Gates talks with an editor at Scientific American
July 13, 2004 2:01 AM   Subscribe

Gates talks about our future. Bill gates shows a side that is rarely seen by computer users. Love him or hate him, I just want to know why he doesn't want me to have one of these some time in the next 15 years too.
posted by sourbrew (25 comments total)
On a side note is anyone else on the lookout for huds when they finally get cheap and support at least a 1024 by 768, i would kill for some adjustable opacity headgear. Add in a camera and some facial recognition software and i would be well on my way to a nice farley file system for wowing women at cocktail parties about their dog shep, and whether or not he has recovered from the accident.
posted by sourbrew at 2:08 AM on July 13, 2004

And I applogize for the lack of credit to the fine people at Scientific American.
posted by sourbrew at 2:12 AM on July 13, 2004

I'll give him high props for soulless business acumen, but does ANYBODY credit Gates with the slightest inkling of a prognosticatory ability? Even if you wanna believe his denial of the infamous "640K should be enough for anyone" quote, he was certainly among the last to come to the InterNet party.
posted by RavinDave at 2:18 AM on July 13, 2004

Even if you think he dropped the ball on the internet, he still managed to arrange things well enough so that his OS is running on most PCs in the world.

Microsoft aside, Bill Gates really is a genius. I don't use that term lightly -- he's a brilliant human being, and I give his opinion (when it's divorced from his immediate business interests) as much credit as I would that of Joy, Kurzweil, or any technology 'thinker'.

Microsoft as a company may do some pretty shitty things, but I don't think anyone in the field would claim that Gates doesn't know what he's talking about.
posted by Jairus at 2:49 AM on July 13, 2004

Everybody jumps on MS for missing the boat on the Interenet, but really they ended up doing what Apple has historically done: held back until they could get it right. (ignoring IE v. <4) Instead of jumping in too early with a poor experience, they only really staretd pushing their Internet offerings when they had a stabel swuite of applications. Microsoft wasn't about to tout the Internet back in the days where you had to mess with Trumpet Winsock scripts and no one quite had slip / ppp sorted out yet.

Like apple, when they waited a few years before putting color on the mac, or making an mp3 player. Likewise, it worked out for Microsoft that they put out their product when it was a little more ready, with Windows 98, when it was ready to be accepted en masse by the public.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:24 AM on July 13, 2004

Well, I don't think MS saw the Internet's coming ascendency. I think they, like many others, expected big essentially public WANs to come about another way, on a longer timeframe. The Internet existed, of course; but what was transformative and revolutionary was the graphical web browser and I don't think anyone saw that coming and I suspect history would be different—perhaps much different—if that piece of enabling technology hadn't appeared when and where it did.

Nevertheless, even if no one saw the Internet (as we know it today) coming, as it happened from '92 to '95 or so MS was, first, in denial, and then hoped to change the direction or thought it was a passing phase. It took them a while to "get" it. To their credit, though, when they did, they really did. They turned on a dime, which was a huge institutional undertaking. And if they hadn't, desktop computing history might also be different. (And many would argue, improved. Netscape's vision of the browser as [effective] OS, platform agnostic and physically unlocalized, was pretty neat.)

Now, I can't quite recall what role Gates himself played in this. My dim recollection is that he was pretty clueless about the Internet. But I do seem to recall that the turnaround was dictated by him—was it? Did he suddenly get the religion?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:41 AM on July 13, 2004

History will see his contributions to progress came from his money, not his "innovations" or "creativity". The man has done great work in charitable fields, but I see him as no smarter than most people from the MBA mills.

Being born into money and having the means to dictate business terms doesnt' strike me as being innovative nor smart. More like being in the right place at the right time.
posted by infowar at 5:19 AM on July 13, 2004

Infowar: I don't think Gates is smart because he has a big company. I think he's smart because he's consistently shown his intelligence in his life outside that of a Microsoft officer. I mean, the man started his career as a code hacker. He coded BASIC for Altair without having an Altair to test it on.
posted by Jairus at 5:29 AM on July 13, 2004

Just out of curiosity has anyone actually bothered to read the article? I didn't really want to start a flame war, although i suppose i should have phrased the title differently. There is a lot of interesting things talked about in the article as well as the subsequent following links. Although the 7 hate him links are more amusement related than anything....
posted by sourbrew at 5:31 AM on July 13, 2004

I read the article -- very interesting interview, I thought.
posted by Jairus at 5:37 AM on July 13, 2004

I liked the idea of the life memory project a lot I can't find the original article i read, i think bill was calling it by some sort of internal designation. Still i remember reading about it as some sort of continually running diary. I think one of the coolest applications of all of this would be the ability to instead of describing an event or a sunset using voice and eventually mental control to splice and transmit to friends..... I'm a techy at heart but it seems that with this kind of personal computing powers hyper media could change the way we communicate. I just hope I'm not to old to adapt if and when it comes around.
posted by sourbrew at 5:57 AM on July 13, 2004

It's a PDF, of course no one read it.
posted by smackfu at 6:28 AM on July 13, 2004

For all people without adobe acrobat (gasp) the google html version
posted by sourbrew at 6:32 AM on July 13, 2004

Why don't those asswipes post it in html in the first place.

As for Gates, he's no genius, but he sure does have a lot of money. Wow!
posted by Outlawyr at 6:42 AM on July 13, 2004

Bill Gates's cunning is perhaps a form of genius, but I don't know I would go as far as calling him a genius. He and his minions have done a fantastic job building a reactive corporation that is able to change on a dime, or execute strategic acquisition when his main business and product lines are not tracking with general industry trends. There's no question he's an effective businessman, but genius? I have yet to think of one example where Gates's vision has either been correct in terms of prognostication, or where he has been able to drive wholesale changes in industry direction with the articulation of that vision. Put another way, Gates proffiicieneis have always been to be able to see 15 minutes in the future and rebuild his corporation to exploit the eventuality, but in terms of driving longer term changes with his vision, that still has yet to happen. It seems foolhardy even to ask him, because he's been wrong nearly every time he's been asked his opinion on trends and future developments.
posted by psmealey at 7:02 AM on July 13, 2004

Bill Gates really is a genius. I don't use that term lightly -- he's a brilliant human being...

I'm perfectly willing to lay off Bill Gates. But I'm not willing to anoint him as a "genius."

Yes, genius is a really strong term, and I just can't see it applying to Bill Gates. "Sharp", "clever", "smart", sure: He's made some business decisions that could arguably be called innovative, but mostly he's just a good, hard-nosed executer.

His "visions" for the future, as laid out here and elsewhere, are really consolidations and refinements of the views of others. That's fine -- that's what a good prognosticator does -- but it's no sign of genius, even if his prognostication record were good. And let's face it: Aside from things that he had the power to make true by force of his company's market power, he just doesn't have a very good record.

When we cheapen terms like "brilliant" (as used in American English, if you please) and "genius", we are destroying our ability to identify people who've actually displayed something like genius. Let's think about what that term means, where it comes from: It's meant to describe a spirit that possesses someone and makes them different -- more insightful, more visionary, smarter -- and to such an extent that they seem possessed. So Mozart is a genius, or Bach, but not Mahler. Turing is a genius, but not Russell. Nietzsche, maybe (though it could always have been the Syphillus), but not Kant.

Sure, Kant or Russell or Mahler worked very hard, produced important, even great, things -- but they did not break through into another realm.

Even being visionary isn't really enough. J.D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie were visionary, and they were really smart, hard-working guys; they weren't geniuses. Nobody says Bill G doesn't work hard, and hardly anybody says he's not smart. But he's no genius.

Unless, of course, he tests with an IQ over 150. Then <sigh />, I suppose he's a "genius" in that boring, uninspired, "I Answer Questions Real Fast" kind of way that gets you into Mensa or High-Q.
posted by lodurr at 7:04 AM on July 13, 2004

Why don't those asswipes post it in html in the first place.

As for Gates, he's no genius, but he sure does have a lot of money. Wow!

posted by Outlawyr at 6:42 AM PST on July 13

posted by lazaruslong at 7:36 AM on July 13, 2004

You notice how he loses like 95% of his verbal skills as soon as they bring up the "monoculture thing"?
posted by signal at 7:51 AM on July 13, 2004

signal - yeah i laughed about that for a bit, he does a fair amount of generalizing throughout the interview. Still the sheer amount of knowledge he has about all the different enterprises microsoft is invested in displays his commitment to micro managing.
posted by sourbrew at 8:07 AM on July 13, 2004

Jairus: whatever. I programmed basic without owning a computer too. Doesnt make me a genius. Nor would I call buying somebody else's software and selling it to a third party for a tidy profit before even owning genius. I don't see anything he's advocated out of Microsoft as being genius either. PSMeasely echoes my opinion.

As for lifetime memory project, I know that predates Gate's birth. Heck, my friend had the same idea called G.O.D. (general omniscience device) back in the early 80s when I was playing Star Frontiers.

I think Alex Chiu was talking the same thing back in 1995-1996. I distinctly remember somebody on the web talking about a camera embedded on eyeglasses that trasmitted what was seen to a central server where it was stored on disk. The poor guy/gal was inundated with hate mail about the privacy implications, but the basic idea is there.

One need look no further than MS Research to see that the company as a whole (and presumably Gates himself) don't have much skill at developing anything groundbreaking. This article has a nice quote that enlightens one possible reason why. "Researchers track technological developments and help keep company executives up to speed on where technology is going. In addition, a number of key technologies developed by Microsoft Research have incrementally improved Microsoft products." One may ljokingly say that MS R&D only informs Bill. :)
posted by infowar at 9:09 AM on July 13, 2004

from the interview:

Yeah, we've got a lot of people doing diarrhea. I mean, diarrhea is big.

posted by juv3nal at 9:14 AM on July 13, 2004


SA: There are plenty of neuroscientists who say that computers are still clueless.
BG: And so are neuroscientists, too.

Really, I'm beginning to like the guy.
posted by ikalliom at 12:37 PM on July 13, 2004

did any of you check out the individual links in the hate him section. The m links to a pretty classic t-shirt.

(doffs his hat) you know if i were to say so myself that is
posted by sourbrew at 3:26 PM on July 13, 2004

did any of you check out the individual links in the hate him section.

On a side note is anyone else on the lookout for huds when they finally get cheap and support at least a 1024 by 768, i would kill for some adjustable opacity headgear

Did you check out that little button on the keyboard that makes a "?"? You know, just sayin'.

posted by lazaruslong at 8:19 PM on July 13, 2004

Anybody remember Petals Around the Rose? Bill Gates initially solved the puzzle not by figuring the secret out, but by accidentally memorizing throws and the corresponding correct answers.
posted by gd779 at 3:35 AM on July 14, 2004

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