Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Inside Bill’s Brain (netflix.com)
110 points by ceecko 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 96 comments

Bill wrote about this on his blog yesterday:


It’s unfortunate that they were ready to build the TerraPower pilot nuclear plant in China and the recent trade war prevented it.


The sad thing is that the States aren't interested in this technology or why does it take so long to get it done there? It would be great to use waste material to get more energy out before burying it again. I'm from Germany, sadly thou, most of the people are to uneducated and scared to push atomic power station to the next level. Great documentation btw.

The US is bifurcated between people who see no problem with current nuclear plants and those who see any nuclear plant as an abomination in need of removal.

It’s hard to have a reasonable debate about this issue when the sides are so diametrically opposed due to their dogmatic beliefs.

This completely discounts the gas, coil and oil industry incentives to oppose nuclear power. Those are huge lobbies in the US. Much larger than Green Peace types being used as a smoke screen.

The question is do we need nuclear and the risks? Can renewables like wind, hydro, and solar provide what we need cheaper and without the dangers associated with nuclear? If so, then why even mess with it?

The answer is yes, we need nuclear because there's no chance we'll get to 100% renewable energy in time to make a difference, nuclear could fill the niche we need to make wind and solar generation feasible.

It makes enormous sense to have some diversity in the electrical generation system, along with the essentially guaranteed & dependable output of nuclear. It's an excellent backbone. The US could very easily get to 30% renewables (17-18% now), 30% nuclear (19%-20% now), 40% natural gas (35%-36% now), from where the figures are at today. That ends coal. Then push forward on reducing the natural gas share thereafter. 30%-40% nuclear and 60%-70% renewables long-term, would perhaps be ideal.

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.

$10B seems cheap. Hinkley Point C is currently estimated at $25B.

Bill has addressed this and explains why he's so frustrated with the notion: https://youtu.be/d1EB1zsxW0k?t=520

Hydro has killed more people and ruined more land than Nuclear ever will.

True. Banqiao dam, 1975, about 125,000 dead.

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.[1] There are 450 nuclear power plants operating worldwide.[2] 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:





1. https://www.internationalrivers.org/questions-and-answers-ab...

2. https://www.euronuclear.org/info/encyclopedia/n/nuclear-powe...

The risks are completely manageable. Aside from a couple of disasters, nuclear energy has not killed or poisoned very many people at all. There is a cost to all forms of energy production. But because nuclear involves weird stuff with atoms that most people don’t understand, they find it scarier.

At the moment there is a major world-wide threat due to carbon emissions causing climate change. Climate models are complex, but there is some consensus that continuing our emissions will lead to serious detriment to many species, including our own.

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 [1].

[1] https://www.electricitymap.org/?page=country&solar=false&rem...

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 [2].

[2] https://www.who.int/airpollution/en/

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 [3].

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUvvIzH2W6g

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. [4].

[4] http://www.posiva.fi/en/media/image_gallery?gfid_2061=94#gal...

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. [5]

[5] https://ourworldindata.org/what-is-the-safest-form-of-energy

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 would say yes. watch the series and see why nuclear as is has issues and what was proposed (ie they were not proposing to build yet another nuclear reactor, they actually designed and build a nuclear reactor that could run on current nuclear waste - and estimated that the current waste that we store could power all of the US for 125 years given the current energy needs).

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.

> It’s unfortunate that they were ready to build the TerraPower pilot nuclear plant in China and the recent trade war prevented it.

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.

I'm now surprised I have never thought about that. What is the reason this isn't common?

It's been increasingly scaled down. But not quite to the point of being done residentially.

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.

My problem with the documentary series is that they gave Bill Gates credit for inventing DOS. This starts at 34:00 in episode two.

There was no mention at all that Microsoft bought it. https://www.windowscentral.com/microsoft-bought-ms-dos-os-ea...

This happens frequently in business and tech. CEOs look like geniuses when they can take credit for the work of others.

I normally agree with this, but it can be distracting to an audience which may not be completely familiar with the ins-and-outs of the details.

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!).

Yeah, that surprised me too. I thought they would at least throw in a reference to CP/M at that point, but that was missing.

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.

I'm not a fan of documentaries, but I liked this one (all three parts). It's Bill essentially saying "You know - this is what matters, the Microsoft stuff is secondary." And I respect that.

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.

I don't understand your logic here. He is using his money, influence, and platform to rewrite history. That is called propaganda in certain contexts.

What is being rewritten exactly? I don't see where they are claiming Microsoft didn't happen.

I’m commenting on OP’s respect for someone using his money and influence to release a documentary where he writes off that one time he broke the law to crush his competitors as “secondary” to his charitable work.

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.

Many of the things that he is doing also have huge political implications.

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.

There are big implications inside the US too. Gates favors large-scale privatization of American public schools and de-professionalization of schoolteachers, and his “philanthropy” is actively harmful to US students.

Public policy should be decided by the public, not by the whims of unaccountable billionaires, however pure their intentions might be.

But the point is that if you do that within the U.S. that occurs within a stable policy context.

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).

Rather than make abstract accusations that are theoretical, perhaps you could be specific. Gates has donated a lot to basic health, vaccination, malaria, clean water.

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.

That is the issue. You are making assumptions about what you think Gates is like. Gates is nice. He is like me. That isn't how it should work (because most impressions about people are wrong, and heavily influenced by things like Netflix documentaries).

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).

I'm only judging by results and facts. You're talking in vague terms and not citing any facts. Did you even bother to look at the biggest recipients of Gates Foundation donations? A lot of the money he's donated has gone to the World Health Organization, which is exactly the policy makers and deliberative body you're asking him to go through. A lot of Gates Foundation orgs are transparent, and the orgs they donate too are often international NGO or GOs like the WHO.

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.

Most people don't have a public perception to need to influence at all, so I don't think it's a fair comparison or criticism. I'm sure if you were a public figure you'd spend a minimum of effort to make sure you were perceived as you thought you should be.

I’m not critiquing Bill Gates’s decision to influence the public’s perception of his legacy. I’m commenting on how absurd it is to consume what can be considered propaganda and seem to come out the other side with more “respect” for the subject without the awareness that the whole point of the “documentary” was to do exactly that.

Agreed, he’s spent a lot to ensure his image doesn’t turn into that image for decades/centuries to come.

Surprisingly, the MS stuff (the way he got as rich as he is now) is mostly illegal in the way he took advantage of his business... He does not seem to acknowledge this anywhere...

"mostly illegal" - you have to elaborate that, you make it sound like Microsoft as a whole was illegal, which is obviously ridiculous.

I tried to watch it, but it just felt like a 'Bill Gates' public profile PR piece. Basically just espousing how great Bill and his family are and were at all points in history.

I regularly get downvoted for pointing out that Saint Bill the Philanthropist refuses to acknowledge all the shitty behavior and the damage he left behind to earn him that fortune in the first place.

Not to mention his philanthropy work frequently causes considerable damage itself, like the malaria nets[0] that poisoned the local food supply, the failed public school overhaul[1] and common core[2][3].

[0]: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/25/world/africa/mosquito-net...

[1]: https://nancyebailey.com/2018/07/04/gatess-blunders-destroy-...

[2]: https://www.philanthropydaily.com/gates-philanthropy-failure...

[3]: https://www.learningsuccessblog.com/blog/dyscalculia/common-...

The links you provide for common core are not evidence of "considerable damage". The first is an opinion piece and the second is much worse - a blog post following up on an article whose argument against common core is based primarily on believing the claims in a satire article

Can’t do anything to please you people, even spending 35 billion a year on charity wouldn’t suffice.

So, you are saying nobody should scrutinize the charity?

Donate the money to someone completely independent, and stop talking about it.

don't sell yourself short, I'm sure you could find an issue with it even if he did that.

A better view of the things they've learned while trying to help the world is Melinda Gate's interview with Dave Letterman on his Netflix show.

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.

How is the use of malaria nets for fishing (or chicken coops, or crop covers) somehow Gates’ fault?

It's because saving children's lives by providing misquito netting far outweighs bullying his competitors building the earliest web browsers.

Couldn't agree more. How he got there is always overlooked. Bill is certainly very intelligent and competent. But could Bill start a company from scratch and be competitive today? One that is remotely close to MS and from competing fairly? I'm doubtful.

oh wow. just wow. i think it's really easy to be an armchair philosopher vs actually doing things. I for one, even though I am not a big fan of MS or Gates, have no doubt that he could find a niche and grow a successful business today. There is a lot of luck involved when starting from scratch so it's anyone's guess if it would grow as large as MS - but it would definitely take off the ground.

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".

Yeah, fuck fairness. If you want to win you have to break the rules. Fuck society, this is about getting what's mine!

Life 101: Life is not fair. Do you really think that someone that was born in a "1st world country", has access to clean water, food, education is on an equal position with someone that has to walk 10 miles every day to drink clean water? Should people in a privileged position accept their privilege? If the 10miles guy decides to "fuck fairness" and actually does something you consider unethical do you get to decide that what he did is wrong? now, we're on a slippery slope to getting on our high horses.

Agree but it's more than that. I would point out to any young people reading and watching things like this to keep this in mind. If Bill Gates wasn't a very visible Billionaire and one in particular who had a history in the computer business you wouldn't really care much what he thought. Let alone listen to him. The 'very visible' definitely matters, sure. But also the fact that he is 'rich' like any and all utterances by rich or successful people (even in things they aren't skilled at) what they say appears way more valuable than it actually is and when compared to someone who has not had luck play into their success.

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.

What shitty behavior exactly?

Though he has pledged to give away his fortune. So far he has given out $35billion. On things like curing malaria, as opposed to buying self-portraits and NFL memorabilia. I’d say his behavior is the text book definition of great.

"given away" to his charity, which He controls. It's just a different form of ownership.

He hasn't given away anything he's still the one spending it.

I believe ‘spending money on a grant’ is ‘giving away money’.

The foundation distributed $4bn through grants in 2018. See https://www.gatesfoundation.org/Who-We-Are/General-Informati...

I just binge watched this. It was a really nice documentary.

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."

Maybe this is unfair, but I hope they at least touch on the halloween documents and the antitrust suite. Anything that touches on microsoft's history should at least mention the anti-competitive practices they used to cripple competition.

From my understanding, the documentary is about what Bill Gates is doing, and what inspired him.

IMHO his cutthroat tactics leading Microsoft are already well documented and have nothing to do with the great work he’s doing now.

"Of course, no amount of charity in spending such fortunes in any way compensates for misconduct in making them."


Without entering the debate regarding whether Gates foundation does more good than damage, it seems a bit of a stretch to say that this is unrelated to his earlier business practices. It's fair to imagine that those practices have contributed to put him in a situation where he can do what he does now.

Conversely, those same practices prevented others from being in a position where they could have likewise been generous. The iron fist of concentrated power, even when wrapped in a velvet glove of generosity, is simply bad for society.

Interestingly, one of the things short sellers noticed from investigating corrupt and dishonest companies is that they frequently use charitable deeds to compensate for the damage they do as a company.

Based on his history, it's absolutely fair to question his competence and his judgement.

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.

Is there a debate about whether or not his foundation is doing more good than damage? I'd like to learn more about it. I find it interesting how difficult it seems to do philanthropy that has long lasting benefits without damaging some party.

Looks like aspects of it might be mentioned https://youtu.be/aCv29JKmHNY?t=45

Why in the hell would they do that in this documentary?

I thought I was pretty clear on that?

>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?

I found it pretty surprising how much they romanticized his years of working instead of sleeping. That’s a dangerous thing to promote.

It's supposed to be an honest raw look at his life. And frankly, it makes a lot of sense that he had poor work life balance. It's to be expected that extraordinary effort is required to build extraordinary things.

They could’ve told it honestly without making it seem like sleep deprivation is noble. Great things can be achieved with proper sleep and not falling asleep at your keyboard just to wake up and keep coding “right where you left off” as they claim.

Thats rarely true. No extraordinary thing was made with a 9 to 5 and then zone out.

"extraordinary things"

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 don’t know, even if Gates wrecked his or his family’s happiness to work all the time, it’s worth it for the millions of people who are beneficiaries of his foundation today. What’s better, that he just became a family man, working a 9-5, and never made his fortune which he’s now giving away?

I binged this yesterday. I didn't particularly enjoy the way they mixed Gate's early story with his current endeavours with the foundation, but all in all it's still interesting enough.

to me it made sense. it was a parallel between his early years and what he was doing now - basically applying the same way of thinking/working just for a different class of problems.

Carmack just tweeted this about Gates:

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.

tweet: https://twitter.com/ID_AA_Carmack/status/1175405258975141893

now let me ask this: is Gates smarter and harder working in proportion to his wealth than Knuth ?

In various points in the documentary he points out how lucky he was for:

- 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.

How does it matter ? You may be both but unlucky or not market your skills.

because he has been awarded by the putative meritocratic competition a vast sum of money for his mediocre operating system

Wohoo Year of the Linux Desktop. Best Desktop OS ever.

It's sad that there is an extremely interesting documentary that could be done about Bill Gates, but all we get is his propaganda.

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.


Will you guys please stop with the Soros bashing? There's literally no basis for all the BS being spewed about a self-made man like that.

Calling for a more nuanced rendering of someone’s character isn’t “bashing”, nor does being a “self-made” man disqualify one from criticism.

The whole Soros story is an anti-Semitic smear made up by Orbans team to win elections in Hungary. Nobody would give two shits about Soros if it wasn't for that. No matter how true it might be that he earned some of his money to the detriment of others, the only reason why it's being discussed is is so that Orbans has a virtual enemy to win against.

Which parts of

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. [1]

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. [2]

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.

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

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/15/us/obama-immigration-poli...

It's not about disagreeing with his goals, it's about stylizing him as a Boogeyman using anti-Semitic tropes for political gains.

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.

> The people who call Soros their enemy are literally fighting against liberal 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".

Well, let's try: shoe me one valid point of critisim against Soros promoted ideas that is not illiberal.

I'm not sure if it's liberal or not, but opposition to immigration seems perfectly legitimate to me, and is directly opposed to Soros' goals.

Soros is probably about the Koch of the left. I generally think he's a other worse, but that might be my economic biased - I think the Koch brothers are more libertarian than Soros is leftist. So if you have a problem with the Koches because of oversized political power from their wealth, you should also have a problem with Soros for the same reason (independent of their politics).

If you think about it, the concept of self-made man is a bit weird. Every man comes at least from a woman who carried him for about 9 months. Even if she abandoned him at birth, he must have been taken care of by some people who taught him how to speak, helped him with his first steps, etc. Not to mention the roads he drove on, the food he ate, the knowledge he learned, etc. This concept is problematic in that it negates the fundamentally social nature of humanity. In fact, there have been documented cases of real self-made men in history, but it wasn't particularly pretty: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feral_child

I don't really get it. Self-made is about success not about who give you birth or food or shelter etc. unless there is a very strong correlation like you have been educated by someone who is successful. I agree the naming is not the most suggestive but.. read the definition of self-made man: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-made_man

> Gates is turning into a Soros like figure,

You say that as if it is a bad thing.

I don't think you deserve to be downvoted.

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.)

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact