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7 takeaways from Bill Gates’ Rolling Stone interview

As Bill Gates forges a new role at Microsoft(s msft) advising new CEO Satya Nadella, his interview with Rolling Stone‘s Jeff Goodell is a must-read — so, seriously, read all of it. But for now, here are seven key points.

1. What the $19 billion WhatsApp acquisition says about Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg

“It means that Mark Zuckerberg wants Facebook(s FB) to be the next Facebook. Mark has the credibility to say, ‘I’m going to spend $19 billion to buy something that has essentially no revenue model.’ I think his aggressiveness is wise — although the price is higher than I would have expected.” … Microsoft would have been willing to buy it, too.?.?.?.?I don’t know for $19 billion, but the company’s extremely valuable.

2: On how Zuckerberg differs from Gates

“I give him more credit for shaping the user interface of his product. He’s more of a product manager than I was. I’m more of a coder, down in the bowels and the architecture, than he is.”

3: Edward Snowden: Hero or villain?

“I think he broke the law, so I certainly wouldn’t characterize him as a hero.”

4: On taxation and income inequality

“Well, now you’re getting into sort of complicated issues. In general, on taxation-type things, you’d think of me as a Democrat. That is, when tax rates are below, say, 50 percent, I believe there often is room for additional taxation.”

5: On the government’s ability or inability to fix big problems like those

“You have to have a certain realism that government is a pretty­ blunt instrument and without the constant attention of highly qualified people with the right metrics, it will fall into not doing things very well.”

6: On the roll-out debacle

“They should have done better. But that’s a minor issue compared to the notion of ‘Will they get enough people in the risk pool so that the pricing is OK?’ And some of the price-rigging they’ve done, where the young overpay relative to the old, is a problem. You know, it’s all intended for a good thing, which is access. But it’s layered on top of a system that has huge pricing-capacity problems. Which it basically did not address.”

7; On talking with investor and climate-change denier Charles Koch about climate change

“He’s a very nice person, and he has this incredible business track record. He was pointing out that the U.S. alone can’t solve the problem, and that’s factually correct. But you have to view the U.S. doing something as a catalyst for getting China and others to do things. The atmosphere is the ultimate commons. We all benefit from it, and we’re all polluting it.”

20 Responses to “7 takeaways from Bill Gates’ Rolling Stone interview”

  1. Rampant

    ““Well, now you’re getting into sort of complicated issues. In general, on taxation-type things, you’d think of me as a Democrat. That is, when tax rates are below, say, 50 percent, I believe there often is room for additional taxation.”

    Wow. The way he said that, he certainly speaks like a Democrat — a Democrat politician. So, he feels that any tax rate below 50 percent is low enough to warrant an increase, huh? Raised how high? Does he consider 50 percent the floor or the ceiling? You can read it either way. I suspect that as long as he gets his pet tax breaks, shelters and loopholes, he’d be just fine with a 100% tax rate.

  2. Phronesis

    I too was deeply disappointed by his comments on Snowden. He broke the law? So what? The law is wrong. If the law says you can’t reveal classified information, but the information you’d like to reveal is that the US government is unconstitutionally tearing into Americans’ communications, tapping into the trunks of major American companies, impersonating FB servers, etc. then you have to break the law. In a society like ours, where government is a leviathan, breaking the law will be almost routinely necessary. Has Gates never read a history book?

    I also didn’t like his summary of Steve Jobs as focused on esthetics (in the discussion of how he sees Zuck and himself). Steve Jobs was about a lot more than esthetics. He was about design, easy of use, groundbreaking interfaces, and groundbreaking devices. Gates makes him sound trivial.

    And Barb, what’s with the biased swipe at Charles Koch? A climate-change denier? That term is just a cheap thrill, a smear against people who don’t fall into lockstep obedience to whatever the latest scientific consensus, especially when it drives destructive policies. It sounds like he isn’t actually a “denier”, from Gates’ account, but someone who disagrees with certain policy options. It’s not a given that the costs of mitigation are less than the costs of adaptation — it’s enormously complex, but most people just align with their political tribes and don’t think about it much. And he is definitely not an “investor”. Do you know who Charles Koch actually is? He’s not Warren Buffett. He’s a businessman, the CEO of a company that started in oil and chemicals and is now, from Wikipedia, involved in “process and pollution control equipment and technologies; polymers and fibers; minerals; fertilizers; commodity trading and services; forest and consumer products; and ranching. The businesses produce a wide variety of well-known brands, such as Stainmaster carpet, Lycra fiber, Quilted Northern tissue and Dixie Cup.” Where do you get “investor”?

  3. kubricklove

    On Snowden: I wonder what Mr. Gates would say about Matin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, and those are just the “infamous” ones. Criminals all. Speaking Truth to Power is a necessary and often illegal practice for American Citizens, and people around the world. That the wealthiest and most powerful benefit from the “criminals” of Americas (and the worlds) past, while questioning the integrity of our latter-day freedom fighters, is a profound oversight of our culture. On the question of Snowden, Mr. Gates does not present a wise or intelligent response, and America deserves more from World “leaders.”

      • kubricklove

        Incorrect. Throughout history the two have been equal in the eyes of those in power. America was founded on treasonous intent against that tiny island in the silver sea.

            • God has given us two eyes may be to have two perspectives on everything. I don’t hate Bill for his comments on Snowden, its his personal view.
              For you and me Snowden is a Hero for others he is a traitor. There are always two sides to everything in life. As you said after all we are humans. No offense, I am not saying you have been disrespectful to other commenters. I would say lets respect each other as humans first and then we can take our sides.

            • kubricklove

              Our minds can conceive of far more than our eyes have ever given birth to. We can think beyond polar opposite ideas. I don’t consider Snowden a hero or a traitor. I don’t believe the two are always mutually exclusive. He did what he thought was the right thing to do, a duty every American shares. Especially in the face of illegal, unconstitutional, and immoral monolithic Government intrusion. I don’t believe I’ve been disrespectful, so I’m not sure how to respond to that. This is not about taking sides.

      • Treason??? Do us all a favor and look up the meaning of the word.

        It is the NSA and the CIA that are guilty of treason. Snowden risked his life to expose the violation of our basic constitutional rights by our Government. He was protecting US Citizens from criminals who were illegally spying on us. That’s the definition of a Patriot.

  4. jklinger

    I instantly lost tons of respect for the man on that Snowden comment. He is a whistleblower, not a criminal. In that regard, the laws are irrelevant.

    I agree with Thomas Jefferson on this issue “The people are the only censors of their governors: and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs thro’ the channel of the public papers, & to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people. The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers & be capable of reading them.”

    • Really!!?? Have you never heard any intelligent person speak? That’s the only reason you would think this man is ‘wise’ or a ‘genius’.

      Please do a little bit of reading on the history of computers and you will see that Gates never invented anything. Even the first OS he licensed to IBM was bought from another company. It is one of the great injustices of history that this man has accumulated this much wealth primarily by stealing from real innovators.

          • kubricklove

            There are real issues, real lives, real principles at stake in the context of this debate. Spock is the least of our concerns. Petty style tribal infighting is part of what has tainted “this grand experiment.” We really should re-learn how to speak with one voice in response to our leaders running amok in OUR backyards. We have been fighting each other for far too long. Please reassess who has the power and authority over our lives, and what we should do about it. As I said, Spock is of no concern in a world that funds and supports an unjust US Federal Government. We are being consumed from within by our very own Governments. Why worry about a single Vulcan?