On Wednesday night, Bill Gates entered Clubhouse for the first time, taking his ongoing book tour to the famous invite-only chat app to explore everything from climate change to what he is binging on Netflix.
The Microsoft co-founder spoke with journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin for about an hour to promote his new book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” fielding questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, his thoughts on bitcoin’s connection to climate change, why he uses an Android smartphone, and what he’s watching on TV while stuck at home like the rest of us.
The audio interview is here on YouTube, and we have some excerpts below:
iPhone vs. Android
As the Clubhouse is only on iOS right now, many were curious as to whether the co-founder of Microsoft had switched to the long-dreaded competition and got an iPhone for himself. However, Gates claimed that this was not the case, and that his personal phone was not manufactured by Apple.
“Some of the Android manufacturers pre-install Microsoft software in a way that makes it easy for me,” Gates said. “They’re more flexible about how the software connects up with the operating system. So that’s what I ended up getting used to … a lot of my friends have iPhone, so there’s no purity.”
Paul Davison, co-founder of Clubhouse, was briefly in the room and told Gates and Sorkin that an Android version of the app was a top priority.
Sorkin pushed Gates on the “climate argument” concerning bitcoin mining, which contends that it necessitates a large amount of computing power and energy consumption. Gates made it clear that he isn’t a fan.
“Bitcoin uses more electricity per transaction than any other method known to mankind. So it’s not like a great climate thing,” Gates said. “If it’s green electricity and it’s not crowding out other uses, eventually maybe that’s OK. I don’t see the topics as deeply related, even though you might label me a Bitcoin skeptic — that is, I haven’t chosen to invest money. I buy malaria vaccines, I buy measles vaccines. Also I invest in companies that make products. It’s not a, ‘Hey, somebody’s going to buy this for more money than I paid for it.’ But if other people find their fortune that way, I applaud them.”
Gates went on to say that there are “other ways of doing digital currency” that aren’t secret transactions, and that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is trying to make such programs available to support India’s and Africa’s poorest people.
Gates received his second vaccination shot a week ago, about a month after tweeting about his first — “It’s the only time I’ve ever been thankful to be such an old person, 65 years old,” he said.
Sorkin asked when Gates might feel comfortable moving around again, scheduling travel, etc.
“I want to set a good example. If you’re vaccinated, you can still transmit,” Gates said. “I’m not going to stop wearing masks or being careful, particularly around older people who haven’t been vaccinated. It’s only by late spring or summer that we’re going to get to numbers where you can look at changing your behavior in a significant way.”
Gates reiterated his argument that it is important for global travel to get the vaccine spread in all nations. Not just wealthy ones. He hopes things in the U.S. to be very different by summer. And all schools with children wearing masks should be open in the fall.
Wearing masks isn’t some huge disastrous thing.
“Wearing masks isn’t some huge disastrous thing. It’s not expensive, we’re kind of used to it,” he said. “I would continue to model that behavior throughout the fall. Until we’re absolutely sure of the numbers are very, very small.”
When asked whether society has learned more about trusting science and knowledge as a result of the pandemic. Gates said that during a crisis, the standard of leadership is crucial. And that a leader must be able to share bad news, set up a proper testing framework, and more.
“The number of mistakes were pretty unbelievable,” Gates said. “We are lucky this thing wasn’t more fatal than it ended up being. But still, half a million Americans, that’s an unbelievable toll. I do think that for at least a generation people will have this threat model in mind and that the government will take the right steps. Even though maybe 10 or 20% of the people will never believe it. Apparently that’s true for the election also. But this is serious stuff. Most people know somebody who died.”
Gates has spent a portion of the pandemic binging on his fair share of Netflix and more, like the rest of us. He called it mind-blowing how good the material has gotten compared to 10 years ago. That there is so much content to choose from these days that you worry about what you might skip.
“The complex plots, the choices, even just in the documentary area, it’s quite phenomenal.” Gates said, adding that he planned to finish a book one night this week. Instead got sucked into “Lupin,” a French mystery thriller on Netflix.
“Next thing I knew four hours have gone by. I really let myself go to seed that night and I was kind of laughing at myself. I don’t usually do that, but they sure make it easy. You just sit there and the next episode is up and running.”