atmosphere, but we are now without any good evidence for how much or that it will be dangerous.

It's tough to prove that the CO2 won't be dangerous, but it's the job of the people wanting to spend $trillions to give solid evidence that CO2 is dangerous, not the job of skeptics to prove it is not. If the alarmists can win on CO2 without solid evidence, then they can win on short skirts also.

Net, on CO2, we are, in the words of Groucho Marx, stuck-o.

For the movie, it seemed to show lots of ways that CO2 changes didn't fit the temperature changes but some sun spot data did. Net, in the competition for what causes climate change, so far, the sun spots win.

I have yet to go to outer space and count solar wind particles hitting cosmic rays or go to the upper atmosphere and watch cosmic rays form water droplets, but, still, so far, from just relatively crude evidence from some simple graphs (where the movie didn't give good references to the original data), still so far the sun spots win. Since we can't do anything about sun spots, we can save our $trillions.

Not only do the sun spots win, the CO2 claims quite broadly fail badly to fit the climate data. About the only evidence for danger from CO2 is my little explanation of narrow bands in the infrared.

For your [0], Wunsch is angry, as far as I can tell he is angry over nothing. There Wunsch says:

"In the part of The Great Climate Change Swindle where I am describing the fact that the ocean tends to expel carbon dioxide where it is warm, and to absorb it where it is cold, my intent was to explain that warming the ocean could be dangerous—because it is such a gigantic reservoir of carbon. By its placement in the film, it appears that I am saying that since carbon dioxide exists in the ocean in such large quantities, human influence must not be very important—diametrically opposite to the point I was making—which is that global warming is both real and threatening.[7]"

He should calm down: His point about the oceans was nice. Another result of what he said, that seems correct, is that as ocean surface temperatures change, atmospheric CO2 levels can change. Still, the CO2 changes seem harmless and didn't cause the changes in the ocean temperatures. I.e., from what Wunsch explained, from a tiny bit of temperature change in the surface of the oceans, the oceans will go "SLURP" or "BURP" and suck up or blow out CO2, maybe a surprisingly large amount of CO2. I.e., from whatever changes in ocean surface temperatures, we can expect some maybe surprisingly large CO2 concentration changes. Okay. Good to know. But, still, no threats in sight.

To me the movie is fine, tiny flaws and objections aside -- much better explanation of the situation than from the alarmists fears of CO2 and their many $trillion dollar schemes against CO2.

A $trillion here and a $trillion there, after a while it adds up to real money. For that, we will need a lot of solid evidence, and so far we don't have any, and the attempts so far flopped. Sun spots are MUCH better evidence.

What very clearly WOULD be very dangerous to nearly everyone on earth would be the efforts of the alarmists to spend $trillions fighting CO2. If Gates contributed to this effort, he would seriously damage civilization and do much more damage than all the good he has done and is doing.

For me, Gates should drop the push against CO2.

I feel like every other month Gates guest edits the Verge or has an interview there. Or I see his annual letter all over LinkedIn, or an AMA...

He gets so much exposure I imagine because he’s a “good billionaire trying to fix the world.” I guess it’s the most we can hope for these days from our growing class of ultra wealthy, but I really don’t think that means they should get the right to shout their opinions at us from every corner of the web.

This is the strangest get off my lawn comment I’ve read on HN. The internet doesn’t belong to you, and what spreads around generally operates around a free market of ideas and opinions.

It turns out a lot of people are interested in the thoughts of a prolific philanthropist and founding father of the modern software industry. He’s not “deserving” of anything, there’s just an n >> 0 market demand for, well, his ideas and opinions.

>operates around a free market of ideas and opinions.

this is not really much of a market, free or otherwise. Public philanthropy, which is highly managed and personalised has more to do with gilded age ventures than with markets.

And you are starting to see this lack of distribution and local management when you look at some of the larger missteps in philanthropy, for example Zuckerbergs 100 million Newark school project.

Right from the start experts and local leaders were arguing that it wasn't going to be effective, but billionaire philanthropy crowds out local decision-making in favour of often emotional decisions of single individuals.

If you want a market don't have celebrities distribute money in activist fashion, but redistribute it and move it to more institutions and individuals.Billionaires with committees and boards and agendas resemble the proverbial soviet planner with a clipoard more than they do ... actual markets.

I'm baffled by this comment in so, so many ways.

Everybody has the "right to shout their opinions at us from every corner of the web." That's one of the incredible things about the web.

And of course being a successful, well-liked billionaire buys you privilege and a greater audience!

Why is any of this considered shouting? It's certainly not being shoved down your throat. You're not being harassed by a constant barrage of "Bill Gates" ads on every site you visit, or spam emails promoting his AMA. What made you take it as an affront?

Who would you rather fill the Internet with content than a billionaire who is trying to fix the world?

Should Gates just stop producing content now that he's a billionaire simply because it might annoy a few people?

You'll be surprised how many people ignore Gates Foundation's deep involvement on ending Polio

It's at least as any as the number of people who ignore the way George W. Bush is hailed as a hero for his work stemming the tide of AIDS in Africa.


His ledger is still in the red.

The problem with ending polio is primarily with religious fundamentalists in Pakistan, who spread rumors that all western-funded vaccination programs are a secret plot by the CIA to sterilize people, or some similar nonsense.


yes, I'm aware. The anti-vaccine nonsense was going on long before this became public knowledge in 2011. The same ideology of fundamentalists who were behind the events surrounding the siege of the lal masjid in 2007 were spreading the "westerners want to sterilize your children" stuff since at least the early 1990s.

As a complete novice on the subject all I know (and have heard) was the Gates Foundation was involved in ending Polio and it was Bill’s pet project.

I’m sure other people were involved but I have no clue who because the media loves focusing on one face for an effort because it’s easier than representing the diverse group required to tackle such an issue.

You have the right not to listen.

x__x 20 days ago [flagged]

There will come a time in history when Microsoft will be looked back on as an evil company who gave up all it's users personal data to big GOV. Bill doesn't want this to be his legacy. He wants to be remembered as a philanthropist, not as historys biggest sellout.

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