Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates (2019): Season 1, Episode 1 - Part 1 - full transcript

The man, myth and legend of tech and philanthropy - founder of Microsoft and co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - reflects on his trailblazing work with computer software, ...

Bill writes code for days without sleep.

But instead of going to bed,
he needs to blow off steam.

Hitting the desert roads
of Albuquerque at night,

he drives faster and faster...

pushing the limits of his car...

and the law.

Hello, I'm Bill Gates.

In this video,
you're going to see the future.

Mr. Bill Gates.

Forbes Magazine calls Gates
America's richest person.

Six point three billion dollars.

- Worth 40 billion dollars.
- One hundred billion dollars.

Bill Gates is one
of the most remarkable people...

- Arrogant. Greedy.
- ...I've ever met.

- Predatory, capitalistic brainiac.
- A devil.

Impatient optimist.

- Your brain is a CPU?
- Yes.

He thrives on complexity.

He's the smartest person
I've ever met.

He did drop out of college.

You guys never understood
the first thing about this.

Greatest American businessman
of his generation.

He was changing the world
with software.

Is Bill Gates stifling
technological innovation?

They're supposed to be jealous,
supposed to be agitated.

Bill wants people to think that
he's Edison

- and he's really Rockefeller.
- I'm done.

If he were Edison,
he'd be less dangerous.

Can I just ask you
one more question?

Will the real Bill Gates...

- Damn, Bill.
- ...please stand up?

When Bill Gates stepped down
from Microsoft in 2008,

he was worth more
than 58 billion dollars.

He built that fortune
thinking about computer software,

operating systems, spreadsheets,

and the Internet.

So in August 2012,

what was on his mind?

So basically,
we loop around this way.

Okay, good.

There's a lot of spider webs up here.

Melinda always has me go first
'cause she doesn't like cobwebs.

And I don't mind cobwebs.

I first met Bill
when I was at a film screening.

I walked over to introduce myself
and noticed he was reading.

I looked closer and realized
it was a Minnesota state budget

that he was combing over line by line.

In his tote bag... were 37 other budgets.

Immediately I wondered, who is this guy?

What's your favorite food?

- Hamburger.
- What's your favorite animal?


What's your favorite animal
that you eat?


- What do you eat for breakfast?
- Nothing.

- Favorite snack?
- Nuts.

- Coffee or tea?
- Way more coffee.

What is your worst fear?


I don't want my brain to stop working.

Even before he left Microsoft
in 2008,

Bill and his wife and partner Melinda

were already building what's now
the world's largest foundation.

They spend
nearly five billion dollars a year,

work on US public education,

women and family planning.

They get antiviral drugs to HIV patients,

vaccines to the poorest kids.

But what I really wanted to know...

what does Bill actually do?

Eight o'clock,

Artificial Intelligence Tech Review,

nine o'clock, TerraPower meeting,

10:30, Microsoft board of directors,

half an hour lunch,
he'll call with Warren Buffett,

12:30, sanitation meeting,

an education strategy review,

interview with a journalist.

And then at the end of the day,
he'll go over to the IV lab

and spend some time there.

Is he on time?

He is on time to the minute
every single meeting without fail.

Time is the one commodity
that he can't buy more of.

It's a limited resource.

It's finite.

He's got the same 24 hours in a day
that the rest of us have.

I watch him sometimes
do his best thinking when he's walking.

In our family space at home
there's a place I will sit down,

and if he's working on something,

he will pace back and forth.

It helps him somehow organize his brain.

You have to pick
a pretty finite number of things

to tell your mind to...

work on.

You have to decide...

what should you care about?

You know, what you'd really like
is for all the children of the world

to be treated equally.

What strikes me
is how optimistic you are.

Do you think
that was just physiological?

Or is that just like your chemistry?

It must be.

When I was very young,

they nicknamed me Happy Boy.

I had an older sister who didn't,
you know, beat me up or anything.

He did smile all the time.

My first memories of him are...
he and I would go

and spend like a night or the weekend
at my grandmother's house.

And we would play, um,
sort of like make-believe,

like kids would play,
we'd make houses and whatever.

My brother would always be the dog.

He was sort of a towhead,

smiley little... kid.

It was an early morning when
Bill and Melinda read a story in the paper

that would change the course
of their foundation.

The point of my article
was to remind people

that kids around the world are dying

for reasons that are entirely preventable

just because they happen to be born
in Niger and not New York.

We saw this article and I remember
saying to Bill, "This is unbelievable.

People are still dying of diarrhea.

How could that be?"

Because by then, we had a young daughter.

And I knew if this child
that I'm holding had diarrhea,

I'd go to the pharmacy,
I'd go to the doctor.

If I was a mom
in the developing world...

...this child might not make it.

And you can feel, I think, as a parent,

that capacity of how tragic that would be

and how needless and senseless.

Just because the world won't
focus on it. Are you kidding me?

We had made the commitment
that the vast resources

from Microsoft will go back to society.

But what this article did for us

is it really got us thinking about
global health and what could you do?

They had started philanthropy.

They were providing computers
in southern Africa.

And it was kind of frustrating.

Didn't really feel like
it was very effective.

They were searching around
for new issues.

And the most important article

I've ever written
for that reason.

Bill went on to read
the World Development Report

about how many kids

are dying of diarrhea.

At the time this book comes out,

twelve percent of all kids...
die before the age of five.

Three million times a year,

parents are burying children
because of diarrhea.

And in the world
that I'm spending time in,

I've never met a single parent

who had to bury a child
because they died of diarrhea.

So it makes you wonder,
hey, is the world applying

its incredible set of resources

to eliminate these deaths?

What I think is a miracle is that...

a thousand influential people
have this book but never read it.

You happen to be one of the most
influential people and you've read it,

and you understood it,

and you decided, okay,
this is the action I wanna take.

Yeah, this book would sit
on a lot of shelves.

It's... It's not...

It's not a page-turner.

Eight plus four.

Four plus nine.

Twenty plus two.

Nine plus seven.

Seven plus five.

Do you remember the day
when you realized

that you were smarter
than other kids your age?

Three plus six.
Ten plus two.

They used to have these records
they'd put on,

and a voice that would say,

like "13 plus 18."

And I'd write the answer down,

look at other students.

The recording would go fairly quickly.

Thirteen plus 18.

Seventeen plus nine.

Ten plus 32.

And so as I'd write the answers down,
you could see people kinda going...

"Ah! This is too fast."

So I had a sense
that my mind was snappy

on, you know, simple addition type things.

And by 8th grade
you take this math test,

and you do best in the state.


And not just best in the state
from 8th graders.

You did best in the state from every

eighth, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grader.

That's pretty mind-blowing.

Which parent pushed you
to be the best?

My mom.

My mom was very engaged

in all of our day-to-day activity.

My... My dad was amazing
as a role model,

but the person who tried to get me
excited about things, that was...

very dominated by my mom.

She was very warm.

She had a very good sense
of how to make people feel comfortable.

She was very socially skilled and...

not in a fake way, in a very genuine way.

She cared about people
and was interested in people.

This is my mom.

This is actually some early medical stuff

being displayed at this university
that my mom must have...

been involved with somehow.

She was very big in the social scene
in the Seattle area.

She was on a lot
of volunteer boards

and did that kind of thing
with United Way

and that ability to be a good board member

then got her other positions
on boards that actually... that paid.

The university,
the insurance company,

the phone company...

There's certainly no doubt
that my involvement in the community

has had a tremendous impact
on the business career

that I now have as well.

That was my mom.

Suit on, put together,

briefcase, walking out the door
to a meeting.

There was a newspaper article
and there was this photograph

of a boardroom table,

and my mom was the one woman
sitting at the table.

I think we always
had the impression

that she expected us to succeed,
to be successful.

She'd talk about, "Oh, those parents
must be proud their kid's doing that,"

or, "Those parents must feel a little bad
their kid's not doing that."

She had a certain sense of values

that were...

uh... communicated to us
in that kind of indirect way.

She was a force.

And she wanted

our family to be a force.

I did reporting
in both Africa and India,

and I remember in India at one point

I had to pee, and so I asked the woman
I'd just been interviewing,

the family I'd just spent
several hours with,

"So, you know, where can I pee?"

And she pointed me somewhere
and I realized it was taking,

it was taking the urine in this gutter

to where they were collecting
their water to drink.

People were defecating in the same spot.

In many developing countries,

people choose to go outside because
they can't stand using a pit latrine,

a hole in the ground that has
a terrible smell and often overflows.

For half the world's population,

more than four billion people,

there is no good option.

There's a whole area
of global development called WASH.

So WASH stands for water,
sanitation and hygiene.

Most philanthropies that work in that
space of water, sanitation, and hygiene,

work on water.

Like you hear a ton about water,
everybody's into water.

People say,
"Oh, we need clean water." Well...

yes, the water should be clean,

but you can give people clean water.

If their kids are playing in mud
that has human sewage in it,

that's where all the diarrheal infection
is taking place.

Very few philanthropies

work on sanitation.

So sanitationis two main things:

toilets and sewer systems.

They are both areas where there's been
a nearly complete lack of innovation.

So Bill went looking for people
who could apply a new way of thinking

to the problem.

He called mechanical engineer
Peter Janicki.

I have never thought
about sanitation.

I thought about a lot of other things.

If you visit
Peter's aerospace company,

there's a lot of technology in warehouses
you're not allowed to see.

Here, they build top secret parts
for the military and more.

So when Bill first came to me,

and said, "Are you interested in working
on this sanitation problem?"

I thought to myself,

"What sanitation problem?

If there's anything that we've solved,
in my opinion, it's sanitation."

Most of us don't think about
what happens after we flush.

Clean water fills the bowl,
dirty water gets flushed.

Flushed water travels through
a complex network of pipes

and arrives at a treatment center.

There, the water goes through things
like a grit chamber...

...gravity belt thickener,
and a sludge digester.

All to produce safe water.

You start looking at the United States
and the population,

it's a big country,

and there's actually
not that many people live here.

Three hundred million people in America.

Then you start looking
at these other countries.

They have ten times
the population density that we have.

And everybody wants to do
what we're doing.

If you build slums
without putting the piping in,

going back in, getting the water,

building the piping,

it would be tens of billions
for a single city

to go in and build up modern sanitation.

It is not a system that will ever
scale down to very poor countries.

Even if they could afford
to modernize,

that solution requires
way too much energy and water.

So we have a pit in the ground
that smells so bad

that it makes you wanna throw up

or we have multi-million dollar
waste water treatment plants.

Those are our two solutions.
We're like, "Okay, this is the way it is.

Get used to it."

Bill wondered
what it would take

to reimagine both toilets
and sewage systems.

What if you can fund inventors

that could come up with something
that's a tenth the cost?

You know, that's pretty magical.

And you end up saving millions of lives.

When I was six years old...

I can still remember my dad

telling me about the death
of one of my brothers.

And then, at nine years old,


two more.

And then later,

one more.

I was big enough to understand
what it means to lose...

to lose siblings.



I eventually end up
going to the university.

I started learning why people die.

That was the time I realized, yeah,

people die because
of very preventable diseases.

It was like a hit.

I was lucky. I was still alive.


What could I do?

Doulaye left his village
in Côte D'Ivoire

and moved to Belgium
to study sanitary engineering.

But at the university, he realized
that everyone talked about improvements

that would only work
in developed countries.

I could never imagine those things working
in the places I was coming from.

I had started really questioning
all the professors.

And asked them,
"Can you create new solution?"

For a decade,
Doulaye couldn't find anyone willing

to answer that question.

And then, he got an email,

inviting him to meet Bill
at the foundation.

The only thing I knew was...

he started Microsoft,
he was very successful.

Why in the world someone like this
want to talk about

fecal sludge, pit latrine, and toilet?

Finally, Doulaye found someone
in the western world

who understood what he knew
from experience.

It was the first time in my life

that conversation was not about
whether it is difficult to solve.

The conversation was about
why it doesn't work.

What have you tried?

What have we never dared to try?

Bill and Doulaye spent hours
posing all sorts of questions.

Could a toilet not only collect waste,

but turn it into fuel?

Would burning poop inside the toilet

create enough energy
for it to run itself?

Would it be possible for a toilet to work

without pipes or even outside water?

We came to a conclusion that...

it would be possible.

Bill knew there was still
one big question left to answer.

How could he transform
their scribbles on a whiteboard

into something that actually works?

Measure What Matters,

The Vaccine Race,

Haiti Prioritizes,

Blockchain Revolution,
Strength in Stillness,

Inventions That Changed the World,

How to Make a Mind,
Fundamentals of Deep Learning...

...Quantum Mechanics and Algorithms,

The Book of Why, Bad Blood,

Life 3.0...


To Be a Machine,

The Perfect Weapon...


And how often
are you packing this?

This gets refreshed on a weekly basis.

It gets packed and cleaned
for every trip he does, certainly,

because he has more time to read

while he's traveling
for his work for the foundation.

- So this goes everywhere with him?
- This goes everywhere with him.

He is joyous about learning things,

like no one I've ever met in my life.

He doesn't read one book about something,

he'll read, like, five books
about something.

Most of which are too dense
for any mortal to read, right?

And he reads really fast
and synthesizes really well.

The most amazing thing is

he almost always knows more

than the other person he's talking to
about whatever it is, it's unbelievable.

When I've been with him
on vacation, he'll read 14 books.

That's a gift, you know,
to read 150 pages an hour.

I'm gonna say
it's 90 percent retention.

Kind of extraordinary.

One thing about Bill
is he is a multi-processor.

He'll be reading something else
but then processing at the same time.

And when he's off reading, you think,

"Hey, you could have gone to bed
an hour earlier,"

that's actually when he's working out
some of his emotional life.

What do you remember about him?

I remember thinking:

he's kind of weird.

And his friends are weird.

They're kind of nerdy

and they think differently than me.

My brother was happy to be locked
in his room for hours

focusing on one thing or another.

When you're ten and you're walking
into his room, what do you see?

Um, I see a mess.

I see a mess, a total mass,
books all over the place.

I think left to his own devices,

he might have stayed in his room

and read books all day long.

You could just see
that he was different.

I don't think he perceived himself
as being different.

I don't know how much
he was in touch with what was...

more normal,

just 'cause he was so introverted.

He wants to be in his room
and do what?


Chew pencils.

He was just thinking.


My mom had a hard time
getting him to do things.

They had a really rocky relationship.

She couldn't get to him.

My parents' authority
seemed arbitrary.

I really didn't want
to follow their rules.

I would not speak for days at a time.

I felt like I was in some struggle.

Does Bill get frustrated?

Oh, yes.

Yeah, he's fierce, he is fierce.

It's scary.
I mean, he gets like really frustrated.

Bill wrote to the most
prestigious universities

asking them to think
about fixing the world's toilet problem...

so that together
they could begin saving lives.

Most didn't bother to reply.

When he's frustrated, it's,

"Let's go faster."

"Let's solve the problems.

And let's figure out
what's between us and victory."

What is the longest
you've played on a single day?

Oh, eight hours.

- Eight hours?
- Eight or nine.

What's the hottest you've played,
what temperature you've played in?

A hundred and six.

Who first taught you how to play tennis?

Uh, my parents.

In the summers we played.

We came up and went to Hood Canal and...

They wanted us to do all the sports,

so even baseball,


Favorite memory
from Camp Cheerio.

Uh, you know, having my dad...

who's the mayor...

lead the singing march.

We had a lot of songs,
but the theme song was

from the...

Bridge Over the River Kwai song, it was...

♪ March on the road to Cheerio ♪

♪ Here we go ♪

♪ Time for a real sensation ♪

♪ At the place that we all know ♪

♪ Pam-pa-ram-pa-ram-pa ♪

Why do you love that so much?

Well, just because I was a kid
and those were good times.

We'd go with nine
or ten different families

and we'd rent out the whole resort.

This tradition of Cheerio

was built around games.

There was a tennis tournament
for the adults.

There were Olympic games for the kids.

There was a gunny sack race,

there was a running race,

there was an obstacle course,
carry an egg on a spoon.

Nothing fancy,
but definitely competitive.

Oh, no.


Bill knew that the best
and brightest engineers

are too often focused
on well-funded projects

for business and the military.

So he had to find a way
to get them to think about toilets.

At Cheerio...

getting your spot on the podium
was really important.

He wanted to win.

Through that.

My brother happens
to be very competitive.

But I think
that competitive thing

got him going.


Bill went back
to eight universities.

But instead of asking them
to present their designs in private...

he had another idea.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

is leading a competition
to invent a new toilet that doesn't...

From technology
to toilets, Bill Gates and his wife...

This wasn't a day
for your everyday throne.

Microsoft mogul Bill Gates
is looking for ways

to flush out contaminated drinking water
around the world.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

is offering nearly seven million dollars...

All entrants must operate
without running water, electricity,

or a septic system.

The foundation expects
to use prototypes within the next...

Prototypes include a toilet

that uses microwave energy

to turn human waste into electricity...

Some bottles turn urine
into water for flushing

or used insects to eat it.

The maggot is not a very choosy thing
when it comes to what it wants to eat.

Even Bill was amazed by just
how audacious these ideas were.

But he also knew it would take years
for even one to become a reality.

And still, every day,

thousands were dying.

You have pit latrines
in communities,

and eventually they fill up.

Now what do you do with this material?

It's absolutely full of pathogens.

And they have no place to put it.

It's gotta go to a sewer treatment plant.

In other parts of the world,
modern sewage treatment

simply doesn't exist...

even in urban areas.

I traveled and I saw

a whole bunch
of wastewater treatment plants.

None of them were running.

The sewer was just going around them.

They build them
but they can't afford to run them.

In Dakar, most human waste
pours into canals

that flow directly into the Hann Bay.

There, infectious diseases spread
at alarming rates.

Just as Bill asked Doulaye
to help him reinvent the toilet,

he wondered if Peter could help invent
a new treatment plant.

One that doesn't waste water,

or require a lot of energy.

I was a little bit discouraged
at first because...

I couldn't think
of a technical solution.

A lot of people
were looking at filtration.

They were like,
"I gotta filter this somehow."

And in my view, you can't filter something

that's so radically different every time.

So this is, uh, sewer sludge.

What do you think's growing in there?


You know why?

Because people eat tomatoes.

And the seeds go through the person

and they end up here.

Looks like it's pretty dry.

Believe it or not, there's
actually a lot of really good stuff in...

in shit.

There's a lot of water.

And so I started looking at it, saying,

"I can boil it."

Bill and Peter knew
that boiling poop would generate steam,

and that steam generates energy...

...and energy is necessary
to power a sewage system.

But what if a treatment center
could use poop to power itself forever?

"And just maybe," they asked...

"could that steam produce
clean, drinkable water?"

So, by the time you were 12,
things got really bad

with your mother, right?

Yeah, I definitely gave my mom
a hard time

not following along with what she wanted

and really trying to detach myself.

And what...
So how did you express that frustration?

Oh, just disobedience, disrespect.

I mean, it's kind of embarrassing
to think about it...


In an argument over dinner...

...Bill shouted at his mother
in what he describes today as

"Utter, totally sarcastic,
smart-ass kid rudeness."

In a rare burst of anger, Bill's dad
threw a glass of water at Bill's face.

They actually got
some counseling.

They pretended that it was
a whole family problem

and we all went.

Um, but then it became clear
that it was my mother and my brother.

I said to him, "Hey,

I'm at war with my parents.

I don't know if you can help me or not."

And he said,
"Well, that's it's not a very fair war.

You're gonna inflict more pain on them

than they inflict on you.

And they're really on your side."

So, you know, I'm... Basically, I had
the wrong way of looking at things.

It took him about three months
to convince me of that,

but it was brilliant.

I think it was sorta, "At some point,
you've gotta let your mother have her way.

That's just the way life is and you've
gotta let your mother have her way."

The real question was how

I would do in the real world.

Pushing up against them
where they really cared about me,

that wasn't the real world.

She was intentional about creating
opportunities for him to be social.

I mean, for example,

when my dad would go
to American Bar Association meetings,

they would have him come

and be a greeter or do something

that forced that engagement.

Even at Cheerio

there were sort of
beautifully engineered interactions

between the children and the parents.

One of the things that the parents
would organize is a drawing to see

whose house you would go to for dinners.

So you had to learn to follow their rules,

eat their food, and socialize.

So if your parents had left him
alone and not forced him to deal

in the real world,

do you think he'd be the same guy?

I don't think so.

You don't know, but I don't think so.

I think my parents had a lot to do...

with how he turned out.

Please welcome Mr. Bill Gates.

So it's viable they could get it
value engineered down.

It's not out of the realm that they could
get it to the price point that we want.

There critical challenge there
is with the heat exchanger,

is the heat recovery.

So we are really looking at the best
company in the world

who have expertise in that.

Do you see there being
just one manufacturer

ultimately in China or multiples?

The way they're structured...

Melinda brings...

just a great...

different point of view
that makes you more effective.

Yeah, well,
she's totally my partner.

There's real partners
and there's superficial partners.

And you chose to make her a real partner.

No, she's a real partner.
'Cause she is, you know, totally...

equal in how we do these things.

We weren't quite there yet
when he left Microsoft, to be frank.

'Cause he'd run the company, right?

He was the CEO of the company
and the chairman of the board.

I knew he was for it,

we just needed to change
a few of our ways of working together.

It doesn't feel like
there's any inequality.

You know, even though he's the one
that started Microsoft and not her.

Like he appreciates everything about her,

as opposed to, like,
complaining about her or something.

I've never heard him complain about her.

He's the only person I know who I've never
heard complain about his wife.

I was good at math
in high school.

My high school teacher
decided to go to the head principal

when she saw these Apple computers
at a conference.

So we started programming in high school.

Between math and puzzles,
which I love both,

it was like this whole puzzle,
and I just loved it.

I started working at Microsoft
in 1983,

and in '87, we hired seven MBAs,

six guys and her.

And she had gone to Duke
and gotten a degree in computer science

and an MBA in five years.

So the other people in this "pledge class"
of MBA's were all like 26 years old.

She was maybe 22 and a half, right,
and she was the only woman.

Within a very short time,
Melinda was running her own division,

overseeing hundreds of people.

In the consumer division,

we were trying to think through
the human experience,

the user experience.

Bill has amazing scientists

and innovative ideas
for getting new toilet technology.

It will absolute change
the developing world.

But if they can't think about

the experience of, a mom is the one
who takes her child to the toilet...

The moms tell me in the villages,

"If men can see over the wall,
I'm not going in there.

It's not safe and it's not private.

If I can't take my child
into the little stall with me

it doesn't work,
I can't leave the child outside."

That's where I'm willing to be a bit
of grist with Bill. I'll poke him a bit.

Like, "Well, how are you thinking
about this piece

and how are you thinking about that?"

We listen and respect each other

and then we come to a common viewpoint,
and that's what we take forward.

And what are you hoping to get
out of the toilet fair

this time that's gonna happen in China?

At the last one there was a bit of,
"We're still in a science mode."

- Mmm.
- Could this work?

Our hope is to show enough momentum
that that's no longer the question.

When you arrive,
you will be straight on the stage

to deliver your keynote.

This is going to be
a very big historic moment.

At the top of page three,

underneath the lectern

there is a shelf with the, uh...

the poop prop.

So you'll be standing there and it's...

it's just right under there.


Can you say a few words
for me please?

I'm trying this strange microphone.

You got that?

Thumbs up. Thank you.

There's two bottles of water in the podium
that have already been cracked.

Do they look different than the feces?

They're on the bottom shelf.

He didn't get that.

Believe me, that was a...

Do I set 'em there?
Because then nobody wants them.

So they're on the bottom shelf.

And we've been working
all these years to fund

the early stage research.

Now's the time to take it
and drive it to maturity.

Six years
after the first toilet fair,

the engineers have refined
their early prototypes.

What began as a brainstorm
on a whiteboard

had finally come to life.

This toilet utilizes a screw to separate
urine from feces.

Burning the waste generates energy
to power the screw.

All that's left...

a small pile of ash.

This squat toilet dries then burns waste

to create heat that disinfects the urine.

And this one is powered by solar panels,

and uses an oxygen composting process.

The by-products:
fertilizer and water for flushing.

We really do see ourselves on a cusp

of a sanitation revolution.

Many of these toilets require
no outside electricity or plumbing.

And they were ready to replace
the pit latrine forever.

But the capital cost?

For the time being,
about $50,000, uh, US dollars.

The cost of this now is around,
uh, 50,000.

For all the progress,

Bill knew that a $50,000 toilet
was way out of reach.

This thing's gonna have
to cost less than $500.

And right now we're more
than ten times greater than that.

The solution:

find a partner in this room
to manufacture it and bring the cost down.

I brought a little exhibit here.

This is a...

container of human feces.

Inside there could be over 200 million

rotavirus particles,

twenty billion shigella bacteria,

and a hundred thousand
parasitic worm eggs.

That's what kids,
when they're out playing,

they're being exposed to all the time.

If he failed,
it would be seven years of work

and 200 million dollars wasted.

As a businessman,
what are your blindsides?

What are the moments that you feel like,
"Oh, this is what I'm not so good at"?

Well, innovation-based businesses
are the only ones that I bring anything...

to it all.

I like to push the level of risk
of doing things

that wouldn't happen

without leadership and vision.

In only 18 months,

Peter and his team were able to build
a working prototype

of a stand-alone treatment plant.

They called it the Omni Processor.

And the machine worked exactly the way
they imagined it would.

So this is the solution when,
you empty pit latrines,

and instead of dumping all this stuff
in the river,

you bring it
to a centralized Omni Processor.

It evaporates the water,

solids go into a fire,

we burn them,

we boil more steam,

and drive a steam engine to make
electricity to drive the whole process.

It requires no external power
and no outside water.

And in the end, the only byproducts

are electricity, ash,

and clean, drinkable water.

We're, you know,
looking at all these water samples

coming out of the Omni Processor.

You know where it came from,
you can see the pile of shit

that it came from five minutes ago.

He just grabs a glass
and he takes a look at it

and boom! Just tastes like water.

But building a prototype
in just 18 months wasn't enough.

Bill pushed Peter
to get this machine up and running

where people needed it.

I have access to hundreds
of mechanics

and engineers and electricians,

and getting it to run every day

is a piece of cake.

But sending it to Dakar

and getting it up and running...

but to actually do that
is kind of a big deal.

Early on at Microsoft,

my mom became
sort of his right-hand person.

When he bought a house,

making sure he actually
had a house cleaner,

helping him have a wardrobe

when he was getting a photograph taken
for some magazine.

I think he was very happy
with that

'cause as a 25, 26-year-old guy,

he, that was great, "I don't have to worry
about all this stuff."

She made him be really thoughtful
early in his life at Microsoft

about what it meant to be a community
contributor and the importance of that.

She introduced him
back into the community, she,

you know, got him involved in United Way.

She was his guidepost.

I never thought that he,
you know, at that point,

that he'd get anybody to marry him.

Melinda and my mom got along really well.

I think my mom did a great job
of sort of realizing

that she needed to step back a little bit.

Do you think he knew
how serious her cancer was?

Yeah. Yeah.

She was becoming very frail.

It was pretty clear...

she had at most...

a year to live.

He did everything he could and...

he looked into trials

and what the different options were
for treatment, and...

it was just a little too early
in the progression of cancer research

to really help her.

My mom loved Melinda

and thought that she was a great...

addition to the family
and perfect for my brother.

Right around the time that Bill
and Melinda we're getting married,

she was quite ill.

She died the June after they got married.

She died of breast cancer.

What was the worst day in your life?

Mmm, like the day my mother died.

My mom had been fading quite a bit.

And so I'm driving...

to the house I grew up in.

And I'm speeding...

...and I get pulled over.

The officer walks up...

and I was just sobbing.

And I say,
"My mom died and I'm going home."

Even though we had expected it...

and here it was.

Mom was gone.

When things are difficult

he goes to his safe space,
which is intellect.

It's hard for him to feel pain.

I think it was
an extraordinary loss for him.

And I kind of wonder,
you know, whether there was some...


some things
that were left undone for him.

She would be so prou...

I mean, it's a shame she's not here

'cause she would be so proud of him.

But she...

Yeah. Um...

It's a shame she's not here.

If she could see you today,
you think she'd be proud of you?

I think so.


She never thought my table manners
were perfect.

I don't think I've, uh...

solved that.

So she'd have,
you know, still things that...

uh, she'd encourage me to do better on.

Taking his brain and putting it

in our family with my mom...

pushing him to do the social stuff...

that's all stuff that got him...

sort of to focus his brain...

not just on the learning
and the educational part,

but more on the doing part.

Today in Dakar,

the Omni Processor is treating one-third

of the city's fecal sludge...

and providing clean, drinkable water.

In journalism we tend to cover
what happened today.

We're all over a press conference,
an explosion.

We don't cover things that happen
every day.

We tend to miss those stories

about the everyday suffering.

And we miss the story about everyday
improvement in living conditions.

Because things that happen every day

are never quite news.

There's this battle for eyeballs
in the journalism world.

And covering global health
is not a way to get eyeballs.

This article was
quickly forgotten

except that it had a couple
of important readers in Seattle.

In November 2018,

Lixil, one of the world's
largest manufacturers,

announced it would develop
one of Bill's toilets.