It’s 8 am and I’m sitting in the Four Season auditorium listening to Jill Sobule sing about dying record companies — “I’ve got nothing to prove, once I was as miserable as you” — as a warm up for Jeff Bezos. Still recovering from the the opening night of D6 and a dinner group that couldn’t have been scripted — those around the the table at the very back of the Four Seasons garden included Microsoft’s (NSDQ: MSFT) Bill Gates and Craig Mundie; Ann Winblad; Esther Dyson; WSJ columnist (and former publisher) Gordon Crovitz; Earthlink’s (NSDQ: ELNK) Craig Forman; and Washington Post Co (NYSE: WPO). CEO Don Graham. We were joined at various points by Nathan Myhrvold, Tim O’Reilly, and a revolving cast of characters for a wide-ranging discussion with Gates at its core, the chairman and CEO of the dinner table
Among the topics: targeted online advertising; Microsoft’s own ad campaigns — Gates can still recall the company’s first print ad in 1976 (Electronic Times and he thinks it ran about $1,400); vaccines in Africa; U.S. teachers’ unions; Mhyrvold’s experiments eradicating malaria-bearing mosquitoes with lasers; potential breakthroughs in online search; autism and vaccines — challenged by a fellow diner, Gates rebuffed the notion that the two are connected; cheaper, safer nuclear power in 12 years or so. When I asked which was the craziest notion — eradicating malaria or fixing U.S. education — he quickly chose the latter.