Design //

The Future of Technology According to Bill Gates

If there's one man we trust to give us a solid opinion on where technology is headed, it's Bill Gates. Here are his thoughts on the future of tech.

Paul Tamburroby Paul Tamburro

Bill Gates hosted a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session in which the Microsoft co-founder and CEO spoke of his personal thoughts on the future of technology, touching on subjects as wide-ranging as immortality research, right through to a potential apocalypse brought on by super-intelligent AI.

Also See: Bill Gates to Elon Musk: The Tech Experts Who Are Worried About an AI Doomsday

Here are the highlights of the session:

 

On life-extending and immortality research…

“It seems pretty egocentric while we still have malaria and TB for rich people to fund things so they can live longer. It would be nice to live longer though I admit.”

 

On disease eradication…

“Polio eradication is a big focus for me. Our last case in Africa was 6 months ago and we are hoping no more show up. It takes over a year to be sure. We still have cases in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Until we get rid of it there it can spread back to other countries.

“Pakistan is starting to take this seriously including the army and the government. They need to do the same things that were done in Nigeria. The Taliban makes it very difficult. They have killed women going to vaccinate kids many times.”

 

On the problems faced by his poop water machine a.k.a. the Omniprocessor…

“Sewage is a problem. Since it costs money to process it just gets dumped in slums in poor countries. The system the rich world uses of pumping in clean water and pumping it to a processing plant is too expensive. I challenged engineers to create a processor of sewage where the costs could be covered by the energy and water (clean water) that it outputs. We have made progress on that.

“One team, Janicki, which was written up in Wired, is sending a prototype machine to Senegal later this year. Getting rid of sewage helps a lot to reduce disease and improve living conditions.”

 

On whether pursuing a job in programming in 2015 is still a good idea…

“It is safe for now! It is also a lot of fun and helps shape your thinking on all issues to be more logical. There is a prospect for change in this area for the next generation but that is true for most fields and understanding how to program will always be useful.”

 

On Thorium-based nuclear power…

“Right now there isn’t enough R&D going into safe and cheap nuclear energy. I am supporting Terrapower which has a 4th generation design that looks good. It doesn’t use Thorium – it uses the 97% of Uranium that normally can’t be used for a reactor by breeding and burning. This means fuel will always be cheap. There are a lot of innovations but the key one is that it is far far safer than anything today – not relying on human operators.”

 

On bitcoin and cryptocurrency…

“Bitcoin is an exciting new technology. For our Foundation work we are doing digital currency to help the poor get banking services. We don’t use bitcoin specifically for two reasons. One is that the poor shouldn’t have a currency whose value goes up and down a lot compared to their local currency. Second is that if a mistake is made in who you pay then you need to be able to reverse it so anonymity wouldn’t work.

“Overall financial transactions will get cheaper using the work we do and Bitcoin related approaches. Making sure that it doesn’t help terrorists is a challenge for all new technology.”

 

On Microsoft’s HoloLens…

“The Hololens is pretty amazing. Microsoft has put a lot into the chips and the software. It is the start of virtual reality. Making the device so you don’t get dizzy or nauseous is really hard – the speed of the alignment has to be super super fast. It will take a few years of software applications being built to realize the full promise of this.

“If you study programming and biology and see how the programming can help biology you will stay out on front!”

 

On the possibility of an AI doomsday

“I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern.

“I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”

Photo: Getty Images