Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates (2019): Season 1, Episode 3 - Part 3 - full transcript

The search for climate change solutions requires passion, resources and a sense of urgency -- three qualities Bill Gates clearly possesses.

It's zero, right?

- Yeah.
- And you get that eight.

So you get one more turn.

You can either take that four or that one,
and then we're going to count.

- So my... I have no hope of winning.
- Um...

Let's see...

What was a...
what’s a perfect card for you?

No, you have no hope of winning.

Oh, you’re doing really well.
Look at that.



I get that. War.

See I’m bet... This is a game I...

- I'm qualified to play.
- Wow.

Oh, you killed yourself.

Look at that! Big jack is down.

All right.

- What the hell?
- That's bad luck.

Who set these cards up?


Jesus, Bill.

Is this your method, you beat people
and say it's luck?

No, any particular game

is very, very luck-driven.

In that sense,
cards are like life.

Oh my God, this is big.

- Oh!
- Oh my God!

- Double war.
- Double war.

- You killed... Oh, Triple War!
- Triple War!

Oh, I beat you.


That was lucky.

You're lucky in life
and you're lucky in War.

- And love, too.
- And love.

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?

Assess Bill Gates.


- Setbacks.
- You're trying to personalize it.

- I am.
- You know, Melinda and I...

But this is about you. So, like...

...let's put up front
that there are plenty of other people

who are involved in the success
and the failure.

- Can we talk about...
- Yeah, including Melinda.

Of course, and she’s
challenging your assumptions a lot.

- Yeah.
- She doesn't just go along with the plan.

Sure, no, if I’m super excited
about something,

she’ll double-check that.
If I’m like, "Hey,

this is such a huge setback,"

she's like, "Okay, well,
can’t we salvage this?

Can’t we, you know, improve it this way?"

I've always had somebody
who's, you know, a key person,

who cares as deeply as I do,
but brings a different skill mix.

Uh, in the case of Melinda,

it's a, you know, truly equal partner.

She's a lot like me
in that she's optimistic,

and she is interested in science.

She's better with people than I am.

She's a tiny bit less hardcore about

you know, knowing immunology than I am.

We have a lot of humor
in our relationship

and we can joke about things.

I’ll sometimes rib a little bit,

"Are you sure you know that?
What makes you think that?"

- And...
- Sometimes he's wrong.

Absolutely! You bet he's wrong!

Does she call you on your shit?

A lot of it, sure.

Not all of it?

Well... I hope she hasn’t...

doesn’t know all of it...
No, I’m just kidding. Uh...

You could use these pieces
to finish this.

You're right.

Talk about meeting Bill.

How did that happen?

Okay, meeting Bill.

I’d only been working at the company
a very short time.

I come to this trade show dinner

that's just Microsoft people
in the hotel.

I come in late because I'm coming
across town from different meetings

and there are two chairs open.

And so I sit down
in the second to last chair.

Bill comes in from wherever he was
and sits down in the last chair.

He was funny and very high energy

and, at the end of the evening,

he said, "A bunch of us
are going out dancing.

Why don't you come tonight?"

And I said, "Well, I actually have plans
later tonight."

Months later, we happened to be parked

near each other.

As I was coming out of the building,

Bill was coming out to get in his car,

so we stopped in the parking lot
and struck up a conversation

for a little while.

Bill said to me,
"Would you go out with me

two weeks from Friday night?"

And I was like,
"Two weeks from Friday night?"

I said,
"That’s not spontaneous enough for me.

Call me two days before or something."

And he called me at home at my apartment
about an hour later

and said,
"Is this spontaneous enough for you?"

I thought I'd go out with him once,

maybe twice,

but he really surprised me.

On the very first date,
he let his guard down.

We just... We talked for hours
and hours and hours.

I could tell that,
while everybody else saw this shell

and to some extent there had to be a shell
when you’re building Microsoft,

and the press that came around that early.

Inside of there was this very tender,
warmhearted person.

And a very curious person.

How do you choose what to read?

There's a few topics,

if it’s about health areas,
energy, climate change.

Um, you know, quite a few that,
if there’s a good book,

I’m gonna make sure to read it.

In the area of energy,

Vaclav Smil has written
every one of these books.

Earth's Biosphere,

Energy Myths and Realities,

Energy Transitions.

A couple got kind of obscure.

This one is about
the Japanese dietary transition.

I might not even have finished it

unless I had kind of a commitment
to read everything he’d written.

He went too far on this one.

The natural audience size
might be less than one on this one.

He spent his whole life
building a framework of energy

by studying every little topic.

How many people in the world
have read all of your books?

I don't think anybody.

He came... He comes closest, uh, yeah.

He likes to be informed
and to understand complexities.

And I like to write
and to understand the complex world.

And most people don't want to bother.

Most people want only one paragraph.
One sentence. A tweet, really, right?

My books are 300, 400, 500 pages long.

I go into depths,
I go into historical depths.

I explain why things became.
How they became.

The latest
is Energy and Civilization.

This is one where I’ve studied
what he sayspretty closely

and I take a lot of notes.

Why does the US use about twice
as much per person as Europe does?

Each person uses different kinds
of energy: heating,

materials, food.

Car engines, ship engines...

...jet engines, diet, fertilizer.

Energy is this miracle

and that's core to the modern lifestyle.

So what's the problem?

The primary generation sources,

which are, uh, coal, natural gas,
and liquid gasoline,

when you burn them,
they are releasing CO2 in the air,

and that clearly is causing heating.

And that heating
is changing the world

before our eyes.

Should I be worried
about climate change?


- Why?
- Absolutely. Uh...

Well, because it's the only planet
we have, you know.

You have to be a delusional Elon Musk
to think that we can terraform Mars

and leave this planet.

We will never leave this planet.

As simple as that.

So, just conserving
a little bit isn't enough.

It's good because it...

You know, you certainly,
before you get all the way there,

you have to get partway there, but...

no one says that that's a solution
for climate change.

You're saying the solution
is a combo of things.

Of innovating across all
the sectors of emissions. Yes.

We usually blame cars and coal

for climate change, and it’s true.

They are pumping a lot of CO2
into the atmosphere.

But we generate greenhouse gases

in other surprising ways.

Along with electricity and transportation,

there's also manufacturing,


and agriculture.

Reducing emissions
from these pipes will help,

but it won't be enough.

Technologies like solar and wind

won't single-handedly shut off any pipes.

Since they’re intermittent,

we have to store everything
that's generated.

But we can’t build enough batteries
to store power

for the entire world.

When Tokyo has a cyclone
for four days,

so wind has to shut off, no sun,

where is the energy coming from?

Just that energy for those four days
is more than all the batteries we make.

According to NASA,

the CO2 that’s being piped into the air
right now

can linger in the atmosphere
for hundreds of years.

So we need a miracle.
We need a magic bullet.

Well, we need innovation
across a lot of different areas.


- Hi.
- Hi, welcome!

- Hi.
- Morning.

- Hi.
- Hi.

I'm Bill.

Hi, I'm Bill.

Today we’re super excited to show you
how 3-D printing

can dramatically improve
the energy efficiency of manufacturing.

Bill convinced a group
of investors to find and accelerate

new technologies that can become

one of those miracles.

Bill said we need a thousand crazy ideas.

And he said,
"I plan on funding a lot of them."

So what we wanted to do
was show how a material like this

will just spontaneously grab CO2.

This start-up

is developing porous material
that could remove carbon from the air,

soaking up CO2 like a sponge.

This team is converting CO2
into chemicals,

to make recyclable plastics
and other products.

Using highly efficient 3- D printing,
these scientists

are creating materials
that produce far less carbon dioxide.

This group is building
a longer-range cheaper battery

for electric vehicles.

But then could you use a spectroscope

and look at what element it is, or...


And so what delta T allows you

to make economic sense?

Is that because of the photons

or because of the heat?

I’m telling the story for Microsoft,
but the same thing is true today.

He would ask questions
that would frequently come from

such a different point of view

than the people had thought of,

that they would get flummoxed.

Do you qualify for PTSITS

or do we need to change the policy?

He has such a good memory

and he has such an incredible capacity
for cramming information in his head,

if something doesn't line up,
he will challenge you.

Stuff like this
is not biodegradable, right?

Yes, this one is not.

Then you can start talking
about solutions.

But there’s two... there’s two ways
you can become intermittent.

One is that you can have
just a big tank of hot water.

You may need to create
some general software

that they can play around with
because what...

what they’re trying to see
would vary a lot.

So I’ve been looking and you might be
one of the first applications

that fits that... that niche.

What are the odds
that one is successful?

Oh, pretty good. Uh...

You know, 40%.

- Forty percent?
- Yeah.

It's pretty important
that we start deploying a clean solution

and that we deploy it unnaturally fast.

It usually takes 50 years

before something becomes feasible.

But the warming planet
can't wait 50 years.

So Bill went looking for options

that could work now.

He began to consider something
that many believed was too difficult

and far too risky.

Who taught you to play?

Mostly my grandmother.

She was the best card player.

It took me a while before I noticed
that she won

such a high percentage of the time.

Then I realized she understands
the patterns in the cards

and what's gone by.

I learned that...

mental intensity actually paid off,

if it structured
what you needed to look for.

I'm still confused
by this game.

Well, I’ll let you put the five here.

Say you would have picked...
put the five there.

- Let's do that. Uh...
- You're being nice.

You've mellowed.

I have mellowed. Thank God.

By the mid-1980's,

Microsoft was massively successful.

Working with his old friend Steve Ballmer,

Bill had grown the company
beyond all expectations.

As Paul was so critical to the early days,

Steve was absolutely critical
to making it a big company.

We're deep partners,

pushing each other.

We were both, day and night,
thinking about the company.

So you're working long hours,
Microsoft is taking all of your attention.

How does that work with Melinda?

Well, when we first met,

she had other boyfriends
and I had Microsoft.

We were like, "We’re not really serious
about each other, are we?

We're not going
to demand each other's time."

I was new to Microsoft.
There were a lot of men there.


And, you know, you...

You're still looking around, you know,
you're still figuring it out.

But after about a year of that,

you know, sort of to our surprise,

certainly my surprise,

uh, you know, we said, "Hey, I love you."

And she said she loved me
and then it was like, "Wow."

And now what is going to happen?

Bill wanted to be married,

but he didn't know
whether he could actually commit to it

and have Microsoft.

You know, we cared a lot
for each other

and there were only two possibilities:

either we were going to break up
or we were going to get married.

If it wasn't gonna work with him,

I would have moved on,
I knew I would move on.

He had to make a decision.

One day, I walked into his bedroom
and his whiteboard had the pros

and the cons of getting married.

I took the idea of marriage
very seriously.

Bill Sr. and Mary
did everything together.


The way they thought
about their lives as a couple,

even when they went through the phase

where they were going to slow down
just a little bit.

How would they balance her board work

and his desire
to spend a little bit more time

not at the office?

They also played together.

Before dinner every night at the canal,
they would go swimming together.

His parents were both very engaged

in the Seattle community,

they were both serving on boards.

They had this sense of giving back
and a sense of equality.

So that commitment,

I really hesitated to make.

...and you may kiss your bride.

Bill Gates wants his software

to be part of your life.

Bill Gates is on his way

into millions of American homes,

through the Windows.

Microsoft should sell
tens of millions of copies

before the end of the year.

It was electric.

I mean, we knew
we were changing the world. We were.

Every time we put out a product,
it changed things for people.

The most hyped

computer product ever hit the market

at the stroke of midnight.

There's a lot of single product

but we'd become
the first multi-product company.

Bill Gates is about 200 million
dollars richer this morning.

Microsoft hit a new record high
on Wall Street...

It was very high energy,

very fast paced.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Steve Ballmer!

Please welcome Bill Gates
and the Bill Gates dancers!

Number one for the second year
in a row

on Forbes’ list
of 400 richest Americans.

Microsoft has unrivaled
marketing clout

with 80% of the market.

Competing with Bill Gates

is like a knife fight.

Buy ‘em out, boys.

Forbes puts Gates’ net worth
at about 14.8 billion dollars.

His net worth doubled

to 36.4 billion dollars
over the past year.

He was the golden boy,
Microsoft was the golden company.

He was already famous when I met him.

But then, this sort of persona

was growing and building
astronomically during that time.

I love you, girlie!

That dichotomy was really hard for me.

I'm a very private person

and I was like,
"Whoa, I do not want that."

So you start seriously
considering nuclear energy,

something wildly unpopular.


It's the kind of innovation that...

you know, might not get done
unless I came in and helped.

You know, it's hundreds
of millions of dollars, uh,

requires assembling a team of scientists.

I wouldn't be doing it

- if it wasn't for climate change.
- Right, right.

You know, there's many,
many challenges, including

the economics,
the public perception, uh...

Uh, so, yeah, that's not an easy one.

The bomb forever seared
the word "nuclear" in our minds

as a force that's destructive.

And deadly.

But what if the thing that terrifies us
could actually save us?

When a neutron is shot into an atom,

it creates a chain reaction

and a massive amount of heat.

That heat can generate steam.

that powers a turbine
and makes electricity.

All without emitting any CO2.

Nuclear is very seductive.

But when you have this fission reaction,

you get radioactive materials.

So the hard part of nuclear
is to make sure

that, no matter what,

those nuclear materials
are not getting out.

Hi, is this Militarized Fire Station #2?


What is burning there on your site?

Explosion in the main building!
Between the third and fourth units.

Are there people?


Alarm our personnel!

In 1986,

operators at Chernobyl power plant

lost control of their nuclear reactor.

For weeks, the world watched
as radioactive material spread

throughout the region.

The investigation revealed

the reactor relied too heavily
on its operators.

This fear of, “Is it safe?”

Appropriately, the public questions,

do we need this technology at all?

Nuclear power is more hazardous
than it is worth.

Certainly there are questions
about radioactive fallout.

There's a potential
for human error.

If you ask most people, they would say

"Don't try nuclear.
We tried, it doesn't work."

The way he thinks about it,
that’s part of the opportunity.

There hasn't been real innovation
in nuclear energy

for nearly 25 years.

When Bill decided
to pursue nuclear,

he gathered the smartest people he knew.

Nuclear reactors are not
the thing that you get into

if you want to win popularity contests.

Eliminating polio is a lot more popular.

A whiz kid,
Nathan Myhrvold entered college at 14,

majored in math, and earned a fellowship
with Stephen Hawking.

Bill met Nathan when Microsoft acquired
his start-up in 1986.

He’s published articles about the speed
at which a dinosaur tail moves,

research into asteroids
that challenge the entire field,

and he's an author of a five-volume,

2600 page book about bread.

What are our solutions
to our energy needs?

How can we actually deploy enough energy
to get off of fossil fuels?

It's very hard to ignore nuclear

if you're looking
at the problem rationally.

How many people
have nuclear reactors killed

versus the number of people
that have been killed

by the effluent of coal plants?

The statistics
are fiercely debated,

but reasonable scientists would agree

nuclear power has caused less
than a few thousand deaths total.

Coal kills 800,000 people

every year.

People driving to the airport

will worry about their flight.

Now, a statistician would say

that's absurd.

Driving is really dangerous!

Flying is not dangerous.

Thirty thousand people are killed
by car accidents,

mostly by drunk drivers.

So you should be afraid
of drunk people, really.

When Bill and Nathan
got serious about pursuing nuclear energy,

they met with an expert

whose controversial reputation
still precedes him.

Lowell Wood worked
with Edward Teller,

who’s famous
for inventing the hydrogen bomb.

He was the technical head
of the Star Wars project

back in the Reagan administration.

But beyond his decades
of defense work,

Lowell also became a prolific inventor.

Today, he holds more patents
than Thomas Edison.

Most meetings that involve Lowell and me

involve Lowell at some point

remarking how stupid I am.

The sad fact of the matter is

that almost all nuclear power plants
currently in existence

were not designed with computers at all.

They were literally
slide-rule designed plants.

And the nuclear power plant
that exploded at Chernobyl

is based on a design from the late 1940’s.

Most modern nuclear power plants
in existence

in the US at the present time

represent 1960’s designs
and 1970’s implementation.

So we're brainstorming and saying,

"Okay, can we take nuclear reactors
and make them better?"

Bill and Nathan got excited
about an old paper Lowell and Teller wrote

while they were working
at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories.

It was a completely different design,

minimizing human error and rethinking

how to contain radiation.

But the biggest breakthrough:

instead of using enriched uranium,

Teller and Lowell imagined a way
to use depleted uranium,

which can't be used for nuclear weapons.

Bill said, "What about this idea
that you and Teller

and some of your colleagues had?"

And I said, "Yeah, there was that.

It continues to look promising, but...

government’s never gonna
do anything with it."

And so he essentially said,
"Maybe we should do something about it."

Lowell's theory made sense on paper,

but Bill wanted to make sure
that those theories were still valid.

So you needed a very complex

You needed a super computer.

It wasn't until

computer modeling got very cheap

and advanced
that you could test out ideas.

So Bill founded a start-up
caller TerraPower,

which set out to see if this reactor
could actually work.

Do you view yourself
as a workaholic,

or how do you handle that term,
that label?

Well, you know, I get...

I believe that the richness of life

and the learning
and stimulation that I'd like, so, uh...

The long hours I work,
no, they're not for everybody.

I don't try and impose them on everybody.

But I think it's great.

He was heads down focused
on building Microsoft.

You don't raise a family
hyper-focused in your head.

I worked night and day

and that was partly how I made sure
Microsoft stayed ahead.


uh, complicated things.

With a new baby,

Melinda found herself
in a massive construction site,

a home Bill had been building,

designed more for a bachelor
than a family.

Tell me about your house.
Are you in your new house yet?

No, I'm still building that.
I'm hoping to move in by the end of '96.

Is it just like the coolest house
of all time?

For me, it’s the coolest house
of all time.

There were construction workers on site
every single day.

Bill was traveling a lot for work.

And it was Jen and me in this huge house.

I said to Bill,
"I don't feel safe in this house.

I wouldn’t know if somebody
came in which door."

I looked into
the most prevalent criticisms of you,

and this one
actually seems the most relevant.

"He's a technophile that thinks
that technology will save everything."

Yeah, I'm basically guilty of that.

Any problem...

I will look at how technical innovation
can help solve that problem.

It's the one thing I know
and the one thing I'm good at.

And so, you know,
that's my hammer. Uh...

And so lots of problems look like nails
because I've got a hammer.

Bill's team at TerraPower
spent five years

testing and refining their design.

Based on that original

we came up with reactors

which are vastly better
than today's reactors.

After extensive
computer modeling,

the idea showed promise.

The new design greatly reduced the chance
of human error.

Fueled by depleted uranium,

the traveling wave reactor
functions like a slow-burning candle

and requires refueling
only once every decade.

Bill and his team believed

they had finally developed
the ideal energy source.

A reactor that was clean, efficient,

and most importantly, safe.

Raging meltdowns in progress.

One spent fuel pod open to the air,

hydrogen gas explosions,

any one of which already exceeds
Three Mile Island.

In a routine meeting,

the team watched the news
coming from Japan.

...and we saw those
eerie images just yesterday morning here,

of the ghost towns created
near the Fukushima plant.

I mean, are we looking
at a potential Chernobyl situation

where an entire region of Japan
would be empty?

Firefighters are no longer
putting water onto the cores.

That’s the only thing preventing
a full-scale meltdown

at three reactor sites.

Once they evacuate,
then we pass the point of no return.

Meltdowns are...

Public opinion,

already skittish,

turned completely against nuclear.

When you have
a massive setback,

how do you deal with that?

You know,
I try and step back from it and...

try and be more objective.

Your ability to...

detach emotionally from big, big things
is a superpower.

Is it also...

Does it ever get you in trouble?

Sure. I'm able...

because I've had a lot of success
and I have resources,

to go do risky things,

and, like any good leader,

people will follow you.

And if you're leading them into a ditch,

it's a bad thing.

In one Microsoft computer game,

the object is to build an empire
by obliterating your rivals.

Rivals paint a dark picture,

saying Gates is destroying competitors

by buying them up
or driving them out of business.

Bill's intense focus
had made Microsoft

the most powerful software company
in the world.

His boyhood dream
of becoming a captain of industry

had come true.

But now, he was no longer
a celebrated entrepreneur.

He was branded a monopolist.

Microsoft has doubled its share
of the browser market

in just the last nine months
at the expense of bitter rival Netscape.

They have targeted us.

They have done almost everything
they can think of

to put us out of business.

The Justice Department
is stepping in,

worried that Microsoft
is out to get a stranglehold

on the future
of the whole computer industry.

We won't tolerate any coercion
by dominant companies

in any way that distorts competition.

You couldn't argue
they didn't have a monopoly.

They had 98% share
of personal computer operating systems.

If you have a monopoly,
no one cares how you got it.

Right? You just have it.

A reasonable person
might think you had a monopoly?

If monopoly means
extremely high market share

with short term market power,
the answer is yes.

If it means that we had
an unchallengeable position

where new and better technology
didn't have a chance to replace us,

the answer is no.

So it sounds like I’m being,
you know, weasely,

even now, when I answer that question.


So, I don’t like to be weasely,
but the honest answer requires

that... drawing that distinction
between those two things.

Company president
and Gates' longtime friend, Steve Ballmer

becomes the new CEO of Microsoft.

He let Steve and the company
run as best they could

and tried not to distract them
or have them feel like

they needed to worry about that.

He said, "I'm taking on the DOJ trial,

and I'm going to deal with this."

And it was a very heavy burden.

Microsoft people were focused on the fact
that they had done nothing wrong.

The lawsuit poses a fundamental threat
to the ability of American companies

to innovate on behalf of their customers.

You know, there is a lot of competition
in this industry.

What would Bill Gates now
have said to Bill Gates then?

That you have an over-simplistic view
of what’s going on here.

You were naive or you had your back up
and you were defensive?



When there's something
that doesn't go well,

he tries to learn
"Why didn't that go well?"

He thinks like an engineer,
a programmer, right?

So the vagaries of people
and their behavior

can be frustrating.

Also impediments that seem stupid.

The US nuclear industry
is bracing for a backlash.

This is a technology
that's simply too hazardous.

But what we know
is the accidents will happen,

so it's just a question of when and where.

I don't like to play
Russian Roulette.

We just need one bad accident.

While the world
was condemning nuclear,

Bill knew his reactor was different.

Fukushima was a slide-rule era plant.

It's of a type of plant
that becomes unsafe

if you ever shut the power off.

After you take fuel out
of a nuclear reactor,

it's called spent fuel.

It’s still hot, and it continues to be hot
for quite some period of time,

so you have to put it
in what’s called a cooling pond.

And there's only water to cool it
if there's power.

When the 9.0 earthquake
shook the plant at Fukushima,

the reactor shut off.

The people who built that said,
"Okay, no problem.

We'll put some diesel generators there."

But then they made a set of other...

kind of disastrous design choices.

The diesel generators
were put at the lowest point,

actually right behind the seawall.

So as soon as the tsunami
went over the seawall,

it destroyed the generators.

As the internal temperature

the reactor turned into
a pressure cooker...

...and soon reached its breaking point.

Bill was always in a rush
coming back from Microsoft.

He used to be late a lot,
and he picks me up.

And I'm furious. It's raining,
it's dark, we're running late.

And I was like,
"You should have gotten off on that exit

and if you didn’t...
Okay, now we’ve got to go this way."

I was so frustrated.

And he said, "You're not happy.

What's going on?"

And I just said,

"It's just so much and you're not home."


I wanted to put my head down and cry.

And he put his hand down on mine
and he said,


wherever we're going,

we're going there together."

In 2000, the couple unveiled

the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,

to be run by both, equally.

But many believed it was Bill
who was calling the shots.

Microsoft mogul Bill Gates...

Bill Gates,
the Microsoft founder and philanthropist...

Bill Gates: he’s on a mission
to take care of the poor.

It felt very odd to both of us

that they would be writing about it
as Bill's foundation.

When I started bringing it up to him,
he's like, "Yeah, that is weird."

And then he finally said, “Melinda,
I’m the one who’s out doing press.”

Melinda had a choice.

Stay in the background or speak her mind.

Melinda Gates!

At The Gates Foundation,
Melinda has done very important things.

In 2006,

she implemented a total restructuring
of the foundation.

You're not sitting back
in an office,

you're out there in the field.

She has been instrumental

in increasing focus on women.

You want to lift up

a family, a community, a society,

you invest in women.

The family planning
that Melinda’s taken on

is particularly gutsy of her.

She's a Catholic,
but she knows what she believes in.

At Microsoft, I was always
the senior partner,

or the senior voice there.

Here, you know,
we’re in an equal position.

But we come at things differently.

Bill will bring data to a conversation.

Like, I can’t keep all of it
in my head like he can.

And I will bring the
"What have I heard and listened to?

What's the human aspect of this?"

We really got to talk
about the nationalist case for globalism.

That one is a push-back
on sort of the current rhetoric.

She's the one
who actually understand me

and talking to her about it,
planning with her about it,

gives it meaning.

Tomorrow you're leaving at 4:15.

I know that you outlined
what you wanted for tennis.

We have your schedule right here.
You won't be getting as much time,

but you have some solid chunks.

Also getting in these calls
that we talked about

with Bloomberg, Paulson, and Perry.

Also, for the board meeting
on the 27th,

you have a one-on-one with Reed,
just so you know, at 3:00 that day.

That's going to be at Microsoft.

Then on Monday, do you think
you want to do Seattle work time?

Are... Is Monday a holiday for most people?

- Yeah, that's President's Day.
- Yeah.

Has he mellowed a little bit?

Not really.

If anything,
he's actually throttled up a bit.

I think, with Bill,

there's almost a sense

there's less time in front of you
than there is behind you.

And whether that's the kids
going to school,

having friends who have been sick.

For all of us,

we're a lot more aware,

cognizant of the fact that, yeah,
we are running out of time here.

The first of the safety features
I wanted to talk about

is the fact that the reactor vessel
stays at atmospheric pressure.

- No high pressure.
- No high pressure in the system.

And this is a result
of the type of coolant that we chose.

Unlike the Fukushima-style reactor,

the traveling wave reactor
doesn't use water to cool itself.

Liquid metal
has a very high boiling point.

So high that there’s no real chance
that our coolant will ever boil.

That’s because, long before it got
to a boiling point temperature,

the reactor itself shuts off.

All of the heat that happens
after you shut the reactor down

can be taken away by just air circulation.

It's called passive heat removal.

It can take the heat
directly from the reactor vessel

without any electrical power
or operator intervention at all.

These are reactors that are built
to withstand disasters.

Tidal wave, earthquake,
airline crash.

The worst case is that the reactor
stops generating electricity,

not that any of the radioactive materials
get out.

No one's ever done a design that

was inherently safe. It's been discussed.

There have been hundreds of articles

written about, "Hey, this could be done."

But we chose to do it.

But even if there's no danger
of an explosion or meltdown,

there's still one unavoidable byproduct
of nuclear power.

When uranium is enriched,

only 10% of the material can be burned
as fuel.

The other 90% is unused byproduct

which must be stored carefully.

Right now, there are 700,000 metric tons

just piling up.

This is our pit
where we study the fuel rods.

We knew that the roof wasn't high enough
for this,

so we had this big dilemma.

Do we...

make the roof taller or do we dig a hole?

So we dug a hole!

This is the TerraPower fuel testing pit.

You can see some fuel bundles.

These stainless steel tubes
are wrapped in wire,

but inside of it, it would have uranium,

and that uranium,
which we can source from existing waste,

is what will power the reactor.

So, the waste that
everyone’s trying to get rid of

can now be used to make clean energy?

Yes. So, uh, in Paducah, Kentucky,

there's this huge government facility

that has enough, uh,

nuclear waste in it

to run the United States for 125 years.

Just 14 miles
from a town of 25,000 people...

...sits a massive stockpile
of discarded uranium.

If the traveling wave reactor works,

we'll finally have use for all this waste,

and Bill will have
one of his energy miracles.

If you built
one of these traveling wave reactors,

would you let your kids live
downriver from one?

You bet. I’d rather have them live there
than next to a coal plant

or natural gas plant.

After years of work,

Bill and his team are ready to build
their first prototype

and prove to the world
that their reactor works.

There's a number of issues.

One is just simply the funding
to build a pilot reactor.

Nuclear is a scale
economic business.

That is, if you know you're only going
to build two or three of something,

go shoot yourself in the head.

You are going to lose
billions of dollars.

China builds them fast,
builds them with cheap money,

knows how to cite the goddamn things.

China's one of the countries
that’s really building more reactors,

and so, it became a natural choice
for working together, building a pilot,

and ultimately scaling the technology.

So, we had permission
from the US government to work with China.

For nine years,
Bill kept traveling to China

to negotiate a deal.

And it was almost
like Groundhog Day.

"Yes, we want to do this. Yes, we want
to do this. We're in. We're in."

And then a year would go by
and we're sort of in the same place.

In 2015,
President Xi came to Seattle

and had a private meeting with Bill.

Then we see real movement.

At long last,
Bill closed the deal.

If TerraPower's prototype worked,

Bill would immediately move
to build more reactors across the globe.

Now, the world would have

a new way of generating electricity

that is zero greenhouse gas,

very safe and very economic.

Finally, after five years
of all this planning,

shaking hands, celebrating...

we were gonna have traction.

Just maybe...

Bill had actually found a way
to replace fossil fuels

and dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

And then what happens?

A tariff, tit for tat,
teetering on a trade war...

The escalating trade dispute
with China

is putting some American industries
on uncertain ground.

We are treated unfairly on trade.

There are real
national security concerns.

Investment restrictions
on China with respect to high technology.

We are going to win on trade!

I was on a trip with Bill
down to the Bay Area

and I glanced down at my phone

uh, and I saw a piece of email,

uh, that basically talked
about the export agreement.

Before we could do
any cooperation with China,

China and the United States
had to negotiate

this very complicated contract.

Well, each government has a right
to cancel it

and our government did.

So, by canceling that contract
that gives us the, uh,

the legal right to do nuclear things
in China,

we can't do it anymore.

What was his reaction
when you did show it to him?

I think he just said, "Oh shit."

We always knew
that there would be politics involved.

We never thought
it would be our own government.

I understand that you're
one of the co-founders of Microsoft,

- is that correct?
- Yes.

I'll give you a softball question.

Would you agree that Microsoft
is the world’s

most respected computer software company?

Some people agree with that,
some people wouldn't.

What's your opinion?

I think we are the most,

if you took it on a statistical basis,

yes, we'd be the most respected.

The US government
sued Microsoft

and Bill was grilled for three days
of depositions.

What I'm asking is whether you can think

of any legitimate reason that would

justify doing that.

If you don't understand
the question, I'll rephrase it.

Well, sir, let's read,
it's only three lines.

The theory behind a deposition
is just the written word, right?

But they showed the video tapes
of it in court.

I have no idea what you're talking about
when you say "ask."

Do you want me to define
proprietary API or not?

No, I don’t want you
to define proprietary API.

I looked like I was being sarcastic

or giving him a hard time
when I didn't need

to give him a hard time.

I’m afraid we’re not going
to be able to know

what my state of mind was
when I gave that interview.

If you want to define it,
I'll be glad to answer the question.

And so their highlights reel, uh,

did make me look bad.

Do you believe that the publication
of that statement

affected Netscape?

Like hurt their feelings?

Somebody cried or...

A certain sense of arrogance
came through that hurt us quite a bit.

It shouldn't have hurt us,
because that's not what was on trial.

It turned out, though,
it was part of what was on trial.

Were you arrogant?

In a certain sense...

people who make billions of dollars
in their 20’s

and manage, you know,
thousands of people,

and decide which products
they're going to do and not do, uh,

and, you know, you don't want to waste
five minutes of time.


yes, there's a...
that can appear to be quite arrogant.

After a year
of antitrust legal proceedings,

a federal judge found
that Microsoft was a monopoly

that uses its power to stifle competition

at the expense of consumers.

Once celebrated
as a genius coder,

Bill was now seen as something else.

Nothing succeeds like excess.

It’s never enough
and he’ll do whatever he can

to capture more of the market.

Apple's Steven Jobs
announced a new partner earlier this year.

There were resounding boos.

Gates was momentarily
and understandably shaken,

but he was not injured.

The hit squad piled on with...

He said to me one time
that the antitrust thing

was so hard on him, that he looked at me

in this really confessional voice,
he said:

"For the first time in my life,

I actively sought distraction."

Any decision about punishing
the company will not be made

for several months,

if not years.

Bill walked in the door every night

and he looked like he'd had
the weight of the world on his shoulders.

There was a possibility

that this would destroy the company.

That was a serious thing.

We respectfully disagree
with a number of the court's findings.

Bill appealed
the Court's ruling.

He and Melinda braced for another battle.

In the retrial,

I was able to explain to that court

why these solutions were just wrong.

Many years into it,

the ruling comes in from the retrial.

I'm meeting with Steve

and he says:

"Microsoft was vindicated
on all these counts."

And then I just started crying.

We were finally vindicated.

Last question,
I'm gonna be tough on you.

Let's look at everything.


Promising, but expensive.


Billions of dollars,
and cases this year are up.


Your deal with China just blew up.

And I know you're pushing ahead
and you want to build reactors in the U.S.

but I think you'd agree,
that's a long shot.

Is there a part where you say,
"This is way too hard,

I took on too much,

I quit"?

Sometimes, you really do
have to say,

"Let's give up."

And sometimes, you have to just say,

"I need to work harder."

When confronted
with something really difficult,

he always gives the same answer:

work harder.

In the two years
I've gotten to know Bill,

I've come to wonder whether his strength,
that die-hard relentlessness,

might also be a flaw.

We got to go swimming
at least one more time

before I leave the canal.

We should go one of these evenings.

So, if you...

got hit by a bus today, died,

what’s the one thing,
the one thing you said,

"God, I wish I had done that,
that I haven't done."

You know, thanking Melinda.

Melinda and I
both really like The Great Gatsby.

When we were first dating,

she had a green light
that she would turn on

uh, when her office was empty
and it made sense for me to come over.

Which comes from the light at the end
of Daisy's dock in the book.

The quote is, "He had come a long way
to this blue lawn."

"And his dreams must have seemed so close

that he could hardly fail to grasp it."

It's easy to be carried away
by someone who wants to change the world.

Someone who won't quit.

Someone with a brain like Bill's.

But it's hard not to wonder...

Is he in too deep?

Will he ever solve these problems?

Or will they always be just out of reach?

Each one of us has to start out

with developing his or her own definition
of success.

And when we have these
specific expectations of ourselves,

we're more likely to live up to them.

Ultimately, it's not what you get
or even what you give.

It's what you become.