Rare Interview

Given the volume of coverage over the past few days (260 articles in my latest Google-powered count), I thought that I should touch upon the recent “rare and remarkable” interview that the UK’s Daily Mail landed with Bill Gates.

The most oft-quoted element of the interview, it appears, concerns his three children’s inheritence. Deducting the $28 billion donated to charity, Gates is now worth $56 billion. Yet his children “aren’t going to inherit anything like that much [as he doesn't] think that amount of money would be good for them.” He also added that he has denied their requests for iPods and that they own the Windows equivalent. A Zune music player, if you are curious. But overall, as the Wall Street Journal blog Tech Europe summed up: “What did we learn? Sadly not a huge amount.”

That said, the WSJ latched on to this particular quotation, as did the Huffington Post:

I don’t want a legacy. [...] I want a malaria vaccine. If we get one then we’ll have to find the money to give it to everyone, but the impact would be so huge we would find a way. Understanding science and pushing the boundaries of science is what makes me immensely satisfied. What I’m doing now involves understanding maths, risk-taking. The first half of my life was good preparation for the second half.

Honestly, to borrow from the Daily Mail headline, it’s a remarkable way to consider a (remarkable) lifetime: that the invention and unfathomable business success that defined Bill Gates was, in his words, simply preparation for the philanthropy and public health investments that came next. I would also argue that a malaria vaccine would, in fact, be a legacy and a profoundly essential one. However, his decision to aim for a tangible goal rather than an ephemeral one is not only admirable, it makes quite a bit of sense. What do you think? Do you agree with his phrasing and his assessment?

And for some uplifting news, check out the Gates Foundation blog from two days following the interview:

The GAVI Alliance, an organization that helps make sure children in poor countries get the same vaccines that children in rich countries do, just met its fundraising target for the next four years. They did it despite the fact that donors everywhere are coping with budget crises. This news comes on the heels of an announcement by several multinational and developing country vaccine manufacturers that they will be lowering the prices of some key vaccines. Together, these developments mean that we can save more than 4 million additional lives by 2015.

For a quick mind exercise, what would you ask, were you in the room for an interview as rare as this one?

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