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Bill Gates on NSA Spying and Why He Likes to Do Dishes

The Microsoft executive takes part his second Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session.

Asa Mathat

Bill Gates says that governments have to be able to use technology to prevent terrorism, but they also need to be more open in terms of what information they are collecting.

“This is a complex issue,” Gates said in response to a question on Reddit. “Privacy will be increasingly important as cameras and GPS sensors are gathering information to try and be helpful. We need to have trust in the way information is protected and gathered. There is a role for the government to try and stop crime and terrorism but it will have to be more open. I do think terrorism with biological or nuclear weapons is something we want to minimize the chance of.”

Gates took part Monday in one of Reddit’s Ask Me Anything sessions, the second time he has done so. He answered a range of questions, including what laptop or tablet he currently uses (a Surface 2 Pro).

On a lighter note, Gates was asked what he enjoys doing that might surprise people. The Microsoft co-founder said he enjoys bridge and watching his daughter’s horseback riding. But he also said he likes to do dishes.

“Other people volunteer, but I like the way I do it,” Gates said.

When Gates was asked who should play him in a movie, one Reddit commenter suggested Samuel L. Jackson, to which Gates replied, “Melinda would probably watch that version.”

Here are a few more answers on a range of other topics:

On what he plans to do as he spends more time at Microsoft:
“I am excited about how the cloud and new devices can help us communicate and collaborate in new ways. The OS won’t just be on one device and the information won’t just be files — it will be your history, including being able to review memories of things like kids growing up. I was thrilled Satya asked me to pitch in to make sure Microsoft is ambitious with its innovation. Even in Office there is a lot more than can be done.”

On how he is different now from 20 years ago:
“Twenty years ago I would stay in the office for days at a time and not think twice about it — so I had energy and naivete on my side. Now hopefully I am a bit more mellow but with a little extra wisdom.”

On digital currencies, such as bitcoin:
“The foundation is involved in digital money but unlike bitcoin it would not be anonymous digital money. In Kenya M-pesa is being used for almost half of all transactions. Digital money has low transaction costs which is great for the poor because they need to do financial transactions with small amounts of money. Over the next five years I think digital money will catch on in India and parts of Africa and help the poorest a lot.”

On something he has splurged on:
“Owning a plane is a guilty pleasure. Warren Buffett called his the Indefensible. I do get to a lot of places for foundation work I wouldn’t be able to go to without it.”

On his investment in TerraPower, a nuclear power startup:
“We need low-cost energy that is totally reliable. Most renewables will require storage which is expensive to do. Nuclear will make a contribution if we can make it safer, cheaper and deal with waste better. Terrapower has a design (on paper) that addresses all of these issues so now we are talking to countries about building it. It is a 4th generation reactor design that uses depleted uranium.”

On video games:
“I am not a huge gamer. My son knows a LOT more than I do about what is cool on Xbox. I played Halo but the sports games that the whole family can use are the things I use the most. I threw the javelin very very far!”

On what he would have done had he not gone into computers and started Microsoft:
“I considered law and math. My Dad was a lawyer. I think though I would have ended up in physics if I didn’t end up in computer science.”

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