After sponsoring his very own Christmas miracle through Reddit’s Secret Santa program over the holidays, Bill Gates sat down yesterday for one of the site’s widely beloved Ask Me Anything sessions.
In Gates’ first interview since transitioning from Microsoft’s chairman to a technology advisor role, he spoke about his favorite hobbies and gadgets, offered advice to aspiring entrepreneurs and reiterated his commitment to countless charitable causes across the globe. Here are seven of our favorite takeaways:
1. His work ethic has evolved. “20 years ago I would stay in the office for days at a time and not think twice about it,” Gates wrote, “so I had energy and naiveté on my side.” Now, however, his sense of time management has mellowed with age and wisdom. In his new role at Microsoft, Gates explained, “My time will be about two-thirds Foundation and one-third Microsoft. I will focus on product work mostly.”
2. His priciest guilty pleasure? A private plane. “I do get to a lot of places for Foundation work I wouldn't be able to go to without it,” he reasons. And as for his favorite gadgets, Gates is unsurprisingly a fan of the Surface 2 Pro. One luxury Gates has not considered, he says, is artificially prolonging his life. “I wouldn't want to extend my last few years unless that is happening for most people,” he says.
3. He believes in technology’s ability to change the world. During the AMA, Gates discussed both his work with TerraPower to uncover reliable and low-cost energy alternatives, as well as a proposed new condom design that could utilize nanotubes to reduce thickness. “The idea was that men don't like the current design so perhaps something they would be more open to would allow for less HIV transmission.”
4. Balancing business and philanthropy has been a process. When asked whether successful business makers must first succeed in order to give back, Gates noted that he didn’t begin his extensive charitable work until much later in his career. “Just creating an innovative company is a huge contribution to the world,” he said -- though some execs, including Mark Zuckerberg, have admirably thrown philanthropy into the mix early on.
5. The cloud touts as-yet-untapped potential. “I am excited about how the cloud and new devices can help us communicate and collaborate,” Gates said, adding that cloud storage still “needs be a lot richer.” Rather than basic information files, Gates envisions the cloud being akin to a colorful historical record, like looking back upon memories from one’s childhood.
6. His hobbies are decidedly old-fashioned. “I am not a huge gamer,” Gates admits, adding, “My son knows a LOT more than I do about what is cool on Xbox.” His hobbies are more traditional -- including playing bridge and watching his daughter ride horses. Another favored pastime one might not expect? “I do the dishes every night -- other people volunteer, but I like the way I do it.”
7. Charity is the center of his universe. Gates peppered the discussion with references to his tireless charity work throughout. Immediate goals include improving the education system by focusing on helping teachers, and he describes children who die from malnutrition or vaccination deficiencies as “the greatest tragedy.” Another issue close to his heart is the “incredible” injustice of the immigration system.