Talking Tech and 2020 with Bill Gates!

MKBHD: (00:08)
First of all, thank you for joining me again here in Seattle. It’s a little Rainier than last time, but it’s good to be here still or typical this time of year. I believe it. So last time we chatted it was 2019. I feel like 2020. Do you have any news resolutions or things you focus on at the beginning of a new decade?

Bill Gates: (00:24)
Uh, well this year I’m going to travel a little bit less than normal.

MKBHD: (00:27)
The theme of the annual letter last year, which is why we spoke, uh, was surprises. And so I read the dangle letter for 2020 and I’ll link it below if anyone wants to check it out. But the theme was swinging for the fences. So how does that different for you this year? How has that look as a strategy and as an overall plan for you?

Bill Gates: (00:46)
Well, this annual letter we kind of took the 20th perspective, uh, cause it’s our anniversary. Um, we got going all the way back in the year 2000 and had, you know, uh, dreams of having huge impact in U S education in a global health, uh, with global health because of some new vaccines, uh, that we’ve been involved with. And those have really gotten out. We, you know, swung for the fences there and actually, uh, it’s succeeded. Education has been a lot tougher where, uh, although we’ve done some good curriculum and done some things for tutoring and kids getting feedback, you know, we don’t have, uh, the dropout rate, graduation preparedness still, you know, the system is, is not dramatically improved in nowhere near as good as we want it to be.

MKBHD: (01:36)
Right. I feel like you always seem to swing for the fences in general. It’s just sort of a new way of framing it. But I have to ask if you are swinging for the fences, what if you miss?

Bill Gates: (01:46)
Well, hopefully, uh, you get more than one swings either at the same problem, like, you know, multiple malaria vaccine constructs so that, you know, if you have two or three that combined chance for success much higher or that you’re working in multiple areas, not just one area. You know, in climate for example, I have a company that’s uh, trying to make a nuclear reactor that would be very cheap and that would have safety so that the public would be very accepting of it. Now, you know, even I realize that’s high risk, you know, less than 50% chance all that comes together. And yet, uh, if it did, and the only reason I’m involved is it would really help with climate, uh, let us generate electricity without any greenhouse gases.

MKBHD: (02:38)
I have a quote from you on climate, um, from the annual letter and I think it’s pretty good as I read quotes back to people from their own speeches a lot. But this is something you wrote tackling climate change is going to demand historic levels of global cooperation. Is that, I guess one of the biggest challenges of climate change? I’m gonna wait. There’s always ways to innovate in tech and innovate, um, and other fields. But is the, the cooperation of all these companies that all have to chip in to make a difference. One of the biggest challenges,

Bill Gates: (03:04)
the getting to zero means you know, the all the countries going along in all the different sectors of the missions. So it’s not enough if you just do passenger cars, uh, even that’s super hard and very important, but you also have to do industrial and agriculture and other forms of transport like planes and, and long distance trucks. And so the number of innovations is very, very high. And in some of these areas, the green approach will still cost more than the dirty approach. And so convincing people that the benefits of, uh, stopping these emissions mean that you should be willing to pay extra for some of these activities. If we get super good innovation in a few cases we might get the, the green premium, I call it to zero so that you don’t pay any extra. But because there’s so many sorts of emissions, some of them, uh, will be premium priced. And yet, uh, we have to go to, you know, 194 countries and get almost all of them, particularly the big ones, uh, to go along or else the motivation for the others, you know, falls apart and the whole thing fails.

Marques Brownlee: (04:22)
And on that same theme, you know, the premium of something that might be considered better, cleaner for the environment. Uh, we spoke about Tesla briefly last time and I think what you’ve mentioned basically was they have a great product, but they’re still premium. It’s still more expensive to get one, which is why it’s not everywhere. Do you think that if that problem is solved, that could be one of the more important things towards advancing an advent of sustainable transport? Like that’s one of the most important things for that company and eventually for the entire industry is to bring the premium down to hopefully zero so that it’s a no brainer to go electric or zero emissions.

Bill Gates: (04:57)
Yeah. The premium today is, is there, uh, but over the next decade, except that the range will still be a little bit less, uh, that premium will come to Xero. So we take all the sectors, uh, passenger cars is actually one of the most hopeful and certainly Tesla, uh, if you had to name one company that’s helped drive that, it’s them. Now all of the car companies, including some other new ones are moving super fast to do electric car. It’s actually, you know, the biggest concern is will the consumers uh, overcome their range anxiety. And I just got a, uh, Porsche, uh, tie cam, which is an electric car and I have to say, I mean it’s premium Christ carpet. It is very, very cool. Uh, that, that’s my first, uh, electric car and I’m enjoying it.

Marques Brownlee: (05:53)
Yeah. I have to follow up on that cause that’s a car I’m super curious about. Um, you don’t see them nearly as much, but when you see pretty much everywhere is Tesla model three? Yes, that’s, I see them all over Seattle. You see them all over downtown and if you’re in LA, is there anything like missing from that experience? Obviously it’s a fun car, but other than getting the price down and continuing to make a better product, is there any other reason not to go electric, I guess?

Bill Gates: (06:17)
Well, the range, you know, if you want to go a long distance, uh, the pervasiveness of recharging the time to recharge, you know, compared to filling up a tank of gas, the amount of energy that’s going in in a per minute of, uh, filling your gas tank is kind of mind blowing. I mean, gasoline is very dense energy, 30 times more dense than the current lithium batteries. And now a factor of two improvement in the range will get it to most people. It’s, you know, only, uh, less than 3% of car sales globally today, uh, in, uh, Norway, uh, is higher than that. And China’s, uh, looks to be one of the markets that will develop the most quickly. So, you know, price will, uh, it’s important for that to come down the, of course you spend a little bit less on the electricity than you would spend on gasoline. And the maintenance cost, uh, is a little bit less, although the insurance right now, uh, is a little bit more premium cars and the repairs on, you know, like these mirrors that are really rich and complicated, you know, fixing the mirrors to be 100 bucks now it’s like 1500. So, uh, you know, there’s, there’s some work to be done on a few of these areas, but clearly of all the climate areas, I’d say that one’s the most hopeful

Marques Brownlee: (07:41)
for sure. That’s the way the future essay. Um, all right. So as a YouTuber, I feel like I have to ask about YouTube and you know, with all the work you’ve done with not only spreading vaccines for as many people as possible, but there’s also kind of the, the second job of spreading information about vaccines. You mentioned in the annual letter people who are hundreds of meters from somewhere where they could have gotten a vaccine and didn’t, what do you think about the role of sites like YouTube and the spread of not just information but potentially misinformation when it comes to things like vaccines or climate change?

Bill Gates: (08:13)
Yeah, it’s very tricky because historically the newspapers or the media were very responsible about not letting, uh, untruths about vaccine safety. Get out there. Now, you know, you don’t want to get rid of the good thing, which is that anybody can publish the barriers to entry. The diversity of voices is so phenomenal compared to traditional publishing.

Marques Brownlee: (08:40)
Right. I feel like, and you have a bit of a YouTube presence, so you’re able to share information about things through social media. It’s kind of a social media age. So I feel like that ideally helps your cause more than it hurts it.

Bill Gates: (08:51)
Yeah. My audience probably isn’t a deep, but the doubters, uh, yeah. You know, I in a creative way, uh, trying to get positive messages to uh, be interesting and we have work to do on that. You know, I would have thought using experts some time to acknowledge that the all the internet would just make it so much easier to learn about things. Uh, and yet in some ways, uh, you know, people aren’t seeking out complex information, particularly if it disagrees, uh, with some preconceived notion that they have. So, you know, how can social media get out there and be a little bit of a, uh, force for education, particularly on climate where without a consensus we won’t do the hard things that will, uh, say things for the next generation.

Marques Brownlee: (09:50)
So you want to, we want to push the information that helps the most amount of people to, as many people as possible. That’s one version of swinging for the fence.

Bill Gates: (09:58)
Yeah. And, and, you know, activate people want to do more than just, you know, make their salary. They want to be involved with the cause. And for a lot of people, some way of engaging either as a consumer, an advocate, a donor, uh, in climate change that I’m amazed at how the interest level is going up. I hope it’s not a cyclical thing. I hope that’s kind of a permanent thing cause the, the challenge requires, you know, decades of it being a very top issue as opposed to okay for three or four years. That was kind of interesting. Let’s move on to something else.

Marques Brownlee: (10:32)
All right, last question. And this is inspired by Neil, have to tell who has interviewed you before from the verge, which is just a total tech question. As a person who’s busy as yourself, when do you do email?

Bill Gates: (10:46)
Uh, you know, I do some on the phone. I do a lot. I’m very PC centric person. I sit at my desk with a nice big surface screen. Uh, and you know, I get in early to do email a lot at night. Particularly if I get along email, I’ll Mark it as unread and then that night I’m going through the last few days looking at what I’ve marked as on red and said, okay that’s got an enclosure, let’s really go through that, give a thought for response to it. I do know if I over-scheduled myself, the symptom of that is I’m starting to fall behind on email. I’m not super responsive. And that, you know, that can be, you know, a bad thing. Uh, you know, today I got mail about, you know, this coronavirus outbreak and how should the foundation step up and do something. I’m, you know, I’m glad I was there to give a really quick yes response. Some things are, are urgent and, uh, um, but it, it’s, uh, it’s a gauge of, of, of am I managing my schedule well that people feel like I’m a quick, quick to reply.

Marques Brownlee: (11:52)
I tried to do quick to reply, but you can’t always be. Thank you again for the time. I appreciate it. Yeah. Good to see you again. Hopefully they do it and some time. Excellent.