The last few days I’ve been watching the Bill Gates documentary on Netflix, a deep dive into the man behind Microsoft and modern tech.
‘Inside Bill’s Brain’ Notes
– Grew up in a wealthy family – Father was a lawyer and mother was very driven, serving on numerous boards
– Mother and Father imparted the importance of giving back to the community
– Clashed with his mother in adolescence
– Best childhood friend died in a tragic climbing accident
– Won multi-state Maths competition as a child
– Was a computer programming whizz from a young age – recruited to work on complicated problems, like organising the school timetable and then later creating software for energy companies
– Whereas most of us see challenges as obstacles and shy away from them, Bill regards them as interesting problems to solve
– Thrives on complex problems and analysis
– Workaholic, pulling frequent all-nighters – fanatical about Microsoft
– Fell out with Paul Allen, who seems to have had a more balanced approach to life – good guitarist, sci-fi fanatic etc. Eventually, they parted ways.
– Avid reader – 150 pages/hour – 90% retention
– Goes on a ‘Think Week‘ every year – retreats to a secluded cabin – to read and ideate
– His real area of expertise is innovation, especially through technology. Self-admitted technophile
- Improving sanitary conditions in the developing world – not possible to implement modern sewage systems in many third world countries due to infrastructure and population density, so the aim became to develop closed-circuit eco-toilets and sewage plants. In service of reducing child mortality.
- Eradicating polio – made huge strides in reducing new cases (sub 50/year) – however, this initiative has required huge investment and has been hampered by domestic conflicts (Nigeria and Pakistan) meaning that health workers are unable to administer vaccines in high-risk areas.
- Global warming – needs innovation across the board, but Bill and his team have been working on new nuclear technology which, instead of using enriched uranium, is powered by waste radioactive material that’s already stockpiled (and can’t be used for weapons). Safety is another core design feature of the new plants, offsetting the risk of another catastrophe. Despite the negative public image of nuclear energy, if you compare the number of people who’ve died from nuclear disasters versus traditional fossil fuels, like coal plants, it’s a very safe energy form.
Overall, it was an interesting documentary, and well worth a watch.
There’s a lot to be learned from Gates in his approach to learning, problem-solving and social impact.
However, I did feel the interviewer could have pressed him harder in places to extract greater insight.