Thursday, January 31, 2013

BILL GATES | Charlie Rose Interview, Jan. 30, 2013

Bill Gates and Books He Recommends.
Bill Gates was impressively lucid on a wide range of topics. Very worthwhile interview. I did not plan on writing up the interview, so I did not take notes. But here is my takeaway, with a few comments:

Measurement. The private sector is inherently measurement-oriented because every company has to focus on making a profit. Government and NGOs do not have the same discipline. (Comment: Politicians must get elected in a democracy, and laws must get passed, both of which require counting votes. In the administration of government, budgets must be balanced at the state and local level and they can't be in deficit forever even at the national level. An NGO, similarly, has to quantify its results to raise the money it spends - unless a couple of big donors give it all the money it needs...)

Health Care Spending. Gates sees as a major challenge for the United States the problem of containing health care costs. With an aging population and a Federal commitment to paying for health care for the elderly and disabled, health care costs can become a monster. More attention must be focused on how to redesign health care services so that services are delivered more effectively and efficiently. This should not be a political battle; it should be a technological problem, measuring the right thing.

The Gates Foundation. Bill Gates wants to do something for humanity that can be measured. He is working on eradicating polio. Next is malaria. The foundation is heavily invested in health care world-wide, also in financial services (Grameen Bank, Pro Mujer etc.). But he made the point that the annual spending of the Gates Foundation is dwarfed by what governments spend on global problems, especially European governments. Domestically, the foundation focuses on education and finding out what works in getting through to students. The Foundation will be required to spend out its assets within 20 years after the Gateses die. (Comment: The Foundation has $36 billion in assets, topped up by Warren Buffett's huge gift.)

Carbon tax. A carbon tax is essential, he believes, and the cap-and-trade proposals were just an alternative way of trying to get through Congress. Without a carbon tax, there is insufficient incentive for people to rely less on fossil fuels.

Nuclear power. He thinks the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disasters were a setback for the global environment because they have meant a loss of confidence in the current generation of nuclear reactors, which is a pity because they really are more environmentally friendly if they work, and the next generation of reactors will be much less reliant on human beings making the right decisions - they are much safer.

Fracking. Gates believes that the problems with fracking have been overstated - water, for example, can be recycled so that there does not have to be constant runoff to the water table. He is more concerned with sequestering the emissions from burning natural gas.

Microsoft's Future. He says that he, as Chairman, is very self-critical, so the fact that Microsoft missed the cell phone potential is something he is aware of. But he believes is that Microsoft's biggest competitor is Google and that other large website players are not so much into software development - Amazon, for example, or Facebook. He thinks Microsoft is well positioned for the future. (Comment: The late Steve Jobs famously said - - that Gates ripped off other people's ideas and was not imaginative. Gates is less interested in trading claims, and just says he and Jobs were friendly competitors for 30 years... But Melinda Gates said in 2010 there are no Apple products in the Gates home.)