Bill Gates - 'Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates'


Hi everyone and thank you for tuning into of the two hundred ninety seventh episode of awards chatter the hollywood reporter's awards podcast. I'm the host scott feinberg and my guest today is one of the most significant figures of our time a man who was instrumental in the creation of computer software changing the way we all live our lives and who is not only one of the richest men in the world but also one of the greatest philanthropists philanthropists of all time the principal founder of microsoft and the co founder and co chair of the bill and melinda gates foundation which is the largest private philanthropic foundation in the history of the world bill gates over the course of our conversation at the element fifty two resort and tell your colorado where davis guggenheim's netflix docu series he's inside bills brain decoding bill gates had its world premiere the sixty three year old and i discussed how he along with his childhood pal the late paul allen i got into computers and software in the first place and ended up creating microsoft in nineteen seventy five what prompted him and his wife melinda to create their foundation in two thousand and and along with warren buffett signed the giving pledge in two thousand ten why for inside bills brain he agreed to be a central part of a film for the first time and and what he hopes people will learn from checking out the three part docu series which will hit netflix on september twentieth plus much more including big picture questions. You have to ask someone someone as smart as bill gates if you get the chance like. Is there a god what is the biggest threat facing the world today and how would the world be different. If bill gates had never developed often interest in computers the first i was joined at the same element fifty two resort until you're by davis guggenheim the documentary filmmaker best known for his oscar winning two thousand six documentary an inconvenient truth to discuss his own remarkable life and career and what it was like making inside bills brain with bill gates davis. Thank you so much for it down. This great to have you on podcast wanted to begin by noting that you're part of a very small club of families with multigeneration multiple generations of people who have won oscars for documentaries. I want to ask you you know for people who may not know what was was it like growing up the son of charles guggenheim in high who was a great duck ner nikolas on rate. Thank you for asking about him. He was my father was a great father. Forget all accomplishment was just a lovely good did decent man. I loved him so much. He also wrote his bike. We lived in washington d._c. Whereas bike debt tope georgetown and may bubis for fifty five years and it's fun to brag about your father so he he won four kademi awards it was nominated. I think eleven times it might've been twelve it made all these great social justice movies and really taught me the core of what i know how to do from a very early age you would go along with them to suffer right yeah. So what am i released. Memories was being on robert kennedy's presidential campaign plane documenting yet. I was five years old. I was just like what is going on. This is is incredible. This is like a circus. I want to be part of the circus. I didn't know what so making less but and then i remember weeks later when my father got the call that bobby kennedy was killed the first time i ever saw my father cry and how old were you most five so i and that was really a short period of time but they were close and my father really really believed in him so it's interesting. A lot of people don't want to do exactly what their parents did and in fact i think there was some of you admire your father clearly but you did not want to do the exact same thing so it's kind of interesting. I guess you you knew you wanted to be in this film making world but not on the same end end of him. I remember senior in college doing the math and going <hes>. There's no room for documentaries anymore. The great great ones have already passed petty baker who just actually got a couple of weeks ago. Who is here to be the mazel. Ken burns was just starting to do great work and i was like there's no room for me. I'm gonna take my volkswagen. Jetta drive to l._a. And make it in hollywood. I'm never going. I don't know what i'm going to do but i'm never gonna make documentaries so so added episodic tv become your thing for a while that it desperation i'd work for a producer named bobby numer in the first movie. We made a sexism tape. <unk> is around steven soderbergh in that movie. I didn't do very much but and i really wanted to be an independent film director but it was hard art and i made some short films and finally got work directing television which i sort of disdain for i thought was you know the j._v. The <hes> directing but it turned out to be really great turned out to be one of the most exciting things i ever did and i learned a lot when you're aigdirect. Different shows like e._r. In my p._d. Blue i was sort of a protege of david milch nasty about that. We did dave deadwood together so i learned a lot about storytelling through directing television and good and bad television send this was over a number of years a lot of great shows also i know twenty four alias jason shield and all kinds of stuff and i don't want to overstate that i was most cases against director so on for instance e r the republi probably twenty two episodes that you're twenty four and i was one of the twenty directors and to be that guy gun for hire the experience but for you throughout that whole period the holy grail was still feature films if you could direct a feature film <hes> it's actually a narrative feature film. That would be great right. That was what i was heading towards. The plan was found the script developed it. I took it to warner brothers and sold it says early script for training day. Yes i knew you're heading in this direction yeah and and really had a great plan for it was gonna in my mind. It was going to be like a new version of the french connection really hard edged tough cop movie but a character study and i had a really a good plan for the long story short. I fought really hard to get denzel washington in it did not want him. They wanted to white actor. They wanted kurt russell. <hes> clint eastwood and i fought for denzel washington. We got denzel washington. Say yes i needed was fire me. That's insane. What did he know that you were the guy it was the reason he was there. I still have never met denzel so i don't know they probably don't want it was it was very surprising laughing about it. Now i was devastating at the time. It really threw me for a loop. I was sort of i was very depressed for several years but now i look back and think what a great piece of fortune because sorta sent me back towards documentaries and back towards the things that i wanted to do was the first kind important thing for you with documentaries the first year her it was can you tell people a little bit about with that how you got into that and and what it's about because in a way medically there's a i think a string bring that runs through all your ducks. Maybe we'll start with that. It's interesting like if you really want to go to the core of it my fantasy still we always have this if i could in some people say i'd love to pitch baseball or i'd like to be a quarterback for the you know like <hes>. My fantasies always is to teach american history really not that. I'd be any good at that but i don't know maybe that's one of my favorite teachers. This was a american history teacher and during that time after fired from train to and it was weird because warner brothers was really good to me and then when when denzel fired me they all turned on me like i was persona non grata there. It wasn't just that i got fired but that was all the work i had done on previous film there that couldn't get arrested so i spent a lot of time just reading and and i started becoming namur by these young people who became first year teachers. A lot of them are teach for america. I said you know fuck hollywood if i don't know if i can you know screw it. I'm gonna just do what i'm gonna do. I'm gonna follow what i love and so i followed a little camera. I'm holding in my hands right now. It's like ten inches yeah. It was a pro sumer shitty little mini devi camera and i went down and drove to these schools. One was an east l._a. One was in watts. One was in compton was in santa monica and their fire. I can't remember missing <hes> and i followed these teachers from the very first day very first teaching all the way through their first year and then move is a documentary called the first year. Yes just a random question. Was your father around long enough to see you get into documentaries. It was only film my father ever solve mine and there was one screening back east of this movie the first year i remember in the middle of movie go to the bathroom and coming back out and i and i realized that he was he had left his seat was in the back watching watching kind of like pacing a dad on the sidelines of a soccer game and he was i can watch him watch the movie made and it was and he loved it and he was so proud and proud sounds cliche. He was just he just really appreciated that his son and done that so it was it was it was nice. It was very very different from the film that he would have made so he was seeing me. Find my voice be the beginning of me finding my voice as a director so is it ah purely coincidental or is there a reason in your mind why almost all of your ducks share the theme of education. I just want to mention the first year an inconvenient truth of course for which you when your oscar and we're so ahead of a lot of other people on identifying climate changes as an issue and falling or doing the same but waiting for superman about charter schools he named me malala which premiered hair years ago open the festival and the list goes on before you answer that question i it just i wonder if a factor in that might be you know. I'd read and one thing that you said you had in. Probably i don't know if it ever goes woodhead dyslexia and there were there was at least one teacher who was not nice about that and maybe that made you. I don't know something about your own education. That would make you gravitate towards learning about other you take it away first of all appreciate. You actually read up on me before for the interview. It's so nice. Some interviews are so superficial and this is really nice to go deep and thank you for taking the time yeah. I was not a good student. I got report card saying he's he's really bright but he's lazy and more often. He's a class. Clown is not doesn't apply himself and i had a shitty time in school. I end of the day. I graduate from college. It was like you know like chains were taken off but but <hes> i really appreciate the teachers that helped me. It was like these are lifelines and that they saw that there was something in me that was worth teaching. Even though on every indication turns a grades in terms of testing in terms of everything else and i could see what magic teacher could do. I guess it certainly the extends into this latest. Great docu series hair about bill gates because i mean education has been a i think a priority of of his among the many other philanthropic things but i guess let's start with the obvious question. Just it sounds almost funny. How does one just cross paths with bill gates to begin with walk through education and i was making waiting for superman which is about public schools and you said that about charters which i want no no no no and it's it's the popular you're perception that it's about charter schools and that's one of the one of the problems with the issue in one of the problems with how that film is perceived but you can tell it's a pet peeve but i wanted to interview someone from the business world to talk about how the failing of public education in so many places affected affected business and how does it affect our economy and so i asked if i could interview bill and it was an incredible interview in he surprised is me in that interview imagine most people think super bright dia codes all the time but i didn't expect him to be thoughtful about it and an offer like really deep insight into and so we kept the conversation going he came to many more screenings of waiting for superman and we have many many long nights talking last night. We did it here entire night for like three hours with terror westover who wrote the book educating. We were digging deep into why what's happened to the american. Middle classic happened to in public education. You know do even call them. Charter schools anymore and i just love those conversation that was like i need to do a series about bill because breath. I don't think people understand him the way i do now but he'd never to my knowledge done anything like this so how did you do you know why that was and how did you get him to get past that. Ah i want him a long letter describing my intentions and my process i mean process is different from a lot of people. I always feel like when i make a documentary sorry. I always say that we're making the film together. A lot of documentaries would bristle at that. They'd say that you're you're. You're surrendering your hegarty but i did that with al gore gorge that with malala and other people jimmy page from led zeppelin and i love that i love when they feel like you're making something together are you can go deep and they're expressing themselves. Almost you're helping them express themselves. Was it at all a concern of yours that he is a guy who for for whatever reasons we all have the reasons we the way we are just doesn't show a lot of emotion in any way most of the time i mean in your film. I think we see more of it than we've ever seen. Maybe before but like is it hard to make a film about somebody who's kind of halted close to the vest. It's not called inside bills heart right. That's the theory is called inside bills brain rain right and what i learned is it's very easy to spend time with them and say oh he he doesn't have emotion but actually when you get to know him better you realize he has a lot of promotion and melinda will tell you when they're in movies together. The kids will look over and they'll see that bills crying. He's the first to cry. He doesn't displays emotional lot in his brain is so dominant and powerful that sort of leads the way but i think a lot of the things he's doing. It sounds kind of cliche kind of flippant but he saved millions of children children by bringing vaccines vaccines at our children. Have it's so simple vaccines that our children get as routine. He's brought them to third world countries and and may millions of children are alive because of what melinda and bill do that's led by a passion it begins with a passion and then it's led by this incredible brain that just wants to get it right where other sort of smaller groups are super passionate and they want to. They want to hit this one village. They want to do and he's like no. I want to be effective. I want to get it done i want to i want to change the systems in place to make this happen. That's what's so exciting about him but it's very easy to think that he's not emotional and he actually really is one of the ways. It seems that you got him to open up a little bit more than usual. I don't know if this who's deliberate or just the way to sort of keep things visually different but it seems like you're often asking him questions when he's doing other things like playing tennis or walking or whatever was that because you found that he kind of opens up more when he's got a multitasker. What was that act to be careful with them because if it's like pressing play on three hour d._v._d. Where you could say you know so. Tell me what the what the latest reactors like. I did it last night. It's like it's a prototype of the new reactor half size or a quarter size and then he goes on a thirty minute tear about the specific built and i'm like no like i just lost thirty min- eh and that's no that's no disrespect to him. I mean he just that's how it works so i found that when he moved when he's moving and melinda said this when he's super passionate about something he paces around and you'll see it like so i designed these walks together we've loops because i need to steady cam cameras follow us and after fifteen minutes they can't care the camry more so we had three steady cam units so taking would come around we do laps and no one would see the difference and he wouldn't easy that everywhere but to be behind us and just sort of wandering talk. It pulled out a side of him that i don't think most people see right it worked really well and then rapid rapid fire questioning as we as he was playing tennis that was great. You know where he started singing the camp song from his childhood camp which was super surprising yeah so like it did it did pull out in it's sort of turned off his the process of doing interviews in the process of getting the moves or turned off his multi-processor last question good. What is it that you hope people who tune in for these three parts of <hes>. It's interesting. I don't know if you've never done a docu series as opposed to the documentary feature. I didn't think so so many that comes away outlets like typically you go on netflix bench something they'll finish these. What do you want them to leave it thinking or doing differently. I hope people get it's a great question and something. I don't really think about a lot but i get my first answer. Is i hope people capture a little bit of what i feel when i'm around bill and what i feel when i'm around bill is that the chaos and the noise and the confusion that i feel every day when i read the paper about the world's most intractable problems which sort of bring me down and make me feel like an even more more so now than ten years ago that the that these things are just so hard and so impossible and why even try when you're around bill you go okay. There's some really smart taking about these things and he sees his ability to be dispassionate and turn off his passion and see things in a much more simple apple and rational way gives me as a an incredible optimism the way he talks about climate change which i can get really dark about. The way seems about politics. You know i feel better when i'm around bill because of the way the work he's doing and there aren't many people like him or her doing what he's doing so. I hope they watch it. They feel that way. Thanks for a cool. It's really fun to talk with you this one and now from my conversation with the matt himself bill gates. Thank you so much for doing this honor to have you on the podcast. We begin every every episode with just a few basics. Where were you born and raised in. What did your folks do for a living. I was born in seattle washington. In the united states. My mom mom taught school for a while but then did a lot of volunteer and board work and my dad had a good sized law firm and growing up kids tend to classify jocks. There's the nerds. There's whatever the band kid if we found kids that you grew up with today and asked what do you remember about without beleza kid. How would they describe. You certainly buying aids thirteen. I was sort of an extreme nerd man. Science computers just were just coming along and i got a chance to be very early there but i had very one hundred percent nerd position. Can you sure i mean it's a it's a famous story but just in case. There's somebody out there who doesn't know what happened when you're thirteen seventh grade and for the first time you're exposed to to a computer i think kids today for instance might not even be able to conceive that visually look like or how that worked. I still have a hard time grasping. How how you sat down and figured out how to operate it but i wonder if you could just set the scene. A little bit computers use to be unbelievably expensive and so our school was lucky enough that we got my think about five thousand dollars to have a terminal that over phone line could call in and you could write programs programs in this basic language but they were charging you so few messed up your program. You could spend a lot of money. Few teachers came in in had bad experiences. They disappeared so few kids decide okay. We're going to figure this thing out. I had done very well on the national math exams so the people talked me into oh you think you can help come and try and help us figure this thing out and four of us went nuts over it ended up teaching the programming programming courses and later using the computer to actually do all the highschool scheduling deciding when the classes i mean who wouldn't be what classes and that started myself from paul allen on this journey of realizing the magic of software and when he saw that the microprocessor would make it super cheap saying oh my god this is going to create a personal computer and that will be magical paul was was two years older than you and i know you've talked about in the docu series physically very much bigger guy and all of that. Why do you think you took a liking to each other where we were both intensely curious and i had excess energy and when he would say hey can a new figure this out that would get me to think about it day and night he read massively he was on showed me and let chronic magazine. The more i talked about intel corporation with this chip that could hardly do anything but the idea that would double empower every year we could do the math <unk> out and say okay it. Will you know in three or four years be able to do more than a mini computer which was fairly expensive computer at the time and we we thought hey we need to be in on this revolution in and then when i went off to harvard paul action back to boston to keep bugging me me was now the time to go start a company and he wanted to do a personal computer combined commencing. We should just do the software piece and and that became microsoft in nineteen seventy five by drop out of school we moved to where our first customer was and start hiring people for microsoft micra soft just in case there are listeners who are sort of less literate about tech software. Can you just describe why it was so revolutionary the idea of that because in terms of getting your computer to do anything before there was microsoft windows and all of that it was a totally different ballgame right right so there's very a few computers in the world like less than a million and they're expensive and they're mostly used for big organizational things like printing out bills or are figuring out how to make weapons and toews. Their computers are becoming pervasive. The question is okay. Who's going to write the software software. It was always kind of an afterthought i._b._m. Even charge for the idea that it would become limiting factor that was something that we saw and we saw there would be software standards like what became microsoft windows what became microsoft office fifteen years after we started down that path then people in today the oh there are software companies and software is actually worth something nat now wasn't understood that the instructions would be a key part of this whole personal computing phenomenon and even things like the the idea of a mouse or having applications to click or any of that it was that came along because of you guys yeah the actual foundational work company company called xerox which had made money selling copying machines they did a research center and palo alto in a lot of companies particularly apple apple and microsoft saw this kind of graphical mouse driven approach and apple macintosh and microsoft windows took that and really made it work and got thousands and thousands of application. Now we kind of take it for granted. I wanna go backwards for one second. Because before you graduate made from high school and went off to harvard you and paul allen actually had another company before microsoft's and i wonder you know this is just sort of cool bit of trivia for listeners. Here's what was the first attempt at a business venture together well so the early chip than intimate was called the eight zero zero eight and paul said to me could right right this basic computer language and i said no way that ship is not good enough. It wasn't until nineteen seventy four eighty that i could do that but we had this other goofy application where the rubber hoses you put out on the road that count the number of cars people want that data put into a graphical form and so we underbid everybody by building a an eight zero eight machine i wrote all the software for we could read those tapes and print out those graphs and you're seventeen years old <hes> actually we started this one. I was fourteen conceived of it in fifteen when we really started making money now seventeen when i left to go to harvard rock and traffic made us like thirty thousand dollars so to us at the time. It seemed like a lot of a lot of money so you did very well on your s._a._t.'s. He's i think we if i can show off for fifteen ninety. I heard is pretty incredible and you go to harvard and there during your freshman year at at the end of the same hallway i gather is somebody else who would be an important part of your life by sophomore year i meet st bomber and he's these super energetic also kind of likes math and physics and so he and i become very good friends. Although he stays he's harvard. Actually graduates starts goes to proctor and gamble for a little bit and starts at stanford business school then i'm running microsoft soft and i just hired a bunch of engineers. I haven't really hired other skill sets in. I've kind of over committed the company. We're not super well organized so i decided i really need steve. It wasn't easy but i convinced him to drop out of stanford business school and he's the first person to really try and help us shape how we hire lots of people in how we organize and he becomes a central partner in scaling up microsoft and you talk about the establishment of microsoft the idea of having this company which you know. There's a listener who doesn't know why it's called microsoft initially in that first year with hyphen. Why is it called microsoft. Yes so these new computers were on a chip. They were called microcomputers and we were the company that was writing the software off where four the microcomputers and we wanted to have a big company so we didn't want to name gates and allen or something goofy like that. We wanted to have like almost an i._b._m. Type name that might be something really tag antique there and so the name we picked with microsoft and the reason you had to pick ekka name and the reason the company was really kind of away forced into existence. Was you said you could do something before you knew for sure that you could do it right that when this call from albuquerque comes in right yeah when the eighty eighty chip comes out it's clear that's better than the mini computers and so it's easy to write a basic for it and then you know we're kind of back in boston and thinking jeez. What should we do well then the kit. Computer comes out on the cover of popular magazine actually on the stand december nineteen seventy four cover in nineteen seventy five and it's cold boss and we're kind of that's like oh my god. We better get going the revolutions going to happen without us right. That's when we call them up and say hey. We're writing basic. Tell us a few more details about your thing and they they treated like yeah. A lot of goofy people are calling up but then a few weeks later we call it. We asked extremely detailed data about how you get print characters and type characters in because we were literally making the tape so the polka flout and demonstrated to them and we were the first people they didn't even know the answer they were like oh you must be serious and then he took it out and it worked the first time which was kind of miraculous because we had to be very careful to make that work and then this kit computer company the very first personal a computer company became our customer. Yes one of the things that is particularly amazing and i was watching it. He's thinking about this. Is that right from the beginning ginning. It seems you and paul said that your vision was a computer on every desk and in every home but this was at a time just to remind listeners here's when most of these computers were the size of refrigerator. So how was that even something that you could fathom. What were you thinking that would look like well. The people who make the chips that has put more and more transistors onto that chip were on an improvement rate which has been deemed moore's law gordon lord more predicted it which they would double every couple of years and so paul and i knew the power of those chips would let them be very very cheap and very inexpensive and if we did the software got other companies to do the software then it would be a powerful individual tool that not seem crazy to a lot of people even the existing computer companies kind of thought that such a fringe idea on california there were a few other people who believed in this idea and it almost got tied up with the political power to the people the big companies wouldn't be the ones with with these computers oppressing you sending you these bills that were wrong. You'd have computers in individual that would kind of empower small groups of people people so there was a lot of activity on the west coast about this idea of personal computing. I think early on in the existence of the company there was is a very important lesson. That seems like it's never been far from front of mine. Which is what happened with i._b._m. And you guys were in a way centrally involved dealt with this in one thousand nine hundred eighty. I think it would be fair to say that i._b._m. Was probably as a company in terms of size and dominance and whatever not that different different from microsoft today right just dominant more dominant. More dominant was the way fatal decision for them. That was also the beginning of love your guys going on a huge run. They were a big hardware company that made their money by selling to big businesses in a very tops ops down way they did decide. They had a lab that didn't have much to do because it's product had failed and they told him hey twenty. Do something quickly why you try to do. One of these personal computers in the labs idea was dependent on intel chip and microsoft for the software and so they became a licensee a customer and a really great machine. The ibm personal computer was put together in launched in one thousand nine hundred eighty one then there was a question would i._b._m. Continue to work with us or they would just do their homework well. They weren't very good at software. They didn't really see the power the personal computer and they they made so much money off of these big customers that the culture was a sales culture and so this kind kind of crept up on them they had a division that did this work but then it became so competitive and didn't run their skill sets that eventually they left the personal computer industry but our relationship with them and managing that was key in the one thousand nine hundred ninety s to microsoft act emerging as the top software company was because it was essentially correct me if obviously this is wrong but my understanding was that you guys gave gave up the possibility of royalties for your product on i._b._m. Computers in return for being able to market elsewhere which was the greatest thing that ever happened in a way yeah the early stopped. We didn't require royalty for that. Base level software and we were thinking a lot about how the i._b._m. Relationship would evolve i._b._m. Is still there. You know it's a company that sells to big enterprises but now there's more software centric companies apple amazon. Google microsoft are way more valuables so you know that original donald dream of the centrality of software and that we could even manage to become bigger than i._b._m. That's our youthful. Dream became reality just a couple more questions about the rise of microsoft because i think it's important to set the scene for how you were able to do such great philanthropic throughout the work in more recent years but i mean the company went public in eighty six after a gift shortly after the first window system. It seems like it was windows. Ninety five that took it to a totally different level why was that product so game changing but the screen of a personal computer just just had these characters on it because wasn't fast enough to kind of draw graphical pictures but it's the chip got better. We saw that the pioneering work back at xerox of this graphical approach was becoming possible and at the same time apple was seen that so they did the macintosh kentucky we did windows round on p._c.'s actually took a long time to catch on that were early versions but the version in one thousand nine hundred five called windows ninety five and a lot of the applications applications we did people realized okay. The graphical approach is the right approach and it just wiped out the previous way of interacting with the machine microsoft. Hi chris up to done both the macintosh and for windows really great software word processing spreadsheet presentation software that overall overall now we call office we went from being slightly the largest of all the microcomputer software companies to by two thousand one john. We are way bigger than anyone else you know subsequently ecorse these other becomes come along but we reach our sort of peak of industry industry's share in the late nineties early. Two thousand being able to create software is one amazing skill set being able to run. A large company is i would imagine a totally different one. You've now had this massive company. It was big before but this is getting bigger bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger with a learning curve. Was that for you well. I enjoyed figuring out how we scale up in. How do you do business around the world. How do you build a sales sales force you know how do you build a brand around it. I was able because of our success to higher end people and they they saw that it was a growing field field and so the teams we built all over the world in a help drive that success and i enjoyed enjoyed being the c._e._o. Until two thousand i've c._e._o. Then i wanted to focus more on the products and so i had st bomber take over for me in that role but he and i together there was a real learning curve of bringing in experienced people and dealing with a lot more than just writing code yeah well you mentioned you stepped down as ceo january two thousand and since then i think just an increasing part of your focus as consistently increasingly been been philanthropy and i guess i want to set the scene for this topic by just asking you. When did you first feel yourself wealthy and when did did you then i feel a responsibility to share that wealth with people less fortunate when my parents were very community oriented volunteered watt and wanted to sort of spread that idea to their kids when microsoft's public nineteen ninety-six i already we have on paper in kind of a ridiculous amount of money was like three or four hundred million and then it's the company grew that caught larger and larger. Here's the question of how would i give that back to society got me studying all the history of philanthropy and funding scientific discovery. What did rockefeller foundation doing how or an agriculture and there are some amazing exemplars and i didn't really get time for that somewhat part time in the nineties. I started doing some gifts and my dad would help without the year. Two thousand was when i made it very large gift in the foundation became the largest and started spending over a billion dollars a year at that point. It's gone a lot you know. Now we're up to over six billion liam dollars a year but i got part time to help see that process and then in two thousand eight. I chose to stop working fulltime but microsoft just work part time there and make the foundation. My fulltime focused because we've gotten up to a scale. The work was super interesting super impactful. The global global health stuff is going very very well and i could see that i could have a lot of impact by being there fulltime will and i think we you should know it's not like it only started with the bill and melinda gates foundation in two thousand because there was the william h gates foundation back as far as ninety four but the other the big thing that i think happened even more recently as we see in the docu series are close friends with warren buffett and together with your wife and warren buffett you all signed and this giving pledge in two thousand ten. Why is that a model that i get the sense you encourage other very wealthy people to sign onto as well but there's a question that if you gain wealth of any scale but particularly of a large scale how do you go about philanthropy and it's going to be very different than some profit oranje in business where you have clear market feedback. You're going to be taking on problems where there aren't market signals else things like income mobility or mental illness or quality the education system and it's hard to get going into philanthropist burstow. Do you learn do you hire staff. Which province should work on are are there are people out there too clever with and so as warren warren buffett and melinda and i were doing more and more plant be those are the three trustees the foundation we ended up getting together with other philanthropists us people like george soros oprah winfrey alight growed in her twenty or thirty who were doing lot asking them. How did they learn what inspired hired them. And what should we do. Draw more people in because our view is the plant be even though it's no substitute for government of the private sector there are are problems that even though flam to be is a small percentage of the economy that it's unique being able to go after like even an educational innovation fund some new ideas that when they work could improve the entire system and so the idea that people were sure spot philanthropy should make a public pledge and get together and talk to each other talk about what's hard how to make it impactful enjoyable that became the giving pledge and that's been a phenomenal success. We have over two hundred people and i spend a bit of time recruiting people in because i think it helps them do better philanthropy and do it sooner you mentioned the challenge of figuring out where to direct philanthropy at the beginning where you know what are there so many people that and organizations that need help. What do you want to focus on. It seems like when you you stop working fulltime microsoft and began traveling more with your wife often to poor countries those issues again to become undeniable to you the some of the things that you've taken on at the foundation that other organizations other governments people just have sort sort of avoided just to give a little taste of what's in the series wire whether it's sanitation issues or vaccinations for in in some of these third world countries. Why did those become your top priorities. Well the impact you can have per dollar import. Our country is kind of mind blowing. You have children over twenty percent of the children under the age of five in some countries and there are cheap vaccine's. If you get them out you can drop that very dramatically now. We're not loading that governments are involved in getting organized around these new tools and how you you do a better job getting them out. Since two thousand we've gone from mm over ten million children dying every year to under five million and everybody involved including the governments and the foundation keys should be energized by that. We have a plan by working together to get from five million down to two and a half million by twenty thirty so that's gone way ed better than we expected and saving lives for literally hundreds of dollars. There are very important things like improving education russian that we give to in the united states but you're you're not going to have that that same impact all right one of the things that i know it was important to you is to measure how effective different constantly measure how effective these tactics are are. They working at achieving what you set out to do. Can you share some of the ways that you evaluate how often you evaluate progress well. The the number of children dying was known pretty roughly but if you got into a country or try to figure out which disease it was even that data was pretty weak and in the private sector the idea of okay. How many my selling how many's might competitor selling you can't take for granted that you're making decisions. Susan based on a lot of data we had to help a partner create this global burden of disease to gather the data and and really figure out okay how much was diarrhea or was it going up or down in various countries so now we have this amazing international health metrics and evaluation relation that every year updates that so we can see what's going well. What's not going well so the measurement piece is often the the first thing you need to put in place so that you're able to get feedback into that system and say okay. Why is this country doing so well compared. Did this other country or why is this. Disease is a big part of the problem. Why why don't we have a vaccine or a drug that can help us with that problem right so why has it taken until inside bills brain to coating bill gates this new series on f._o._x. Why is it taking until now for you to agree to cooperate with a substantial documentary about your life. I kind of wondered in the back of my head. If there was anything related to the the death of steve jobs or the illness and eventual death of paul allen that made you think more about sort of big picture or legacy or anything like that in in terms of just not putting it off any longer well in this movie is not a biography of bill gates it captures although it does go back walk in and go through my key relationships in a really great way but it's capturing is that i'm working on these risky problems that wouldn't get this kind of attention unless i pick them so like super-safe super cheap nuclear power source worth to help of climate change or the sophistication to take polio eradication which wasn't succeeding and improve it so would succeed and then the idea of reinvented toilet yes and so you don davis clocked okay. How did i recruit people what kind of expertise and each one of these cases. It really still could fail. It could be three out of three. I i am close to a tom bias. I think meaningful chance success in each of the three <hes> particularly polio because we have so many great partners there but you get a sense of why i picked these dealing with setbacks building teams you know these are things that come that i learned broadly and microsoft microsoft but when it has to do with african countries and biology ipad a switch in a my understanding of the systems where i go in and drawn ron expertise you get a strong sense of how warren buffett's been a huge partner and influence my wife melinda is my equal call partner and all this work that we do cheap brings unique skills that help compliment my skills. Although we have a lot a lot of common skills so it's not you know the history of thing i mean it's not like fog of war or something where you're trying to reflect on somebody's entire life thirty years from now. I'll call davison say okay. Let's do biographical one now and hopefully we'll have not only polio eradication but malaria malaria and many many other diseases. Let me ask you. Why was davis guggenheim. Someone who did you meet him. And why was he someone that you trusted to tell the story well. David did a brilliant job on an inconvenient truth getting driving awareness of climate change with al gore. I met him when he was doing waiting for superman superman which is about the u._s. Public school system and he and i chatted about that movie and i played a small role in it and so that caught he and i aint talking. I love documentaries so we had a lot of common ground and we exchange book ideas all the time and and you know i know davis i know he captures the human story. I thought he would do a great job and getting these causes to draw more more talent in more commitment more inspiration actually that all three of these things will according to improve the way world in a meaningful way they succeed. I thought the documentary would be a positive thing independent of anything about me in particular. I found it very interesting that in the docu as you talk about your brain as a c._p._u. And there are other references like that. Do you see your yourself as a computer in a way and how does your brainwork singly sort of explain it to somebody what why is your brain different than other brains well. I don't think it's different. I think the problem of what are the great injustices in the world and are we taking our massive resources money science and trying to improve the human condition asian sanitation just a miss thing that those urban slums over two billion people are going to literally live in human feces feces. If if we don't come up with a solution that works there climate change this gigantic problem much harder to solve them people think and having chiefs keeps saved nuclear would not alone solve it but be a gigantic cup so i i realize and i pushed myself to think okay okay. What are these things that are missing. And how do we get a team with super ambitious goal like we did with vaccines. That's not because that actually was successful and doesn't need to be considered at risk and so. I think i'm only different in that. I thought a lot about innovation and how you pull together resources around innovations that will make a difference for the human condition taking a cue from the series. I wonder if we can close with sort of a rapid fire. Just big picture random assortment of stuff. If that's all right with you okay first thing that comes to mind what other person's brain that you know of works most like yours in the financial area thinking about companies and what they do or buffet is just a lifelong student reading everything and refining his model. He's amazing and that's been a real inspiration for me since you're probably would have. I'm quite confident the smartest person i'll ever get to talk to. I've gotta ask you the big question. Is there a god. I grew up in a family that had go to church. I think religious belief sore faded with bean moral and the idea yeah. The kids on sundays should have moral lessons and have that community. I think is a really great thing. I don't know any better than anyone else out of particular god most scientific thinkers you know question certain of the specifics but the role of religion. There's a lot of good and it's not good things that come out about. Where do you do your best thinking. If i go off where i have a lot of time and i just sit and scribble on a tablet. Maybe pace a little bit. If it's something very complex i'll take a day or two and just be off by myself working on them the problem what's been your biggest mistake i because i really count on sort of scientific and engineering innovation. There are elements of love how hard it is to get these things delivered or some of the people related things in terms of how you pull the organization together and make controlled super high morale that i'm not a natural at melinda's better at those things other people around who helped me understand how you bring nat in is a key part of the project teams really get things done. This is just kind of a silly one. But how much cash do you carry on you. Sometimes none sometimes a few hundred dollars. What was the last great movie that you saw in the last t._v. Show you're really into while i'm i'm watching a ton of these t._v. Series and waiting for the next season million little things sex education money highs the queen. This is a kind of magical time period in terms of number of great things on t._v. I read a lot just finished loon shots which is about how you create an atmosphere for innovation because i'm interested in a lot of areas i ended up reading huge amounts of non-fiction so maybe fifteen fifteen percent of the time all somebody'll tell me great fiction book which other company today most remind you of microsoft's in sense of. Maybe it's a growing company or or already successful company just which operations well google is company. That's done lots of amazing things. You know higher super smart. People works on very tough long term problems. They're more like microsoft. They're more similar to each other than the other other tech companies. You met with president trump in march two thousand eighteen. Is it true that he asked you to come work for him at the white house and is it also true that you kind of had to explain the discrepancy between between a few afflictions well. It's important to engage the u._s. Government our foundation has worked with every administration nation in fact the bush administration was the one that on a bipartisan basis increased foreign aid lot and so i've been willing to meet with the president doesn't talk. I encourage him to get a science adviser who could help him. Look good. Some of the potential innovations the u._s. could lead in he in it. I'm sure some humorous way said. Why don't you come and do that for me. I don't think that was a serious suggestion but yeah there's talking about the privacy and global health and vaccines and different diseases. I did do that. I haven't seen him since then but in the u._s. Government is a plays a aqui role in all this work. What's the greatest threat facing the world today well. There's unlikely things like a pandemic coming along or asteroid raided or big volcanic eruption. You know to me the u. S. china relationship and making sure that doesn't become hostile that we work in in a positive way which last year has not been pushing it in the right direction. I push that pretty close to the top of the list. I do think degrade inequities. He's where we don't out the poorest. Whether it's disease or education people we don't get a good grade on that and so i put that right. There is something that deserves huge focus and then climate change is going to cause some trouble. We need to get going on that on right now. What do you not have but most want that. Money cannot buy well infinite time. It'd be nice to have even more time and lastly. How would the world be different today. If bill gates had never developed an interest in computers you know it's hard to say certainly everything that happened would happen would happen happened later in a different form berry hard to do those counterfactual. 's in a possible philanthropic work that the acceleration kind of saving lives even more dramatic larger in that case then in the tech side. It's hard to do counterfactual sure. Thank you so much spin. Thanks thanks very much for tuning into awards chatter. We really appreciate you taking the time to do that and would really appreciate you taking a minute more. Subscribe to our podcast for free on i tunes or your podcasts up and to leave us a rating as well. If you have any questions comments or concerns you can reach me via twitter at twitter dot com slash scott fiber and and you can follow all of my coverage between episodes at t. h. R. dot com slash the race finally be sure to check out the podcast that are part of the hollywood reporter's podcast network all all of which are excellent lesley goldberg and daniel feinberg t._v.'s top five set the bram of its and chip pope's. It happened in hollywood. Carolyn giardina is behind the screen and josh wigley series regular on behalf of all of us at the hollywood reporter. Thanks for tuning in.

Coming up next