Several times a day the popular social networking site Reddit hosts what they call an "AMA," a public free-for all in which celebrities, scientists and politicians invite people to "ask me anything." A few months ago President Barack Obama famously answered dozens of user questions. This week Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, took the honors and used the opportunity to discuss his philanthropy, his history with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, and how much his children will inherit.
The Reddit AMA was also a chance to promote his annual letter from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which discusses how innovations in measurement tools can help to improve efforts to eradicate hunger, disease and poverty around the world.
One of the first AMA questions asked about the foundation's greatest achievements. "So far our biggest impact has been getting vaccines for things like diarrhea and pneumonia out which has saved millions of lives," he wrote. "Polio will be a great achievement along with key partners when that gets done." Gates has been working with Rotary International and other organizations to bring polio vaccines to developing nations as part of a continuing effort to eradicate the disease. He added that polio could be wiped out by 2018, "although that will require raising funds and some great execution. We have some innovations like the way we use satellite maps to find all the villages and GPS tracking to make sure the teams go to every hut that are helping out. Polio is a harder disease than smallpox was but it is doable."
In response to a question about his relationship with Steve Jobs, Gates wrote that "he and respected each other ... I saw Steve regularly over the years including spending an afternoon with him a few months before he tragically passed away."
When asked about the world's reliance on crude oil and if he would invest in alternative energies technologies, Gates pointed at a TED Talk he gave in March 2010. "Over time we have to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions," he wrote, suggesting that the world could use more carbon capture and sequestration efforts if it is going to keep using fossil fuels. "There has been far too little work on this."
One questioner pointed out that many of his own wealthy friends have reduced the size of their children's trust funds, following an example Gates previously set by saying he was only going to leave his children $10 million each. "I definitely think leaving kids massive amounts of money is not a favor to them," the billionaire wrote in reply. "Warren Buffett was part of an article in Fortune talking about this in 1986 before I met him, and it made me think about it and decide he was right. Some people disagree with this, but Melinda and I feel good about it."
The discussion wasn't completely serious. When asked about his favorite band, Gates replied that he is waiting for Spinal Tap to tour again.
Gate's simplest answer of the day came when asked if there was anything left on his bucket list. "Don't die," he responded.
Most of Gates' answers were written, but he also submitted this short video answering a few questions ahead of the event:
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