Bill Gates Pushes His Foundation’s Health, Education, Energy Agenda at MIT—Podcast and Report

Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates visited MIT today as part of his College Tour, a three-day trip to universities across the United States. In his talk, Gates emphasized the importance of getting more bright young people to innovate in critical areas such as global health, education, and energy—all areas where the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is already investing or considering investing.

My full writeup of the talk is below, but first here’s a podcast recording of Gates’s talk, for anyone who wasn’t able to get to MIT (or squeeze into Kresge Auditorium) for the event.

Please try to ignore the typing sounds in the recording—that’s me taking notes.

Xconomy Podcast: Bill Gates Speaks at MIT
April 21, 2010


Gates opened by joking that he’d promised his dad after dropping out of Harvard that he’d go back to college, and that he was now doing it, one day at a time. But he quickly segued into the serious subject of his talk, which was his conviction that schools like MIT are not turning out enough students who want to solve the kinds of big global problems that that Gates Foundation concentrates on. “Mostly I’ll talk about a question that fascinates, me, and that is, are the brightest minds focusing on the hardest problems?” Gates said. “To the degree that they’re not, how can we increase that?”

Gates argued that that are “five or six things that we haven’t put enough attention toward that would make a huge difference.” Among those, in his mind, are education, agriculture, nutrition, child health, reproductive health, and low-carbon energy sources. Gates said, only half jokingly, that his dream is to reach a day when high-IQ people spend their weekends arguing about the new teaching methods with the best outcomes, rather than which way the stock market is heading or who’s going to advance in the NCAA basketball tournament.

“We have lots of talent that could be shifted, at least to some degree, from sports, entertainment, and investing,” Gates said. “Even in the areas of innovation and science a lot of that focuses on the needs of the rich. There is a great deal of work on baldness cures….and while I know some people who would be easier to look at if they used a baldness drug, how can we have a shift?” Most of the key work on malaria, a disease that kills a million people every year, is done by just 100 scientists around the world, Gates pointed out.

Gates admitted in his talk that he himself didn’t choose a career “based on some list of great problems.” He said he “fell into what I ended up doing when I was 13 and … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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