'A Conversation with Bill Gates' Q&A at Harvard University
Well. I've been at a lot of events in this room but that is the warmest welcome I think Frank Doyle has ever had. Thank. You all for being here. This. Is not too subtle I am very, pleased, to welcome my. College, classmate. Bill. Gates and I just want to say a word, or. Two about, Bill. The. First I ever heard about Bill was when we were freshmen. And. A friend of mine another. Classmate, told me, keep. An eye keep. An eye out for Bill, Gates he's going to do some really amazing things, and, this. Classmate, was pretty impressive, himself. Somebody. Who I expected. Great things of. And. I dare say that none, of us could, have predicted the. Great things that bill would do. When. I would say an, undergraduate, when Bill and I were undergraduates, you have to understand, that, the world especially, when it came to computation. Look very different, to. The best of my knowledge and, Bill may correct me about this the only computer. On Harvard. Campus was in the Science Center now, I was a research, assistant, as an undergrad, and, I, would work, at. A building that, was on, Cambridge Street, where. CJIs. North is today, enoyed. Cross the street to go to the Harvard computer, center, where. CGA, CJIs, south is today where. I would run jobs there. Wasn't absolutely a computer there the computer was, at MIT, so. We were just connected, to the mainframe at, MIT and, in. Those days the. Greatest anxiety that. Anybody, could have in a job like mine was. To drop the, box of punch, cards. Because. If you did that you. Would lose maybe, a week's, worth of work. Bill. Had a vision and. I understand, it went back even then they. Are computing. Would be a ubiquitous. It would be part of all of our lives and indeed, as you all know he. Executed, on that fission and the, world today has. Changed, so dramatically, in. Large part due to the work that bill has done throughout. The years so. Indeed. He has changed the world he has done amazing. Things in technology. But. Arguably. He. Has deep done even, more in if, you want to call it that his second, career as a, philanthropist. Bill. Has an incisive, analytic. Mind he. Demands. Rigor, he. Relies on data, and. He looks at outcomes. If. Any. Of us reflect, for a little bit about the good things that we try to do the altruistic, acts, that we engage in we. Have to admit that from time to time we. Wonder whether we're doing it more to make ourselves feel, good about, doing the right thing or, whether we're actually helping. The people we want to help bill. Has, removed, all doubt. About. Helping, other people because, he measures, and the. Effects of his, philanthropy has, simply, have simply, been profound. Today. The. New England Journal of Medicine published. An article. I. Kid. You not the name of the study is Mordor, but. All right a study. About. The use of some. Very simple antibiotics. Given. Twice a year to preschool, children in, three countries in Africa, and, on average it, reduced, childhood, mortality by. 13%. And, what's, even more encouraging the, effects were larger, in Niger which. Had the, greatest infant, but childhood. Mortality rates. This. Is a cheap, easy to. Implement, intervention. And this, work was, sponsored, by the Gates Foundation. There. Is example, after example of. The, work that bill. And, the Gates and Melinda and, the Gates Foundation have. Supported, over the year, that. Have transformed. Health. And. Maybe not as much as bill would like us we just heard from him, education. As well. Few. People in history have, had as profound, an impact on mortality. And, on, human well-being as, bill has and, I dare say that none of us will know the, full impact during. Our lives the work that he has done will pay off for many many years so. To close let me just say my. Friend whose. Name this. Bill probably knows is Steve Ballmer. He's. Not always right but he's often right in this case he, was right but he probably had, no idea how right he would be when. He said bill will do amazing things so. Bill. Thank. You for the amazing things you do thank, you for the inspiration and, we, all look forward to your dialogue, with frame please welcome again. Well. It's terrific to welcome you back here to Harvard I'm hoping you can explain, this piece of paper that's projected up on the screen here break the ice well. I took, a course called that 2010. That. Was, a my. Expense taught on microeconomics. And, that's part, of my final, I. My. Whole thing was that I didn't, want to attend to any of the course I was signed up for and I had all these other courses that I attended, and. So, I remember when I went into that final, everybody, was in my study group was kind of mad at me because like hey you never showed up what you, know now all of a sudden here you are but.
It Was an amazing, course, the. People of majored in economics. Were. At a disadvantage because knowing math was very helpful, in. That fact, course but it was fantastic. The, people in the back under if you can read it the, instructors, will comment the lower corner there says arithmetic. Error, no, sweat. Well. Bill we just had a really fun an hour and a half two hours with the robotics, folks in, the engineering school here touring, various labs and I'm wondering if you would share with this community, your impressions. What you saw happening, in robotics, and the implications. Of that technology, for humans. The impact good bad and otherwise. Well. Robotics, is a very. Broad field at, a very. Early stage and. There's. Some exciting, and promising things, that are come out of it normally, when we think that we think of a human-sized. Sort. Of a lot of metal type. Contraption. That's. Doing, things humans would do like cleaning. Up a room or. BNA. Infantry. Soldier. Are, some sort of manufacturing, job the, work here, is taking. Robotics, in in, many dimensions into. Different realms so, I saw the robot bee which is a tiny little pea-sized. Robot that can fly around. It. Doesn't quite. Go. Anywhere, yet, but it's a I'm. Sure they'll get, that figured out I also saw a lot of what. They called soft robotics where instead of having. Metal. Parts, you. Have actually. Fabric, and either. Through hydraulics. Or pneumatics. You're. Manipulating. This, you, know I wore a glove that, the, air pressure, pneumatically. Would. Provide. Gripping, and so. It's both thinking, of enhancing. Humans. Who have normal functionality. And taking, people who, save had a stroke or ALS and and, allowing, them to do normal functions. Despite, that disability, and so, robotics. Is very cool because it's a lot of sciences, there yes there's some good software, that's. In it but actually looking at evolution how, do insects, fly you, know understanding. Reynolds. Numbers and. Turbulence. And how you modeled that which at small scale it's amazing, nobody really understands how insects, why slowly. But surely we're. Figuring. It out so I saw a variety of. Robots. That are. Really. Amazing. And. Of course nowadays people share their latest ideas, so the collaboration. Between the various teams was amazing, to see graphically. We, know as I was preparing for this I went back and I found one of your former. Professors, who's still on the faculty Harry. Lewis in computer, science to. Try to get some insight into your character, back in the day when the picture we saw earlier was a reflection. And. One of the things Harry recalled, was you had this voracious, appetite, for reading you, have this immense, capacity, for learning a sense, of curiosity that, as, we've watched your career doesn't.
Seem To have narrowed any and especially as we think about in Alan's introduction, the the, array of topics that your foundation touches, on that you have, expertise. In the knowledge in from public. Health to, education, reform to, renewable, energy, how. Is it that where many, of us who get to a certain level in our career dive deep and narrow and specialized, you've, managed to not narrow and keep your curiosity, very very broad. Yes. Certainly during the time I was Harvard, I wasn't. Sure what I was going to do. The. Idea that, where it was this field that. Was. The opportunity was, unbelievable. That became more obvious during. The three-year period I was here but, my dad had been a lawyer, I thought. Of mathematics. You know like doing him all on the Putnam that was the coolest thing and, the, computer, software. I didn't. Think those people, were smart just the math people so it's like well am I gonna go into the easy field, or. This really hard field but. Anyway. Math was. Fantastic, when I finally picked and, decided. To go, do Microsoft, then I got, into a period from. Age. 19. To. About 40. Where, I wasn't able to look. At the latest on you know how tornados, work or how mitochondria. At work I was, pretty monomaniacal, and. When. I was able to ask Steve, this is the year 2000, see Ballmer. He. He, mistakenly graduated. But. Then he started at Stan I. Was. Trying to hire him but his parents told, him you're supposed to graduate which, was fine, but, then he. Started, at Stanford Business School and he was in his first year and I thought oh this is perfect I'll get him to drop out of Stanford. Business School. So. In a certain sense he is a dropout. And. He was. Very keyed to the success, of Microsoft, I mean. He. Knew a lot of things but during that period I didn't get to do much at Harvard, you. Know I took all these courses because it was just so amazing that people were interested in talking about my and I. I. Have, to say I never went to a lecture during reading period or any anything, because, the courses that I was actually signed up for I finally, started to work on those so. I was in Hallel the, minute would open to the minute it would close during reading period trying to catch up on on that, other set of courses so, people. Say I'm a dropout, which is literally. True, but. Because. I like college courses, the online, college. Courses there's. A company called the learning company that I buy tons. And tons of their stuff and I do in. At least four or five courses a year in a, sense I like. Going. To college, more than anyone, so. I'm. Sort of made sure my job certainly. Post Microsoft. That. I get to spend my time meeting with scientists. Learning. New things you. Know seeing what the hard problems, are in some. Cases giving money to people to take on. Those. Very very hard problems, so. Knowing you have such a passion for education reform and you touched on MOOCs what's your vision. Of how MOOCs will, or will not transform, education there's been a lot of prophecies, about the doom of universities, as we know it and that mercifully, has not come to pass but. What are your thoughts about where MOOCs are going to fit in whether at the k-12 level or, at the the, higher level, well. Education. Is, essentially. A social construct. It's. Not that the universities, have secret, knowledge that only they have available. You, know I took these. Numbers, won't make any sense anymore but the hardest freshman math class was called math 55. I. Assume. It's not called that anymore, but. It was it, was a group of. As. A group of 80 people whose personal positioning, was they were the best person at math that, they had ever met so there were 79 frauds. One. Person. Who really was the the, best at math I ended, up the guy who came in first in the class is a lawyer in New York now the. Guy who came in second is a professor of chaos theory, Princeton. And. Then I came, in third, so. I knew okay Matt jeez that's. Interesting, anyway. I. Didn't. Take physics. 55. But. I read, the Fineman book and so if, you're motivated. Seriously. You don't have to take a course the Fineman book if you're hardcore just, read the final and book through the problems you want to learn to, do software read, the art of computer programming good. Luck doing the problems but you. Know anyone that's rated 30 or harder is like super. Hard to do and so. A MOOC in a sense, doesn't. Change what counts. You. Know it's always been in the textbook but, the percentage, of students who just buy textbooks and and read, them and know the subject is vanishingly. Small you. Kind of have to have this thing where a bunch of kids all come at the same time, and. You. Know if you don't study. You're gonna get a bad grade and your parents may not like that. You. Have to create all these social things, in order. For people to get into this mode of hyper. Concentrating. And actually. Understanding, why should, I concentrate, you. Know if I'm a high school student they put X's and Y's up on the board how.
Does That relate to my life now if you understood that being good at math lets you get a good job travel, the world you, might, say, okay it does relate, to me but that's a very, indirect. Thing and the kind of discipline, to. Care. About that. To concentrate. That's, what's missing and, so, MOOCs to the degree that it's easier, to take a MOOC than it is to read a textbook, yeah that's nice it's a little bit interactive there's, a video that's, part of the way I like the learning company like all their economics, there's a guy named Timothy Taylor who has five, courses on economics, I super, recommend, and. You. Learn to like him and his way of explaining things so a MOOC is a slightly, more digestible form, of learning. But it doesn't, take particularly. For somebody at a young age it, in no way changes, this question, of why, should people. Engage. In that learning and how do you create the environment and, the, sense of achievement and. The sense of capability. That, sitting, in there and you know looking at X's and Y's manipulating. Them seems. Like a smart, thing to do terrific. Insights well. Bill let me ask you to kind of reflect back to when you were the age of the folks in the room here 20, or so. With. The experience. That you've accumulated since, that time we've got a bunch of incredibly. Smart, ambitious, creative folks, in the room here we're, going to be the future doers. And makers, and influencers. What. Advice would you in part based upon your recollection, when you were sitting in this seat at that age. Well. I think it's if. Anything, a more interesting time to, be. Lucky, enough to be, a student Harvard. The. Ability. To take innovation. And solve. Problems, including. The class of problems I'll cloud inequity, problems, how do you, you. Know how low-income, students, do as well as high income students how do you go to Africa, and help, the health, and education take, the, incredible. Population. Growth that will be there and make that a positive asset, for, that continent, these are very tough problems, and, you. Know they've eluded. Being. Solved, so obviously. The. Easy, problems, are not the ones you'll you'll. Get to work on so, whether it's you. Know health costs. Or climate, change or, you. Know robots, that are, do. Good things and. Not bad, things. Or. The policies, around, those, things this. Is a fascinating, time to be alive. You. Know I don't, know what it'll be like 50, or 60 years now what the problems will be but in your generation. You. Know cancer. Infectious. Disease, so, many things will be solved and the, societal, framework, of how, you avoid polarization. And how you maintain trust. Those. Things will also need some brilliant. Breakthroughs. Terrific. Good I hope you're all inspired, I. Could, sit here and ask him questions all day but we've got some really inquisitive folks out here in the audience so I know Shirley has some questions let, me remind, you of some of the, Harvard ground rules here so. First of all introduce yourself, say what school or what concentration you're coming from second. Keep your question, brief, third. Make. It a question it's something that ends with a question mark as opposed to a statement okay we've got some mic runners we're going to go around and I'm going to start with this person, right here we, could get a mic. Halfway. Up right at the aisle there yeah. Thank. You very much mr. gates so. I'm a 303. L and Harvard Law School and my. Name is David oh I'm from, China so, I also went to a University of Washington, for my graduate studies I got my PhD there so, my question is uh so, universal Washington is a great public, school and you also you, and mr., Paul Allen helped us grow so much and I, but, it to. Be honest in, the u.s. the public schools have, a hard, time competing these private, schools especially, for undergraduate, study so, I wonder. How you see. This problem, and is there going to be any change in the future so, that's my question thank you very much. Yeah. Our foundation. Has. Two things that we work on one which, is global in nature's improving. Health and we now complement, that with. Agriculture. And a few other things and, then. Here in the US about, 20%. Of what we do is us education, so we did a thing called the Millennium Scholarship, which. Was 20,000. Diverse. Kids who got. Scholarships. But, a lot of what we do is try to be. The R&D funding, you, can look at industry, by industry you. Know pharmaceutical. Software, and say, okay, how much do they work on their next breakthrough, if. You hurry. Thought. Okay what are the returns to society you'd, probably want education, to have the highest R&D, percentage, in fact, it effectively has a zero percent Rd, you.
Know Public schools don't do Rd Department, of Education, essentially, doesn't there's a little bit of money, so we thought okay that's a market, failure a systems, failure we. Can go in, and. There's a professor. Here Tom Kane who we supported. A lot he, came, to us early on and said hey, there are some teachers are super good and if, you could just move people, the, average teacher, to, be, at. The, boundary of the top quartile, then. US education, would. Be as good as Singapore. Which is Singapore. Korean and Shanghai, are the three best in the world and so. That was very intriguing, so we went around and did, 20,000, hours of video of the. Really good teacher, and then we did 20,000 hours of the other teachers, and compared. And learned, a lot about how, good, teachers interact. They. Were way more interactive. With their class than, the others and we thought ok we'll put this online people. Will watch this they'll all learn how to teach like those people. Well. So far we haven't managed. To move the the needle on that in a big way but you, know we're working hard, there are very good schools. You, know maintenance schools that sort, of cheat by picking their student body there. Are charter schools that even in the inner city, some, of them like Kipp do extremely. Well by. Creating a culture and the cost of those schools is not as. High, as the. Nearby public, school which can often have 50 percent type. Dropout, rates so at the micro level it, feels like we, understand, some tactics, some. Of the tactics, involve the use of computers and software but that may that's less profound, than. You might think at the early grades because it's all about this motivational. Stuff. And just computerizing. It a little, bit in math you can, get. To somebody's level, and therefore they're feeling more positive feedback so that that. Is working, but that's not the. Whole equation, so, in. Education we're spending 800. Million a year and our. Goal which was to move the average quality of the US education up, into. That top 3 we. Have, no noticeable. Impact. After. Almost. 20. Years of working in that space but, we we're, committed we're going to keep, keep. Doing it frustratingly, inertial, system yeah so. There was a hand up here earlier the young lady and the black sweater. There black shirt. Hi. I'm. Danica Gutierrez I am a sophomore at the college studying, economics, and I'm, a Gates Millennium, scholar. And. I just. I. Just. Wanted to personally thank you for. Supporting, my education, and the ambitions of other students, like me and. My. Question for you is what. Is something that you regret doing or maybe not doing while you were here at Harvard thank. You. Um. Well. I wish I'd been more sociable. I. Think. They got rid of there were these things called men's, clubs, I think. This and I. Was. So.
Antisocial. I never would, have even known they existed, but Steve. Ballmer. Decided. I needed to have some exposure to I, guess, drinking. So. He got me punched for the Fox Club so I'd go to those. Events. And. That that was highly educational. But. That I think they shut them down or something cuz they couldn't. Cure they're sensitive, so anyway. I'm no I'm not trying it's. Fine. There's. Lots, of places to, drink. So. You. Know I wish I'd mixed around a bit. More. You. Know I just, it. Was a fun time though because. You. Know you had people around you could talk do 24, hours a day and. You. Know the classes, were so so, interesting, and they fed you I, lived. Up a career because she could get hamburger, and, for, every meal you, could have a ham for breakfast, or lunch for dinner and. The, the male-female, ratio was one-to-one which that, was an unusual, thing at. The time it didn't help me but. He's. A visual, improvement. For. Me so, yeah I wish I'd gotten to know more. People I was just. So. Into. Being. Good at the classes, and taking lots of, classes. It you know it worked out in, the, end. But. I missed a lot of well, I never went to a football game or a basketball game, or whatever. Other sports, teams Harvard. We. Might happen to have just a few right, so, maybe from this side of the room this time right over here. Hi. My. Name is Angelina, Yee I'm from Sycamore Illinois and, I'm a sophomore at the college. So. As. Someone. As famous. And, as like has. Done so much in society outside of your family I was wondering what something what, is something that you're most proud of and you feel like is your biggest accomplishment. Well. It in work, you. Know the saw the Microsoft. Work I'm very proud, of the magic of software and how. Software's, empowering people you. Know the foundation the fact that we, took a field, of helping. You. Know the poor countries, the developing, countries, really. Improve. Their health systems, in a dramatic way I'd say the statistic. That I'd be most proud of is that when. We got started there. Are 11, million children a year under, the age of 5 would die every year, and.
Now That number has. Been, cut more than in half so, it's little over 5 million now, and that's, because, we've. Gotten new vaccines, and drugs out in. You. Know India Africa all of these developing, countries and so you. Know having, it be. In. Half, that's. That's. Pretty amazing and we did not expect to do that, I thought. Improving. The u.s. education system would, be way easier than, that we're. On a path by 2030, to cut it in half again so it'll go to. Less than two and a half million, which, will mean that only. At. That point, only. About, two percent of children, will died before the age of five which. That's pretty incredible because, for. Variety factors it's hard even for a rich country to get much full of 1%, so it means the risk of death in a, poor country is only about a factor of 2 higher there, are a few places left in the world where, 15%, of the kids die. That's. Sort. Of central Africa including northern, Nigeria. Historically. Before medicine, came along that number was about 35%, no. Matter what your wealth was but then as countries. Got richer, you've got this huge gap, particularly. Because you had diseases like malaria that nobody. Once. The rich world solved, their malaria, problem then. There, was zero dollars, going, into it there was no market incentive, if it's, only very, poor people who have a disease so, and. You. Know so I hope that so, I feel good about where we are I hope that. We get polio done, we're very close, that, would be a big, day to have, polio be fully eradicated. And. You. Know then that would give the world the energy and hopefully, the. Commitment, to go get malaria which would be about a 20-year quest. And requires, a lot of breakthroughs. You. Know I I'm. Also you know you. Know trying to be a good parent which is harder, to measure and like, twice as good a parent as I was ten years ago, or, anything like that but I. Put. A lot of effort in into, that fantastic. Alright. How about in. The, middle of the back there yeah, exactly. Hi. My, name is Shanti, Scott Norman I am. An arts and education student. At the Graduate School of Education I'm. A middle school art teacher and. I. Commend. You for the work that you do in public education and. I'm, curious. To know about your thoughts on teacher pay especially, these days they. Don't think it I. Don't. Think education, public. Education is, going to get much better if, teachers. Don't get paid more. Yeah. Absolutely the. You. Know education, in the, u.s. the, way K through 12 is funded is very different, than the way higher, education, is funded so let me just talk about the. Biggest part which is the K through 12, the. We. Definitely, want, more. Resources, to go into, that sector but. At the state level the trends, unfortunately, are not favorable, because the. Amount of money that's raised at the state level as. A percentage of GDP, is is quite, flat often. Slightly down because they they, tax, goods and not services, and often fairly regressive, as you. Look at the demands. On that resource. Pool the. Pension. Costs, which have been approximately Mis, accounted, and the. Medical. Costs, which show up in the. Prison system current, employees retired employees, Medicaid, those.
Are All going up very, dramatically. And so, unless a state, is willing to increase, its. Tax level, what. Happens is first they start cutting, all the maintenance of everything, then. They start cutting the higher add piece, and so you've seen state university, tuitions. Triple. Over, the the last decade, and then, K, through 12 so priority but so many states have cut so much that they're, actually. In some cases cutting, it and you've, seen recently, to. Some teacher strikes, that, came out of the fact that they. Had. Quote reformed, the tax system had not have enough money to. Pay. For K. Through 12 and so, I'm hopeful, that the. Percentage. Of GDP, we put into the K through 12 system can go up but it won't go up by a factor of two you, know even if we raise taxes, in an appropriate, progressive, way. Because. Of those other liabilities, if, we. Were really smart we put another 20 or 30 percent in most of which would go to increase, salaries so that it's. Attractive, to be in that profession, it is a profession, that has an unusual salary structure, that, the younger, teachers, are. Relatively. Paid less than they, should anyway. And. You. Know so step, this is all decided. State. By state and, there's a factor of three variation. Massachusetts. Actually spends, a lot of money on K through 12 I wouldn't suggest it, needs, to spend more but, there's. Only about eight states that you can say that for. The rest of them are at about ten thousand per student per year and it's it's it's not enough as these, systems get squeezed right now what they're doing is they're, taking out a lot of elective activities, which, have extremely, high returns, relative to the amount of money put into them but you, know all the music. After school athletics. Those things get squeezed so the system actually is. When. You see a funding. Cut say, you see a negative 4%, cut your image should be that that system is working twenty percent worse.
Because. They're not actually, very wrapped, about, how. They do things but you know it's going to be a political, fight. Because. You. Know being pro tax. You. Know not many people you know I've been fighting for the estate tax to be bigger. And higher you know a higher percentage. And it's a lonely thing to be a pro tax. Person. Especially. Much my own. Outlier ears. About. The gentleman in the salmon, colored shirt there yes. Hi. My, name is Peter Jankowski, freshmen here at the college studying applied math and ran. Cisco I just, wanted to ask you if, you think there's a lack, of scientific. Literacy, in US politics right now and. If so how. Do you go about tackling, that challenge. Well. Definitely, there, are several topics. Like. Climate. Change or. Reducing. Medical costs. Or. Using. The. Latest techniques, to make food. Productivity. And nutrition, better, so-called GMO techniques, the. Understanding. Of that is very limited, but it's not just the politicians, if you take an issue like GMOs, and you, ask the general public or you ask about you know evolution. So. The electorate. The, problem is when you get issues, climate. Change be, maybe the best example where. The scientific, and understanding. Is fairly important, because. The sacrifices. Have to be made now, in, order, to get the benefits later. You. Know if you if the effect, of climate change your neighbor you, know you were seeing it today. You. Would it, would be politically, different, HIVs. Like that where you, get infected and you go almost eight years before you start to get sick so motivating. People to behave. So they protect themselves particularly, in a very poor country where your time horizon, that you think about trade-offs is much shorter than we. Would typically have and. You. Know it's so yes we you, know in the same way that. The, women's movement is doing a great job of identifying, candidates, and they have more candidates, we're gonna run for office. In. This, midterm election cycle. Than ever before, you. Know there's other attributes. Like being, good at managing things, and understanding, science and we don't need you, know half the politicians but, enough. And you. Know if they can specialize in push in those areas, so it's. The anti, science that's a problem, it's not there. Was a book that was written called physics, for future presidents, and, it's, great you. Know explains, why, fear. Of radiation is kind of insane and why, getting rid of gasoline, because it's winter and she dances, is a lot, harder than we, might think. So. You. Know we we need to push backs right now we're sort of in a dip, in terms of that, science. Being an argument for good, policies, so, can I pick it up on that for a minute and just say even with what, was happening in Washington, three, weeks ago four weeks ago with Mark Zuckerberg the. Question, of data privacy and technology, the kind of questions they're near and dear to your heart again. Seem to be something that is. Sorely lacking in, understanding. And experience, in the Congress how, do we, close, that gap I realize I'm not going to Train a bunch of computer scientists, to be. Elected officers but how, can we bridge the divide between the current state of knowledge and. What they really should know to do effective regulation. Well. The. They. There, are some very cutting-edge issues, that even if I think if we took this audience and say okay what do we think the, solutions. These problems are the ideas would be you. Know hundred times better than. Asking. The Congress, but the, boundary, is. Even, so though the boundary between hate, speech and free speech. Is. Super. Complicated, the, idea that people like to listen. To things that that are agreeable. To them even if they're not true that, reinforce, their biases, and that society. Is becoming more polarized, in terms of what we read where we live. And. The. Digital, tools are, sort. Of the ultimate accelerator. Of this. Lures Asian and. So. What do you do do you force people to. See things they disagree, with you know should Facebook sign up to the hey you know 25%. Of articles will piss you off, pledge. You, know so, that we're reading the same headlines, and that we can see that some of the facts are. Are. Not facts I think those are super. Tough things. It was, kind of nice for mark that at least a few of the questions were. Malformed. Enough they did get a little bit of a break. Refreshing. Way of looking at it but if we swing back here maybe down near the front with the HLS jacket. We. Get a mic right over down front in the middle here.
Hi. My name's Lawrence David I'm from Harvard Law School LLM, student from Canada, so. You've. Mentioned a few issues that are currently plaguing, American, society, whether its scientific illiteracy. Education. Things of that nature I. Know your foundation, focuses. A lot on improving. Educational, outcomes, what. Do you regard as the most significant, challenge, facing the United States today, and moving. Forwards in the coming decades. Well. You had to pick, one I'd say the quality the education, system I mean there's a country that has. Essentially. A credo of equal opportunity. More, than anything else and the. Only way you really execute. Equal. Opportunity, is by having a great, education, system there. Are a few other issues like staying. Out of wars would, be a good thing, and. Making. Sure that. Some. Negative, events, like a, pandemic. Either, naturally, caused or from, bioterrorism, that. Were, prepared. For. Those things which are fairly low probability. Things on no way I'm tomorrow. I give the thing called the Shattuck lecture which is about how, we should get organized, for pandemics. And it it, won't, take you, know 0.2%, of society's resources to. Be more ready. For. Those. Things so overall, I'm quite optimistic and my general framework is a, very, optimistic framework. You. Know the there's, a book by. Hans rosing, that just came out that I super. Recommend it's, called FAQ from us very easy to read that, kind of creates a framework okay of what problems have we solved and why. When asked questions. About the state of the world do. People. Pick the wrong answers, not, at a random level but a way. Worse than random. Level and actually university, professors, were the worst group they pulled. You. Know so they'd say like what's happened to poverty, in the, last 25. Years it's, you know gone up stayed the same been, cut in half four percent of university professors picked the right. Which is kind, of weird because you'd, think they. Would have this notion of okay this country did it well, I've seen what Vietnam, did I've seen what China did their, whole framework would, be in the frame of how time. Has. Improved things, so you, know we have the innovation on our side the. US has one problem that. It won't be as unique. A country, in the future, despite percent two people in terms of political power and scientific. Discovery, won't be as much at the center as the other ninety five percent which, is a good thing by. Most. Ways of looking at it but getting, us used to the fact that we're in a multilateral, world. Particularly. Given current, attitudes, is is, an adjustment, problem but education is if I out of wand. If. I don't want for the world I fix, malnutrition. And want for the u.s. I fix, education. How. About the gentleman sitting right. There yeah the, ground yes you. Can. We get a mic right over here. Hello. I'm. Michael Chang I'm a junior, at the college studying, physics and electrical engineering and, my. I admire, you because you did what you love you seized the right opportunities, and you, gave back to society when you succeeded, so. My question for you is. Besides. Dropping out of Harvard. What. Was what were some of the best things that you did looking back and what. At the time made you think of doing these things. Well. I've been you, know so lucky, in. Terms, of my progression. You. Know I had parents who. Read. A lot and came, and shared, even. At the dinner table like, my dad was working on lawsuits, and my mom was working on various. Social service, type, things and so, I had an exposure to that and. They. Gave me an arbitrary. Budget, to buy books so. I got to just. Just read a lot they sent me to a super nice school for, high school then they sent me into a super nice school for college.
And. You, know they basically. Paid for it so, it. The. Idea, that computers, were going to be a change agent you know I was lucky enough to meet Paul. Allen, and early. On we brainstormed. About this I did that ship and the, trip changed, the rules I mean most things don't get a million times better not, you. Know engine, efficiency or. You. Know most things have. Theoretical. Minimums, computation. Is something. That we're. Not even close to the theoretical minimum and yet we've, improved, so much so seeing that that was going to come and, weirdly. That. Most people didn't see that was going to come so you know even people at IBM were, still thinking in terms of big computers. You. Know now all the the. Software. And service turbine companies are worth even more than IBM, when, I was going up IBM, was the monolith, and it, was always okay are we going to beat him are we gonna join him those bastards. Actually. There were very nice people but we always thought of them and. They they sort of stood for these big computers, that only big companies and, governments could get the, benefit for so actually we played off of that happen, power, to the people personal. Computing, type, thing of course now we're a big company and somebody. Can play off of us. You. Know it's hard to say what the benches are I mean being, able to concentrate. On something, in an extreme, way you know is that nature, is it nurture. Maintaining. Curiosity, a lot of people lose curiosity. In their. 20s, or 30s so, if you hand them a big thick book they're, like what. Am. I gonna read that I used to tell everybody to read steven pinker but i think it which is if if you, want to it's the it's even. As an intellectual, framework even better than Rosling, but, I'm afraid a lot of people don't, make time, to. Read what's a fairly academic, and super, profound, both, better. Angels of our nature and, enlightenment. Now and then, you know I was born at a time where I can go out and learn, all these things and then. I have friends, you know if I'm trying to understand quantum computing, a lot. Of times I get confused, so, it helps to have friends who can come and say try. To straighten you out and it makes your willingness to try to learn something, even. Trying to understand poor Nadeau's which are this funny 3d thing you. Know having somebody could show me where the visualization. Was and okay what are the unique, conditions I don't think I would have done that if I didn't have a group of people, that had stayed in electric curious and that we had the, internet to kind of feed us. Access. To the the, latest thing so I think you know the time I was born, in. A meeting Paul seeing the microprocessor, the, idea. That a young person could start a company here, is a super. Nice thing because although. People at first are skeptical, as soon, as they realized their normal model of what I knew and what I could do that I didn't fit that normal, model, then they assumed I knew way more than I did and I could solve all sorts of problems I had no clue. You, know how to solve but you know it was nice that, people were kind of a gog that we had built this company and done these things from. A young age so I think the culture of America, that you know almost, the American, Dream type success story. Worked. Out and then you, know not being in Silicon Valley but not being far from Silicon. That. Ended, up I think working for. The company in a great way.
But. Way in the back there and gentlemen yeah right, there you still have your hand up yep you. Yeah. If you want to have impact. Usually. Delegation, is important. Although. You know individual, contributors, in terms of inventing, a drug or a new approach to things, that's. Phenomenal. So when Microsoft. First got started I wrote most of code and everybody. Else's code I read and kind of rewrote and. That. Got us up to ten people and then I had to say to myself okay we were gonna ship code that, I didn't, edit, and. That was hard for me but. I you know I kinda got over that then I still said okay I'm gonna interview everyone and I'm at least look at samples, of their code well that got us up to about forty people and, that. Was at a point where I had. Sold way more software, than we could write, because. Everybody was so impressed. And I, thought well, I need to keep enough collect, enough money to. You, know keep hiring all these people, but. The. Demand was so high that you, know we were actually falling. Behind that's when I hired Steve and, Steve. Figured. Out a. How. To control, what promises, I made to people and. B how to hire lots of people and good really good people, and create organizations. And teams so I delegated, to Steve that and he, was constantly saying to me okay we're, gonna hire programmers that you've never met and I'd say no or not and then he would. Show me numerically, that the. Constraint, wasn't gonna work. You, know so, then. I said okay then I would you know know, all the man interests of the people and so over time and. Of, course you. Know I could say the quality per person, was falling, monotonically. According. To me. But. You, know large problems. If. You want to know right the most popular. Office. Productivity, software that. One person, absolutely. Can't do that you can write pretty code so everyone. Has to decide, what. Scale, of organization. They want to work, in eventually. You, know my role was very much as a leader and, a reviewer of managers, but the top people and I hired some super, experienced people I would. Make sure they were pursuing, a common vision and they were well coordinated but. In terms of a lot, of management, stuff they, were way better than. I was and I had to have the framework to. Know what mix of skills that we needed and you, know when they were working well enough together. But, a lot of. You. Know my value. Adam was picking. Say. To do graphics, user interface or to do an integrated, office type. Thing or to go global and not, use agents, to have Microsoft be present all over the world and. So. Yeah picking, what you're good at and how you find the other people to, fill in those things that's super important and most founders, don't aren't, able to scale, that up and kind of give up the. Hands-on things that they used to get a lot of, pleasure. And comfort from careful. Balance by the way people are interested in seeing a piece, of code there's a piece of bills code from 1975. That adorns the wall and Maxwell Dworkin so, that, is a great piece of code. How. About over here in the the red sweater about half way up yeah. Hi. I'm. Venting, I'm a PhD student, in chemistry and. I. Really, admire your work your effort in training, improving. The education, overall so. I wonder, what is your general parenting. Philosophy. Say. If your daughter wants to drop out of college as, well. Mmm. Thank, you for. Example if your daughter wanted to drop out of college well. She my eldest, graduates, from Stanford in June so I'm, I'm optimistic. She. Won't follow in my footsteps. They. There's. A, group. Of writings that. All come under the heading love and logic. Which. Is my. Philosophy of parenting and it's basically. A view that. No. Matter what you say your. Kid will look, at how you deal, with the world and they'll, end up dealing with it like you do and so if you're calm, and predictable, you, set rules you, enforce, those rules in a non-emotional, very. Straightforward, way, then, their whole sense of the world the world is not chaotic the world can be predictable, they and if, they you, know behave in certain fashions, it'll, work. Out that way I was not raised that way, so. I decided, okay this is how I'm. Gonna. Do it so far so, good I have, to say I've, delegated 80%. Of not delegated, but my, wife does 80 percent of. And. She. Is way, better parent than I am she's not a perfect, love and logic, person so every once in a while a certain emotional. Will come into her tone that she, just looks at me and you know she knows I'm like hey can, you get. Rid of the emotion but you can totally, do it but that, there's some brilliant books, and online courses. About this I think, partnering was the word you were looking for yeah absolutely. About. Right here young, lady. So. Can we get a mic over. To. Well. When I was in high school I, thought. Hey I'm a good student and. Therefore. I should go be like a professor mathematics. And. Those. Are the hardest problems to solve and you. Know I like hard problems, and you.
Know There's a certain purity, to. It and, then. The computer came along and. It. Was actually. My. Original, partner Paul Allen, who said to me oh you, think you're so smart can you figure out this computer and, I, was like well yes I can and. You. Know it was very actually, then together he and I. Went. On this journey that. Even. When I was here at Harvard he, got a job when was out here and we were brainstorming and, then. Decided. That because. We saw in Harvard Square this first computer, of the microprocessor it was time to drop out and go really, build Microsoft, to be the first in. That business so you, know that idea of a being. An academic, to. Being a, CEO. Manager. Leader, type that sort of developed, over time even the idea that Microsoft, would be a big company I never. Would admit that to myself because I was always so into cost control, that, I always thought okay we'll double in size but, that's it, and. I didn't want to get ahead of myself. That I couldn't pay people someday, because. We had a lot of customers, that would go out of business and not pay us so that you know I didn't, want, to be well. Digital, equipment is an weighing or two companies I grew up you, know thinking those were godlike companies, and Wayne went bankrupt fairly, early on. Even. Though they had great, innovation, and later Dec essentially, goes, bankrupt and that that, was the coolest company ever and boom it's gone so. At least it does create a model that hey things are risky you better not miss a. Turn. In the road, then. You. Know as Microsoft, was becoming super successful, the, idea of okay what am I going to do with this money. You. Know I could spend a little bit on myself. You, know and I could give some, to kids and you know make sure they got a good education whatever, but, it's a percentage, even, the max and under those two outlets, you, know became tiny, and so, then, it was ok what do philanthropist. Do and, studying. Rockefeller. And all. Sorts, of people who done all that stuff I thought, oh well this is interesting, are there research, topics. That. Aren't, getting enough money and that's, where I started to learn about global health and realized that like, malaria, nobody, was putting any money into malaria the US Army historically, had put money in because troops were exposed to malaria but, then they got these drugs, prophylactic. Drugs like math laQuan Laurium, larium ah and so, they didn't need to put him for money into it and so. Our first 30 million we, became the biggest funder, in a disease that kills a million children a year at that at, that time we're, down to 400,000, now. So it, was a progression. You. Know meeting, working. With Paul Allen and high school working with Steve Ballmer at Microsoft, then, meeting. And marrying Melinda, each of those you. Know were very. Very important, in getting my mind you. Know shaping. Whatever. Abilities. I have toward something worthwhile. Terrific. Well I know the hour is almost up we've got time for one more question how about the gentlemen here in the white shirt yeah. Hi. Thank you Bill for coming, I really appreciate your letter to. The. Annual letter I literally forgot the name okay well. Anyway my name is Jerry I'm a freshman, at the college studying, stem cell biology and my, question to you is if, you suddenly found yourself to, be say, a sophomore in college at, Harvard what, do you think you would study, and how do you think you spend, your time engaging activities. Well. The thing that you're likely to be world-class at, is, whatever. You obsessed, over from say age 12, to 18. You. Know in my case it was writing software. Where. I would think I was good and then I would meet somebody who would tell me I wasn't and I would, look at their code, and I went through four, sort of comeuppance --is of oh, that's, what a really good programmer looks like and part, of the reason I worship Digital Equipment was eventually. It was a couple of their very best programmers. Who, came and shared with me how they thought about how they did thing and I had studied their code and and. That, and there there. Were several people who are so, key am, i doing that so today I, would, go into you. Know software, which today that means going into artificial, intelligence, you, know. Computers still can't read they. They. Cannot, take a book, of information. And say. Pass an AP, test on that, book and that's. A solvable problem but, it's a knowledge representation, problem. And, you. Know I've always want me to solve that problem I'm, jealous, that maybe, one of you gets to work, on that I'm you know unlikely, to go back and be hands-on. In that in that way but, it's the juiciest, problem ever, I've thought about it for a long time, so.
I I would go into AI. Well. Bill it has been a privilege, to have you here for the hour please, join me in thanking bill. -. Grizzled anytime. Thank, You Randy. Good. Luck good luck on your finals. You. Have to send it to me side alright, thank. You.