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Of course U2 is one of Bill Gates' favorite bands
Mr Microsoft bares all in his 11th Ask Me Anything thread on Reddit
Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder, philanthropist and top pick of conspiracy theorists looking for the center of their bullshit storms, spent time interacting with the great unwashed of Reddit in an Ask Me Anything thread last week.
The rather unforgiving people that call Reddit their internet home grilled the billionaire on a range of subjects from AI and COVID to climate change and Scotland. Based on the amount of comments whipped up by his responses, we can assume many found them unsatisfactory.
On artificial intelligence
Seeing as this one is a bit of hot potato with regular folk being granted access to powerful tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney, let's start here as a lot of people wanted to know Gates' views on generative AI particularly.
Asked how he thinks the technology will affect the world, he said:
I am quite impressed with the rate of improvement in these AIs. I think they will have a huge impact. Thinking of it in the Gates Foundation context we want to have tutors that help kids learn math and stay interested. We want medical help for people in Africa who can't access a Doctor. I still work with Microsoft some so I am following this very closely.
He didn't hold back on any opportunity to talk up the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation throughout the thread.
He told other users that he deems AI to be the "revolutionary" tech of the moment, pooh-poohing Web3 and the metaverse, and that he looks forward to "helping to shape the AI advances in a positive way."
Asked about the rise of ChatGPT and OpenAI, into which Microsoft recently plowed $1 billion and is considering investing much more, he said:
It gives a glimpse of what is to come. I am impressed with this whole approach and the rate of innovation.
He must be impressed. Some of the responses feel like they were generated by ChatGPT.
On healthcare and vaccines
Gates was asked about the healthcare leanings of his foundation's work, and he revealed the inspiration behind it:
When I saw that kids were dying who could be saved for less than $1,000 per life I knew that had to be the top priority for my giving back. There was almost no one funding work on diseases like malaria, which was killing over a million kids a year then. We have made progress but it is still 400k and we are committed to get it to zero eventually.
In a tougher line of questioning, however, one user asked how Gates feels about "Moderna and other companies now increasing the base cost of COVID-19 vaccines by 4x." Another pointed out that the Gates Foundation had reportedly pushed Oxford University not to "open source" its vaccine formula as planned and instead sell it for profit.
This is not correct. Even though neither I or the Foundation were involved in the license from Oxford to Astra-Zeneca, Astra-Zeneca did a strong job offering their help to any vaccine manufacturer who could make it. A great example is Serum who the Foundation funded and made over 2B vaccines which saved millions of lives.
Any requests to correct the record were met with stony silence. Remarkably, no one asked about the 5G chips he allegedly placed inside every single COVID vaccine...
One silver-tongued Redditor had a very simple question to ask Gates. "Climate: We fucked or super-turbo fucked?" His response:
It's important to keep in mind life in poor countries is difficult right now. There are parts of the world where over 10 percent of the kids die before 5 and over 30 percent have malnutrition so their brains and bodies don't fully develop. Climate will slow down the progress we make on improving the human condition but I still believe we can avoid a terrible outcome. The pace of innovation is really picking up even though we won't make the current timelines or avoid going over 1.5[˚C rise in temp].
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Reading between the lines, another user concluded: "So super-turbo fucked."
Gates was also asked his opinion on veganism and plant-based diets as a means of minimizing climate change. Gates said he views lab-grown meat as the future:
For people who want to go vegan that is great but I don't think most people will do that. There are companies making "beef" in new ways and people working to still use cows but reduce the methane emissions. I have backed a number of innovators in this space including Beyond and Impossible and Memphis. I think eventually these products will be very good even though their share is small today.
The key on climate is making the clean products as cheap as the dirty products in every area of emission – planes, concrete, meat etc... This is the only way we can ask all the countries in the world to change. If it costs a lot extra we won't succeed.
On a vaguely related note, he was also asked: "Why are you buying up so much farmland, do you think this is a problem with billionaire wealth and how much you can disproportionally acquire?"
I own less than 1/4,000 of the farmland in the US. I have invested in these farms to make them more productive and create more jobs. There isn't some grand scheme involved – in fact all these decisions are made by a professional investment team.
In terms of the very rich I think they should pay a lot more in taxes and they should give away their wealth over time. It has been very fulfilling for me and is my full time job.
Redditors pointed out that "1/4,000 of the farmland in the US" is... quite a lot. As one put it: "About 223,825 acres, or almost 350 sq. mi. Almost as big as Ft. Worth, TX."
On Halo Infinite
The latest entry to the Microsoft-owned Halo franchise was released last year to some acclaim, but missing features and a disappointing multiplayer scene led some gamers to go right to the top to ask for help. "Hi Bill, can you pull some strings and get the right people in charge of Halo Infinite? Would be much appreciated. Kind Regards." Gates did not respond.
Away from heavier issues like Halo, one patriot asked Gates for his favorite band and favorite thing about Scotland. He said:
I have only been to Scotland 5 times I think. All of the visits have been great. The Foundation does a lot of the livestock work we do there with great partners. We have done a lot for farmers who keep cows and chickens (and sheep and goats) in poor countries using the vaccines and other tools created by the partners there.
My favorite bands include U2 – I loved Bono's recent book and he is a good friend (OK – they are from Ireland – I don't have a particular Scottish band in mind since bagpipes don't make my top 10).
Amazingly Chicken Tikka Masala is from Scotland even though it is considered an Indian dish (and mostly eaten there and in Indian restaurants!)
Did he just say that music is only Scottish if it has bagpipes? No Primal Scream? Mogwai? Belle and Sebastian? Orange Juice? CHVRCHES? Heck, even Wet Wet Wet? U2 being his favorite sure explains a lot, though. For more amazing insights from Mr Microsoft, here's the thread. ®