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5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Bill Gates

What would you ask the wealthiest man in America? Check out the highlights from the Microsoft founder's Q&A session on Reddit.

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"I'm Bill Gates. Ask me anything." The creator of Microsoft and co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation took to the interwebs Monday to answer the burning questions of tech geeks, humorists, and interested parties everywhere. The social news site Reddit hosted an "Ask Me Anything" chat with the iconic dot-com billionaire.

His answers ranged from the philosophical to the technical to the downright silly. Here are five unexpected things about Bill Gates from his brief sojourn online.

He’s cheap--when it comes to trust funds, that is.

“I definitely think leaving kids massive amounts of money is not a favor to them,” wrote the billionaire in reference to the (comparatively) sparse trust fund of $10 million that he and Mrs. Gates intend to leave their children. 

Gates credited Warren Buffett as his inspiration, citing an article in Fortune in 1986 featuring the business magnate’s views on inheritance.

“[That article] made me think about it and decide he was right,” Gates said. “Some people disagree with this, but Melinda and I feel good about it.”

If naysayers of the leave-your-billionaire-kids-less philosophy exist, they certainly weren't present during Reddit's chat Monday. Gates was heaped with "Reddit gold" for this statement (perhaps an unnecessary accolade, several pointed out), as well as his views on wealth and philanthropy.

Though, as one Redittor was quick to point out: “A $10 million head start is nothing to sneeze at.”

He loves Andrew Carnegie.

OK, technically Bill Gates didn’t say that. But his philosophy on philanthropy and the obligation of the wealthy seems eerily similar to the “Gospel of Wealth” written by his industrial-era predecessor.

“This, then, is held to be the duty of the man of wealth,” wrote Carnegie in 1889, “To set an example…to produce the most beneficial results for the community--the man of wealth thus becoming the mere trustee and agent for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his wisdom, experience, and ability to administer.”

Yeah, it’s a little archaic. But Gates’s words seem to echo the sentiment.

“Philanthropy is mostly about a broad set of people giving, but it helps if the most wealthy set a strong example,” wrote Gates. “I think there is a movement to do more, start sooner, and be smarter about giving.”

Still, he remembered to give a shout-out to the little people, too.

“Most giving is done by the middle class, so it is the backbone of generosity--particularly in the United States. A key thing is to support government aid, which is only 1 percent of the budget but helps poor countries in incredible ways.”

He's a dot-com billionaire and tragically misunderstood.

No, truly. Getting inside the mind of a Silicon Valley wunderkind can be a little difficult--even for the typically tech-savvy Reddit community. In one post, an anonymous Redditor asked Gates, “What one Microsoft program or product that was never fully developed or released do you wish had made it to the market?”

Gates’s response was a little, um, dense.

“We had a rich database as the client/cloud store that was part of a Windows release that was before its time. This is an idea that will reemerge since your cloud store will be rich with schema rather than just a bunch of files and the client will be a partial replica with some rich schema understanding.”

“I understood some of those words,” another Redditor replied.

He believes in the stork.

When asked, “Since becoming wealthy, what’s the cheapest thing that gives you the most pleasure?” Mr. Gates responded in typical (though perhaps accidental) billionaire humor.

“Kids,” he wrote. Followed by: “cheap cheeseburgers.”

The Reddit community was quick to balk, parrying with comments like: “Are you sure you have kids? Since when were they cheap?” and “Where are you acquiring these cheap kids from?”

“The stork,” Gates replied.

Oh. Of course.

He wants to cheat death.

When you are the wealthiest man in America, you are plagued by certain dilemmas that don't seem to affect the 99 percent. What do billionaires want for their birthdays, for example?

“Free software,” Gates quipped. “Just kidding. Books, actually.”

And what's on his bucket list?

Even for an innovator who is used to thinking outside the box, Gates’s answer was a little surprising. At the top of his current list?

“Don’t die.”

It seems the creator of Microsoft isn’t done quite yet. The Reddit community, for its part, took this information in stride.

"If anyone is going to be the first immortal, I guess he's the obvious pick," one commenter concluded.

IMAGE: oninnovation/Flickr
Last updated: Feb 11, 2013

FRANCESCA FENZI reports on entrepreneurship, technology and small business news from San Francisco. Her work has previously appeared in TIME, USA Today, Pop City and The Northside Chronicle.
@FrancescaFenzi




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