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Bill Gates’ Q&A on Reddit: from tomato soup to Quantum computing

We all know that Bill Gates is awesome and we also know that Reddit is awesome as well. It’s not the first time Bill is on the portal: he is well-known for his beyond-generous Secret Santa gifts for the users and many more good deeds. Recently Bill once again joined Reddit and gave honest and cool answers to questions by redditors. We’ve chosen the most interesting and relevant ones so read below and enjoy!

What are your top 3 goals currently?

For the Foundation reducing childhood death and malnutrition and ending polio would be the biggest 3 things. For innovation it would be an energy breakthrough and improving the way we educate kids. For my family it is making sure the kids are ready to go to college and have a great experience there. That is more than 3 and I didn’t mention my tennis goals yet.

Do you miss anything about your time at Microsoft?

There was a certain urgency to everything we were doing to stay ahead that meant the speed of activity was very high. I miss this a bit. I had to take Think Weeks twice a year just to step back and see what the longer term trends were. Now I work on things like malaria where I wish there was more competition to solve the problems and things moved faster.

In 2006 Bill switched to full-time work in Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that’s aimed at enhancing healthcare and reducing poverty.

Now here is a question that might interest you from the industry development point of view:

How do you see automation* affecting our economy over the next 10–20 years?

Automation has been driving productivity ever since the industrial revolution including things like tractors and garment making. With software this will continue to accelerate so we need to think about how we educate people for the new jobs that will emerge. Overall automation is a great thing — eventually we won’t have to work as much but we are still at least a generation away from a big change there.

*As you know, there have been concerns about “robots taking the jobs” and in recent years we witness the overall boom of the automated processes and RPA — robotic process automation. So if you are thinking to take a swing in your career, you may want to consider process automation — the demand will keep growing but requirements for the specialists will be increasing as well. And if you master your skills, you can be sure you won’t have any problems with finding a challenging and rewarding job in the future. Now, back to Q&A.

What technology are you most looking forward to in the next 10 years and what impact do you think it could have?

The most amazing thing will be when computers can read and understand the text like humans do. Today computers can do simple things like search for specific words but concepts like vacation or career or family are not “understood”. Microsoft and others are working on this to create a helpful assistant. It has always been kind of a holy grail of software particularly now that vision and speech are largely solved. Another frontier is robotics where the human ability to move and manipulate is amazing and experts disagree on whether it will take just a decade or a lot longer (Brooks) to achieve the equivalent.

Hey Bill, how much do you know about Quantum computing*, and is Microsoft delving deep into that field?

I spent a month learning the math behind Quantum computing with help from the Microsoft team and a lot of online course material. I wanted to understand how Quantum computers could factor numbers so much faster than normal computers. It is amazing how the matrix math with complex numbers works — nature is doing arbitrary computation but it is tricky to access. These are early days but yes Microsoft is making large investments in quantum — particularly in handling the error problems that most approaches have.

*Quantum computers are much more powerful than ordinary computers and they utilize different approach in data processing. They are based on the principles of quantum mechanics and are able to run new types of algorithms and process the data in a more holistic way, which may lead to a number of revolutionary discoveries.

Hey Bill! What were you like in your early teens and what would you change about yourself back then? Did you know you wanted to be a software developer from an early age? What helped you in picking your career path? Were you always confident you’d be a successful software developer or did you have some self-doubt?

I first saw a computer when I was 13 and it fascinated me then. I spent a lot of time figuring out what programming was — first Basic and then machine language. By the time I was 16 I got a job programming at TRW which helped me learn even more (skipping part of my senior year). So I was lucky to have something I loved to do and which became more important in the years ahead. I have had self-doubts about all of my skills but programming is one I have always had a lot of confidence in.

*And moving on to more programming questions…

Tabs or Spaces?

When I code I use tabs because you want the columns to line up. For some word documents I use tabs. You want things to adjust when you go back and edit them and tabs help.

*A bit of motivation from Bill to wrap the Q&A up:

Hello Bill! When did you consider yourself a success?

There are many domains to be successful in. I was a success in getting good grades and test scores in high school. I was a success at writing good code by my early 20s. The dream of the PC being an enabling tool came true by the 1990s. Now I am working on being a good father and the ambitious goals of the Foundation including getting rid of polio and malaria. I think it is always good to have goals where your success is in doubt and I have that in many areas including the work I do on climate change.

*And the most important question of all times:

Hi Mr. Gates! Do you ever like, just randomly get up when you’re home and make yourself a peanut butter sandwich? Or do you have people do that for you?

I do make myself tomato soup sometimes. It is kind of a comforting food and reminds me of doing the same when I was growing up. I don’t make sandwiches much.

As you see, Bill Gates is open to any discussions: from deep tech topics to random and fun questions about childhood and eating habits. We recommend you have a look at the thread and find more entertaining Q&A there. Reddit for sure is a place to check out on regular basis.

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