It’s unfortunate that they were ready to build the TerraPower pilot nuclear plant in China and the recent trade war prevented it.
It’s hard to have a reasonable debate about this issue when the sides are so diametrically opposed due to their dogmatic beliefs.
We could trivially float ~$200 billion to build new nuclear plants and rapidly wipe out all the remaining coal power along with a modest increase in renewables and natural gas, rather than following the gradual coal decline route.
60 nuclear plants are giving us 19-20% of our power base now. It'd cost ~$200-$250 billion to take that up to 30%, assuming $7 billion each. Even if the cost were $10b each ($300b total), it'd be fine. The nuclear plants buy us many decades to keep pushing renewables higher. It's an irrelevant dollar price to pay, shouldered over decades (low yield debt), for the benefits. And it keeps our generation diversity intact.
In a region that is now home to over 17 million, and in which life goes on. In notable contrast to Chernobyl and Fukushima.
Most of the specific dynamics of the Banqiao disaster were organisational, managerial, and political, rather than technical, which is to say: not specific to hydropower projects, and fully shared with nuclear projects. In fact we've seen precisely the same dynamics across multiple nuclear accidents and incidents.
The scale of the hydropower and nuclear industries is also worth noting. There are over 57,000 large dams worldwide, 40% in China. There are 450 nuclear power plants operating worldwide. Which is to say that the per-plant risk experience is 125 times greater for hydroelectric and hydraulic projects than for nuclear, and yes, there have been notable dam failures and failure modes: Johnstown, Vajont, Sempor, Panshet, Baldwin Hills, St. Francis, Teton. And several near misses: Oroville and Glen Canyon come to mind.
Many of the worst disasters have happened regions, or times, in which resources were low, understanding poor, and understandings of liability and risks deficient. Which if nuclear power expands, is likely to also be the case.
I've written on and submitted items on Banqiao several times at HN. It's an instructive case study, though the lessons may not be immediately apparent:
The world is 80% powered by fossil fuel today, and we are adding more fossil fuel every day. Alongside each installation of variable renewables is an installation of dispatchable fracked gas. When the sun sets on California, something like 10 GW of fracked gas comes online for the night .
Meanwhile nuclear plants are the only 24/7 (often 18 months continuous) near-zero carbon energy source we know of. We have them deployed at scale around the world (take a look at France in previous link, who decarbonized their entire grid with nuclear reactors in about 15 years in the 1970s as a side-effect of building a grid that didn't rely on energy imports).
Beyond being near-zero carbon, nuclear reactors don't emit air pollution during normal operation like combustion does (fossil, biofuel). Air pollution from fossil and bio kills millions per year .
Meanwhile, the threats from nuclear are: "what do we do with the waste?" and "what about Chernobyl and Fukushima?"
Because there's so much energy in the atomic nucleus, there is very little volume of highly concentrated waste generated in nuclear reactors (2,000,000x less than in electron-shell waste). So little volume that rather than dumping it out the stack like most power plants do, nuclear reactors store all of their waste from decades of powering cities on site, waiting for final geologic disposition. This waste sits benign in concrete casks that have never and probably will never injure anyone. Here's what they look like .
What is this final geologic repository? Well take a look at the Finns with the Onkalo repository. That's how you do it. Problem solved. .
As for accidents, while Chernobyl did kill ~60 and cause up to 4000 early cancer deaths, Fukushima killed up to 1 person. This safety record, considering how much electricity has been pushed around, is actually impeccable and leader-class. By the numbers, nuclear reactors are much safer than baseline generators, and roughly as safe as wind and solar. 
Of course this doesn't change people's minds. Facing climate change, the nuclear industry had better figure out how to communicate all this effectively while simultaneously reducing costs and improving safety, for all of our sake. While safety is already leadership class, the industry itself will not survive more Fukushima events due to human perceptions.
The nuclear industry hid under a rock hoping no one would notice it and protest it for decades. Now it has to come back out and explain why it's important and valuable.
For economics, if nuclear reactors benefited from their nearly carbon-free nature, they'd compete today. In France they're 30% cheaper than fracked gas.
In summary, the dangers from nuclear are minuscule compared to the dangers of climate change.
i don't know if humans will still be a thing in 500 years but I can tell you that if we're still going to be around the history books are not going to be kinds to us in general and to Trump in particular.
In the interim, I’m hoping for cheap micro gas turbines.
Burning natural gas just for heat is senseless when I could generate all my electricity with its combustion too seems like such a waste.
Places like hospitals have installed multi-megawatt turbines because it saves them the cost of standby backup generators, instead they can use the grid as backup for their internal generation.
Also, heating loads residentially may be bigger than electric loads, but grid-intertie system can resolve that.
There was no mention at all that Microsoft bought it.
This happens frequently in business and tech. CEOs look like geniuses when they can
take credit for the work of others.
It's the same as when people say that Elon Musk is the founder of Tesla, and most people have never heard of Martin Eberhardt (who I think had another partner who's name I can't remember!).
The other interesting story that I thought went missing was when they talked about Bill and Paul working on the class scheduling software for the school after the all-boys school merged with another school to allow girls in. I think they missed the story about how Bill set up his schedule so that he could be in an all-girls class.
Overall, it was a pretty good documentary. I do want to note that it focuses more on Bill's philantrophic efforts, especially in Episode 1, but then Episodes 2 and 3 do a good job of covering his history and Microsoft (though still more focused on his recent philantrophic work.) So this is just a PSA for anyone more interested in his Microsoft story: you may find that more in Episodes 2 and 3.
The Steve Jobs documentaries were more like "Hey, this guy was a douche, but people worship the cult he made from peddling computer stuff, and that is good, right?"
Definitely a difference in approach.
It’s especially interesting since we’re becoming acutely aware of how the rich regularly wash their reputations through charitable work e.g. Epstein and the Sacklers.
Only the wealthy get to influence the public perception of their legacy. I don’t understand what is so admirable about that.
From the U.S. that isn't obvious. Some wealthy guy can dole out cash but the system is stable, so that is fine. Outside of the U.S. the opposite is true. Wealthy guy comes in and starts handing out cash, and that occurs within a political context (which is often the issue: these places often don't lack money or tech, what they lack is stable politics). Even something as simple as building hospital or a library is huge politically (i.e. what contractors and suppliers you choose).
Given Gates' record for disregarding law, there should definitely be far greater oversight from home governments. One cautionary tale is Soros in Russia: he believed, even after he worked out that Yeltsin was horribly corrupt, that he could keep donating to "neutral" causes...this turned out to be quite wrong (as Soros has admitted). And Soros is many times smarter than Gates about these issues, and at that time was choosing donations personally (I have not heard great things about the "disciples" that Gates has on the ground).
Again, this is really something that Gates should not be in a position to do. You can't just outsource foreign policy to wealthy people.
Public policy should be decided by the public, not by the whims of unaccountable billionaires, however pure their intentions might be.
I accept the idea that this spending feels uncontrolled. Education policy is one area where you see this kind of activity because power is often local and fragmented which makes it easier to control. But there is still a relatively stable context with good oversight.
Imagine that occurring but there is no oversight: no teacher unions, no state govts, no opposition govt, no media, no oversight or reporting of meetings with NGOs, no reporting of donations, and (potentially) some level of govt that is captive.
And it doesn't need to be about Gates aiming to influence public policy directly. But actions that seem neutral, building a school or providing vaccinations, often occur in a political context (Mugabe was notorious for controlling the provision of aid around elections).
Saying that some of it might be siphoned away by corrupt locals doesn’t remove any good done. The same is true of internationally run NGOs, the WHO, UN, USAID, etc the locals get some power and capital siphoned from the system.
But there is no system that can be free of fraud or corruption, so unless you can point out how Gates donations have been MORE corrupt than others, this just seems like a needlessly harsh attempt to nitpick someone who has given up more of his wealth than most people in history.
Do we really want people to believe no personal good deed goes unpunished?
If Gates were a Koch Bros like figure, it be one thing, but he is mostly following in the footsteps of people like Jimmy Carter at this point.
And the point is: all the other bodies you mention have controls over how they spend. There is direct oversight of their spending, and yes some money goes missing...but if that is the best case then what happens when there is no oversight. Just blind trust that someone is probably okay (or just not like X group that you dislike).
To help other people effectively, you need process. It isn't about Gates, or talking about how wonderful and generous he is. It is about helping people.
Also, I didn't mention corruption. You can assume that no corruption occurs - virtually impossible in the places Gates is operating - and what Gates is doing is still very troubling. I actually mentioned an example where someone actively avoided becoming involved with a corrupt politician...and it still went horribly wrong. You are proving the point: there is a political context, no-one acknowledges it (and most people who work with Gates are actively disinterested in this too), and it will eventually go wrong.
The solution is for people who give overseas to work far more closely with policymakers (who have reams of information that Gates does not have, and is likely not aware of).
Gates Foundation Donations:
$2.6 billion to GAVI, global vaccine alliance
$2.2 billion to WHO
$1.3 billion to United Negro College Fund
$800 million to Unicef
$700 million to global AIDS and Malaria foundations
$500 million to John Hopkins University
$500 million to global tuberculosis org
I don't see any facts posted that quantify what the Gates Foundation is doing, how money is being distributed, or how many people have been helped. I've just posted some.
I mean good lord, the UN/WHO has some figures on this:
450 million mosquito nets given out due to Gates
Near eradication of Guinea worm thanks to Carter Center, whose major benefactor is Gates (3.5 million infections eliminated)
7.3 million people got anti-retroviral AIDS treatment thanks to Gates funding
12 million people got TB testing from Gates Foundation funding
500 million children vaccinated by GAVI
24 million women got access to family planning thanks to Gates
You're making all sorts of claims that Gates does not work with policy makers. Really? Bill Gates rolodex does not include the ability to dial up and talk to practically any diplomat or government official in the world? You don't think Gates Org talks with with international health officials or local governments and they're just going cowboy everywhere?
What's the evidence?
Some people voted down my comments, but none of them provided ANY information to back up claims that the Gates foundation is doing something wrong, that they haven't been effective. About the only claim with any weight at all is the dispute about the efficacy of charter schools, but that runs into an ideological debate about how the school system and teaching should work and there opinions widely differ. Far more damage to the educational system has been done by the existing policy makers.
Melinda talked about how they were told by the women in small African villages not to bring condoms, that the women wanted birth control in the form for Depro-Prevara shots. Condoms have the stigma of AIDS prevention and so a wife that wants her mate to use a condom is seen as suggesting that he has been unfaithful and is infected.
Competing fairly is IMHO nice, but I don't believe that's your number one concern when you're trying to get things off the ground and survive. We look at all the successful companies and nitpick on questionable things they did in they early days (or current days for that matter). We overlook that no successful company got where it is without actually aggressively pursuing their goals. Nobody hears about the companies that compete "fairly".
There is no way to 'grab the brass ring' by reading or watching this type of documentary. Understand it for what it is. It's entertainment pure and simple.
To your point 'shitty behavior' absolutely true. The amount of anxiety and aggravation that OS and some of those business practices caused is rarely talked about. In this case making money was tied to having a bad product in part not a good product that people loved. The entire eco system was dependent on convincing users they didn't know enough and needed help to get it to actually continue functioning.
The foundation distributed $4bn through grants in 2018. See https://www.gatesfoundation.org/Who-We-Are/General-Informati...
Some of the things I didn't know about Bill Gates -
1. He loves diet coke! At one time he opens a refrigerator and it's only stacked with diet coke cans.
2. He reads a crazy amount of books. And he reads them, takes notes and is able to retain all that information. I found that remarkable.
3. He works hard. Really hard. And he takes on problems which seem insurmountable. Whether it's polio eradication, clean water, or nuclear reactors. And he approaches the problems from a technical point of view.
Some of the lines which I liked -
Director: I looked into the most prevalent criticisms of you, and this one actually seems the most relevant. "He's a technophile that thinks that technology will solve everything."
Bill: Yeah, I'm basically guilty of that. Any problem... I will look at how technical innovation can help solve that problem. It's the one thing I know and the one thing I'm good at. And so, you know, that's my hammer. And so lots of problems look like nails because I've got a hammer.
Director: Is there a part where you say, "This is way too hard, I took on too much, I quit".
Bill: Sometimes, you really do have to say, "Let's give up". And sometimes, you have to just say, "I need to work harder"
Mary Gates (Bill's mother): "Each one of us has to start out with developing his or her own definition of success. And when we have these specific expectations of ourselves, we're more like to live up to them. Ultimately, it's not what you get or even what you give. It's what you become."
IMHO his cutthroat tactics leading Microsoft are already well documented and have nothing to do with the great work he’s doing now.
The Microsoft years proved that he was good at making money using dominate-a-market monopolist techniques.
That's exactly the wrong personality profile for someone trying to do effective philanthropy, which requires unusual empathy and cultural sensitivity, as well as tactical cleverness.
Gates - arguably - demonstrated the latter, albeit only in a very specific and (IMO) self-serving way. He also made plenty of spectacular strategic errors at Microsoft which harmed MS customers, MS competitors, and computer users in general.
So his record of strategic foresight is patchy at best. And there is no evidence at all that he has any unusual talent for empathy or cultural awareness.
>Anything that touches on microsoft's history should at least mention the anti-competitive practices they used to cripple competition.
Do you want to clarify your statement a bit? Why "the hell" do you think they shouldn't?
DOS was shit and so was Windows. Microsoft has always somehow made money in spite of the poor quality of their products. The only exception I can think of is their mouse.
I only met Bill Gates once, but I was very impressed — I was going on about problems in the windows graphics stack, and despite it not being his expertise, I thought he “got it” faster than his domain experts in the room.
The replies are filled with similar anecdotes.
- having a good family
- having good environment that mostly ignored his stubbornness and let him grow
- how lucky he was to be good in math and engineering
- coming from a well off family
- having a mother to push him to outside of his comfort zone(She was also in various boards so could teach the politics of leading people)
- having friends that helped him get better at understanding the computers.
Being smart is only one parameter in his success, he wouldn't have been so good if they hadn't given him the chance to program at private school he went to for solving the school scheduling problem for example.
IMO Comparing Knuth to Gates is the case of apples and oranges, most important reason being Knuth was born in 1938 and Bill Gates was born in 1955, Gates was in his prime years when the personal computer revolution was beginning.
Gates is turning into a Soros like figure, and there are all sorts of interesting and controversial wrinkles in the story of the man.
Even just looking at the story of Gates's influence at Vox would be interesting, without even trying to make hay of his relationship with Stephen Pinker.
Anyway, Citations Needed did a couple episodes (45 & 46) on Gates that are a good introduction.
CEU was founded in 1991 by hedge fund manager, political activist, and philanthropist George Soros [..] A central tenet of the university's philosophy is the promotion of open societies. 
major donations from some of the nation’s wealthiest liberal foundations, including [..] the Open Society Foundations of the financier George Soros [..]. Over the past decade those donors have invested more than $300 million in immigrant organizations, including many fighting for a pathway to citizenship for immigrants here illegally. 
are made up?
When China opens their Confucius Institutes to expand their soft power and propaganda, this is seen as problematic. But when Soros does the same, it's OK, because you agree with his goals? It shouldn't surprise you that people who don't share his goals view him with hostility.
The people who call Soros their enemy are literally fighting against liberal democracy. Orban himself states as his goal a illiberal democracy.
You can disagree with Soros views on immigration, but there is no way in hell you can defend what has been done to him. What Soros advocates is a viable political position, what Orban advocates is the death of democracy.
I haven't kept up with all the things Soros has been accused of (falsely or not), but isn't this statement also making them into boogeymen? They can't possibly be just against a handful of policies he's pushing in their country - they must be against liberal democracy itself? Why are the only two choices Soros, or enemies of liberal democracy? Assuming you didn't use "people who call Soros their enemy" to only refer to Orban's government.
I'll agree that Orban (and others) fabricated smears against Soros, but it's false to extend that to "the whole Soros story".
You say that as if it is a bad thing.
On the other hand, I generally don't expect to find this in documentaries. This is what books are good at. (I'd never expect to see Power Broker content in documentary format.)