Colin Powell | Bill Gates | Kofi Annan | John Prendergast

Recipient Bill Gates


The following is a transcript of Bill Gates' speech and Q&A with students after receiving the Crystal Tiger Award:

BILL GATES: Well, it's super to be here and get a chance to talk about some of the frontiers of software, and the big breakthroughs that are going to take place over the next decade. This is the golden age of computers and software coming together, and becoming a far more powerful tool to empower people, empower them in their work, and empower them in their playtime; even the realm of education will not be untouched by these major advances. Microsoft this year is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and 30 years is a long time. Most of you here are less than 30 years old, so Microsoft is older than you are. And yet the vision that got Microsoft going all those years ago is exactly the same one that drives us today, and that's the idea that the key missing element is software. That by having the right software, the kind of power, ease of use, ability to connect anywhere in the world, that we'd be able to deliver on those things. And it would take a very long-term point of view, hiring in the very best people, being patient about the research agenda we were pursuing, getting lots of products out in the marketplace, hearing back very strongly what people loved about those products, what they want to change about those products, and constantly obsoleting what we've done before to drive the tools to this new level. That may be hard to appreciate how radical a vision that was at the time it was put forward. Computers at that point were very, very expensive, and there were literally only thousands of computers on the planet. People thought of them as intimidating because they would send you a bill that wasn't quite right, it would never get corrected. And there was no notion that these would ever be something that you would personally use, and, in fact, that would impel people so well that even politically when somebody was trying to repress information these digital tools would make sure that the information would get out, would be able to know the truth and, therefore, avoid any type of information control. So, the very first personal computer was actually a kit of parts that you would buy and then you would assemble it yourself. The memory board for that machine, the cheap ones, were 256-bytes memory boards, so a little less memory than we have today. In fact, one of the great feats of Microsoft's early years was writing the floating point BASIC interpreter that ran in 3,100 bytes, so that if somebody could afford 4k bytes of memory, we left room for their programs and their data to run in that machine. So, those machines were so limited that looking at that it's very hard to extrapolate out and think about the personal computers we have today. But, in fact, the idea of exponential improvement, which is probably best known in the prediction that Gordon Moore made about doubling transistors every two years, that has a really unbelievable effect. And so, the idea of a 4k machine being a great, powerful machine that's given way to today where a very common machine will have 512 megabytes, and a high-end machine can have 4 gigabytes very easily. What does that mean? That means we have a factor-of-a-million improvement in the memory capacity. And so that means we can be far more ambitious in terms of what we do. And it's not just the memory capacity, the processing capability has gone up by about the same amount. The disk storage has gone up by a much greater amount. The bandwidth of the network communications has gone up by a much greater amount. All the aspects of the system, the ability to make it small, and be able to carry it around, the ability to have a very high resolution screen, and present graphics that are getting close enough that it's almost like reality. You can create a synthetic scene that you really can't tell the difference between that and what you see in the real world. All of those things have advanced at an incredible pace. And I can say with great confidence that one thing that can unleash this to make it a valuable tool, the best tool that we've ever created is what software provides. And what people expect out of software is very demanding. They expect that they don't have to learn many commands, they expect total security, they expect things like identity theft or spam to go away. They expect their information to show up on all their different devices (break in audio)
Computers Will Take on Many Different Forms?
?As we think about computers going forward, they'll take on many different forms, and yet they'll all work in a holistic way. We'll distinguish them by the size of the screen, so the pocket-sized device, the phone is taking on more and more capabilities. I've got a couple of recent examples of that here. This is a Palm device that just got introduced a few weeks ago, it's got the Palm great hardware design, the Treo, and the latest Windows Mobile software together. This is another one, this is a Motorola device they call the Razor, and you can see the nice keyboard here, very thin device. Both of these have a camera. Once you get this device, let's say it has that camera, it has your location information, the ability to do a lot more becomes evident. For example, when you take a picture with that camera, if it's an expense receipt from a lunch or dinner, why shouldn't the software look at it, say this is an expense receipt, look at the number, look at your schedule, know what customer you're meeting with or something, and automatically enter that in, so you don't have to do anything. Or, if you're taking a picture of a product, or the barcode for a product, it can immediately determine what you're trying to do and tell you, is there a better price for that product, is there a better choice you should make, where is it available, what are the details about it? Or maybe you're just trying to use something you already know, and it recognizes that and it tells you about the warranty policy, and how it might be fixed. And so, it's doing recognition on your behalf. If you're traveling in a foreign country, you take a picture of a sign that's got the foreign language on it, you take that image, send it up to a powerful server computer and just send you back down the translation so that you are completely aware of what the sign says, even though it's not in a language that you know. These things are quite obvious, and yet the software behind them is very difficult to do. We've been doing speech recognition, as we've been doing visual recognition, our appreciation of the richness of human intelligence, and the ability of humans to disambiguate signals that at low levels are very similar, our appreciation of that has grown. And yet, we will be able to conquer those problems within the next decade. The idea of a Tablet device that eliminates paper textbooks, that eliminates the daily printed paper, or magazines, because the reading quality is easier, the ability to search, and annotate is easy. That's quite evident that we're going to get there. And so, there are great dreams about what software can do, and the pace of the field will be determined by fresh young minds that think about innovative ways of doing these things, coming in and driving this work. And so, at Microsoft, we want to make sure we get our fair share of those great people. Everybody gets involved in recruiting one way or another. In fact, even I do that. I captured on a video some experience that I had in doing that. So, let's go ahead and take a look at that. (Video segment.) Changing the Way We Work, Changing Way We Live at Home The impact of these devices will change our work style in a very dramatic way. The idea of things like phone numbers, multiple e-mail addresses, all of that will go away as software is mediating on our behalf, the idea of when should we be interrupted, what are we doing, what's the context, who somebody ranks what they want to do as important, how much do we trust that. The whole fabric of the work experience, from meeting with people at a distance, getting rid of paper-based approaches, being able to dive into information about customer attitudes, or sales results will be very different. The home environment will be quite radically different, as well. TV as we know it today will change, we won't have channels where you have a sequence of shows that are somehow associated with each other, but much rather you'll just pick the things that are interesting to you. And the content will be personalized. If you want the news, sports that you care about will get more depth, those that you don't care about will be eliminated from the broadcast. Political issues you care about, you'll get in-depth information. If you're curious you can have it go more extensively into the background about the topics you care about. Even the ads will be more relevant, because they'll be targeted to you in terms of your behavior, in terms of your behavior and the things that you're interested in. It's a very dramatic change both at home and at work. I thought I'd show you a quick glimpse of some of these directions of the products that are coming out in the next couple of years. Here I have a thing called Match, a little piece of software that was written very quickly, but it gives you a sense of visualization. In the future you'll have all the photos you take in your whole life, and you'll be able to take a lot more, because you don't have to process them or anything, you'll just put them into a library, where they'll be organized by time and date and whatever tags you put on them. The ability to grab them, and navigate through them, be able to take out the ones you want, and present them in a nice way is something you'll expect. So we can take list here and take things out of it very easily, double click things into that. We can take this whole set of photos, and once I have a set the idea that I'd want to view them in different ways, we might want an album-type view. You can see here that presents multiple photos together with a different scale, or we might want something like we'd see on a mantle of a fireplace. We'll have this mantle view, so you can have kind of a 3-D presentation. So you can pick a photo, zoom in on that, zoom back. And it will just play through in a very simple way. So a few clicks and you could send it off to a friend of have it running in the background actually the photos that you're interested in.?
Let's switch to Xbox. I've got here a couple of the next generation Xboxes, Xbox 360 that comes out next month. This is part of the new generation of videogames you'll think of as high definition videogames. Sony will have the Playstation 3, we'll have the 360. Both of those are more than an order-of-magnitude better than what's come before. The graphics, the memory, the ability to connect up in rich ways, but it won't just be the games. People often talk about how the living room environment has all these remote controls, you don't know what's going on. Once you get a device that has the ability to richly display information on the TV, and can guide you through, then getting at that information becomes a lot easier. So I can take my remote control here, and this is the various screens, I have the ability to join what's called Xbox Live. I've got games that I play. Here's media, you see I can get access to music and pictures. One of the ways that I might want to get my music is to take it from a portable device. So I take a little iRiver device and it just plug this in. As I say, it works with any of these devices, even works with an iPod if you happen to use that. I can connect that in and select music, you can see it's got the iRiver device. And I go in and select that, so the device gets all the tracks and albums and things, I can listen to these as I play my games. I can move them up onto my PC. I just click play all and there I am off and going. So then I've got the music from here going through my living room speakers or I can transmit it anywhere I want in the house. Much like if I wanted to do the same thing with pictures, you see there's a pictures item here. I can go in on that and I can take any camera that I might happen to have some recent photos on, mine or somebody else's. Again, just plug this in and the system automatically recognizes that there's a camera out there. So it shows that there's that camera there. I select that. You can see it's already got the photos there, and I can pick and choose various transition effects for things, any way that I want. And bring up a very nice slide show that's doing some zoom in, zoom around things that make that very attractive. So all your media finally is available, connecting up to the PC is very easy. You can actually project the PC down onto the living-room screen, because the Xbox understands how to do that. So it makes the home experience far more integrated than it has been in the past. So let's quickly switch over to this other Xbox 360 I've got. And on this one I've actually got one of the new games coming out. As I said, it ships next month, and this is called Project Gotham. It's kind of a racing game. I guess I'll try easy and see if I can do that. So here we've got models of various cars, different cities you can race around in. I think I've chosen New York here as the place I want to go and test my driving skills. And if you look at the cars and look at the buildings you can get a sense of why this is dramatically different than anything you've been before. I can change the viewpoint at any time. Here I'm behind the car, and I can look around, look at the side, look at the front. I can go inside the cockpit here and look out the windshield here, you know, different visualizations. If I make a mistake when I'm driving, now there's a dent on my car. If I run into spectators here they'll kind of look surprised, and take photos of my bad driving. And it's more than just an isolated experience. You can connect up to your friends. We'll have contests, you'll have spectators. One of the great new research algorithms here is one that matches people up with similar abilities. When I go up to play a Halo 2 tournament I've got a big problem, because I'm not so good, so I get killed in about 10 or 15 seconds. With this new Microsoft research software I'll be matched up against people with my level of skill, so that would be a lot more fun in terms of going out and playing.
Devices without Boundaries
Now, let me switch to something that's a little further out, but not that far. It's maybe three years before this is a standard thing. The idea is that I'm on a trip, and here I've just taken my pocket device with me, just the phone. I don't have my Tablet device, for me it would be quite rare, but say that happens. I'm at an airport lounge. I can take my phone, put it down on a table, and actually because we've got cameras here with a little light and a projector, it recognizes that. It takes it, realizes it's my phone, and it asks me, just to make sure I haven't stolen someone else's phone, to verify with my fingerprint that it's me. Now I get the full richness of the Tablet, to read my documents. I can take my pen and write notes, and have them be recognized. While I was on this trip somebody gave me a business card, so I can take that, put it down, and the camera can read the text off of that and recognize it. I've got a note here on the back, a little handwriting, that the camera again can recognize that. I want to take this information, and I want to put it into this phone. So it sees when I drop it there and shows me that it's adding that to the contact list. Obviously that gets replicated on all my devices. And so now I have not only that name, but also those notes. Here now I can step in and look at my mail. This is a press release that requires my direct authorization before they send it out. I read it over, I might annotate and change it, but as soon as I want to say that's OK, I again use my fingerprint. It knows from my schedule that I'm about to get on a new flight. It actually shows me in this upper right-hand corner the information that I need to know about the status. I can do work, browse the Web, with the whole Tablet ability. When I'm done, I just pick up the phone and the camera will see that it's gone. So immediately it logs me off, and all the information, the information that is private to me, is just on this phone, none of it stays here. This was just basically an extension of the computing experience working with this device. That kind of capability is going to be pervasive. These cameras are super inexpensive. These projection devices are becoming very common. In fact, in a home environment you'll be projecting onto any surface, onto the walls, onto the table. You'll literally have cameras around who will know who it is. You'll have the ability to talk and give commands, and have those be recognized. So the home environment will be very different. Instead of thinking of a computer as one device, where the storage, display and the computation are all there, and you as the user have to mediate between the different devices, updating them differently, and moving files around, this will be done automatically. The amount of storage that will be available to you is just up in the cloud and the Internet will be such that replicating between the devices will be very, very simple. So you won't even think of the computer as being a unified device in the way you do today. These technologies, in terms of using cameras and projectors, and things like that, will also come into the work environment. So if you walk into a big meeting, instead of having the sales data on paper, you'll bring your tablet, but also it will be projected onto the table, either up from the bottom or down from the top. If you go over to a white board and you're writing things, all of that will be detected by a camera and recognized. So say somebody is participating in that meeting at a distance, all that can be brought to them, in fact, they can change their viewpoint, zoom in on the different information, or if they're not part of the meeting, if they're viewing it later, they can go in and search all of the audio, which of course will be recognized, the things on the board will be recognized. So the basically technology of ink recognition and speech recognition are very important, both in the work environment, for the work itself, and for the digital lifestyle, bringing things to bear makes an incredible difference. So you have a whole realm of computing activity that's very, very different. This is all in an environment where the world economy is growing. You have countries like China and India in particular, but there are also others, as well, that are coming into participate in this. That is a very good thing. It's a very good thing from many points of view. Lifting up the incomes for the people in those countries. In fact, the greatest progress against poverty over the last 20 years has been what happened in China, way more than expected, pretty incredible that they've eliminated over 80 percent of the poverty they have, and that was by investing in education, a market-based system, having an incentive for creativity there, and that just makes the global economy better. It means more smart people are designing products that we all get to use, and the consumers there are taking products that we're the best at, and taking advantage of those. The computer industry has always been very global. Certainly, Microsoft, we're benefiting from that, but we're largely U.S.-centric in terms of the development we're doing. So for us making sure that the very best developers are available here in the U.S., we have a particular interest in making sure that that happens. We have a particular interest in making sure that the research moves at a very rapid pace. Microsoft Research One of the best investments Microsoft ever chose to make was as soon as we could afford to do it we started going after this long-term research. It's out of that research activity that a lot of our great innovations have come. As we did that, we had the concern that many companies who have done advanced research haven't been able to flow it into their products. In our industry Xerox is very famous for having contributed to research and then the various products they tried to build out of that were not a success. So they, in a business sense, really didn't get any return at all from the work that they'd done. In our case, by having the right kind of researchers, having the product people love to spend time with them, really getting it out and showing what they're doing, our experience has been quite the opposite. We can take something like the Microsoft TV effort, you know, I mentioned the idea that TV will be very different, very customized, far more flexible than it is today, the early work there about how you can compress those things, how you understand what the user is interested in, how you can tell which user is out there, all of that are things that if we hadn't been doing research for over 15 years we wouldn't have been ready to put that into use when that made sense. When we think about the future of Internet search, defining the information that we care about, the big breakthroughs there are going to come from natural language understanding, not just taking the text and doing indexes of the words that are there, although it's impressive how Google and others have been able to do good search using that basic technique, but rather actually parsing the sentences, understanding those sentences, having a sense of the reputation of various Web sites, and understanding the task that you're going about, based on the things you've done right then and the things that you've done in the past, using that context to narrow things down far better. Today it takes about six or seven minutes typically after you start a search until you find what you're interested in. And there's no reason that's should be more than like 10 or 15 seconds. About 10 percent of the time today we can give you an immediate answer. If you type in something like, in our search, what's the population of this, or when did this take place, that's a kind of example where we can bring the answer up today, because we're doing some of this parsing and understanding capability. We believe that over the next few years we'll drive that 10 percent to over 90 percent. So the amount of time spent on frustrating things, or sites that are just trying to get you there so you'll look at their ads, that will be diminished in a very dramatic way. Integrating across that Web type search, the corporate search, the desktop search, and really making that work very directly is something that is yet to be solved.?
Machine Translation
Another great holy grail in computer science has been machine translation, and this is another one where 20 or 30 years ago people thought the problem was a lot simpler than it turned out to be. So they were over-optimistic. But, over the years we've really looked at this problem, progress has been made, and it's amazing the combination of techniques, including Bayesian learning type techniques, statistical techniques, all of them apply to get models that let us do translation in a fairly rich way. We're at the point today that within the domain of text about computers we can do automatic translation with basically the same level of quality of a human translator. We, over the last five years have been trying this out by taking the articles that we hand translate, have half of those done by the machine, half of them done by a human, and then seeing what the response is, do people like it better or use it more, or are they really indistinguishable. Over this five-year period we've driven that to where now we've actually have achieved that goal, where those things are indistinguishable. By having that kind of translation capability it means that even people who don't speak English will now have the full breadth of all the material out on the Web that they don't have access to. And that translation technology will applied to more and more language pairs, more and more domains, so over the next decade we'll kind of think back and say, yes, there was a time where that couldn't be done. There are a few domains like translating poetry that perhaps will never be very good, but for most informational content on the Web within this time frame it will be quite excellent, and a very plausible thing there.?
Empowering People
As we think about these jobs, creating software, there's often an image that a lot of it is just coding, and there definitely is that, that's important at the end of the day, software is code, but even more important than that are the human processes involved. Going out and meeting with customers, understanding what they like, analyzing if you take different approaches what they would think, getting the different groups coordinated, when do we put these different modules together, how should the interface be. It's really very much an engineering process that involves many different skill sets, lots of people sitting together, and having fun, having fun realizing they're working on products that make a huge difference. There are many ways we get a glimpse of these things, going into a classroom and seeing kids pursuing their curiosity browsing the Internet. When I was young, the encyclopedia was the best we could do to get at the world's knowledge. Reading that through, A to B, to C, to D, is a really confusing way to try and learn things, because you're jumping around subject to subject and time period to time period. Today on the Web you can just take a timeline and proceed in an orderly fashion. You can take it one subject at a time. You can see videos. Way better today for anyone using the Internet than it would have been for the most privileged person in the past. So there's real progress there. We can see vignettes, like the way we've been able to take and allow people who are blind now to get at all the information on the Web, because we have speech synthesis. In the past we only had a limited number of books they could get at that were made available in Braille, and great delays, not much availability of those. Here now they can pull up the daily paper and there it is, all that rich information. Computer software will be a tool for all the sciences. In biology the way they'll be able to make sense of all the genomic data that they're gathering is by using these tools. So computer scientists will be at the table helping to unravel the networks that take place in physical systems, understanding those patterns, and helping to deliver the breakthroughs that are very, very exciting in that realm. Computing, ever since the arrival of the personal computer, we've had the philosophy of high volume low price, so we can go into countries all over the world. Now we have 100 countries we have agreements with about how we can get computing out to all the students there, where we donate the software, train the teachers, help them with their connectivity problems using a very advanced software and what we call mass networks, so even the connectivity cost won't hold back making this something that's pervasive. So today we have 1 billion personal computers in use. We really won't have achieved that original vision that goes back 30 years ago until we have basically 6 billion personal computers, and devices of all sizes working together in this great way. And it seems like today that's still kind of a breathtaking dream, but yet over the course of this decade most of that absolutely will be achieved, in a device that's far more approachable than what we have today. I said that it's really young people coming into this field who look at things in a new way, or are willing to innovate and drive the breakthroughs will be at the forefront of making this happen. So you're all the timeframe of right now is kind of that golden age. Whether you're working in computer science or simply using these tools in the other sciences, letting people reach out, find information, communicate better, even in the political realm the empowerment that comes here I think is very fascinating. So for me I often say I have the best job in the world. And I'm excited to see what you and others can do with the platform we have today. It will be very, very exciting to be part of it. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Bill has said that he would be very happy to answer questions; maybe I'll take the chair's prerogative by getting us started by asking you, as you think about the interconnectivity -- I think that is such a word --
?MODERATOR: -- of all of these devices and the way that you're going to be exchanging information among them, is the research that is guaranteeing security and privacy of some of the information that's going to be going back and forth between these devices, is that keeping pace with the research to do the connectivity
?BILL GATES: Yeah, the privacy problem has many layers. In terms of the specific idea of can somebody eavesdrop on a conversation, either on a wired network or the wireless network, that's absolutely a very easy-to-solve problem, we have the technology today to do that kind of encryption. What gets far more difficult is that as you're going up to a Web site and you want to give your address or credit card number, but you want to understand how they might use that information, how they would share that with other people, making it so that it's understandable what guarantees are being made, and making sure those guarantees are followed through on, that is extremely difficult. All we have to do is look at the difficulty of digitizing medical records in this country, and getting the efficiency and understanding about outcomes that that would bring, to see how tough that is. So privacy and security as a whole will always be very tough issues. Particular challenges like recognizing spam or solving identity theft, we have very good solutions, some that are out today and some in the pipeline for those problems. But the need for more research and thinking of how do you define privacy, how do you audit a system for privacy, the need for great thinking on that will always be there.?
MODERATOR: Questions, yes
?QUESTION: Hi. David White, I'm a senior here in the CS department. So back home I do a lot of tech support for people around the neighborhood, and one of the questions they always ask me when I come and they've got a computer that's, I don't know, say, a year or two or old and it's infected with viruses, unpatched, et cetera, you know, why do I need to keep getting a new computer every year if all I want to do is just do the same thing, like they still just want to check their e-mail, they still just want to type up the occasional Word document. And I mean you mentioned earlier that the sort of push for new features and lots of -- I mean, the amazing demonstration of like this sort of ubiquitous computing is constantly obsoleting everything that came before. But at the same time, there's a lot of people who may not necessarily need or want all the new functionality, and there doesn't seem to be any sort of consideration of making use of the resources that we already have. I mean, I've taken lots of old computers just to the dump because no one even wants them if you want to donate them, and I always kind of feel bad. So what's your sort of perspective on sort of the idea that every year you've got to throw out the old and bring in the new? I mean, it's not cheap either.?
?BILL GATES: Yes. Well, several reactions to this. First of all, we're involved in a computer recycling thing, so we took 300,000 computers from businesses this year and got them into community centers and into homes where people couldn't afford computers. So if you run into a used computer that's available, get it into our recycling program. We take it, we make sure it's got the best software on it, that it's working well, and get it out into very good use. Every product should be used for as long as possible and it's only when there's some breakthrough that really makes you want the new thing that you should buy something new. I do think that as computers recognize speech, as we get the Tablets so you don't have to buy textbooks and you just have the audio notes and the ink notes, I do think there are things that are so radical that they will cause a change. For example, if you still have, say, an 8-bit computer, I'd say, wow, you should probably get a new one. (Laughter.) If you want to process your videos or edit film or organize your photos. So it's only when you see an application that drives you in. My friend Warren Buffett said that he would never use a personal computer, but then we showed him how you could play online bridge -- (laughter) -- and the next thing I knew he was online more hours a week than I was, so these things can flip around. So we can take a lot of that security overhead, that complexity and get rid of that, so new versions of the software, the automatic updating capability, the fact that it will see the new signatures; great simplicity can come along but it all has to be tested by do people want to buy the new things.
QUESTION: (Off mike). Being such a supporter of education but having dropped out of college after your second year, what do you say to children who say, "I don't need to go to school to be successful; look at Bill Gates"? (Laughter.)?
BILL GATES: OK. Well, I'm just on leave. (Laughter.) Harvard made it clear I can come back at any time. No, I'd say that if you think by staying in college an extra year you'll miss the opportunity to found a completely new industry, then, fine, go on leave and see if you're right. If you're not, go back; if you are, it might tie you up for a while. And I am absolutely -- I'm probably the world's biggest believer in education. I think getting people from a young age to read lots of books, pursue their curiosity, have the self-confidence that they can learn things and that they can really appreciate when they understand subjects, when they don't, that is the key skill that lets us choose the work we want to do and enjoy life in a pretty deep way. So absolutely going to college is a great thing. Most of the people we hire at Microsoft are college graduates, and things I've done like the Millennium Scholarship are there to make it easier for more people to get a great education.
QUESTION: All your technological improvements are really, really impressive, and one question that just needs to be asked is with the increased ubiquity of the computer in the household and breaking down language barriers, what kind of implications do you think all this technology has for society as a whole? How do you think it will change the way we live ?And my second question is do you want to come play Halo later? We live in a house down the hill. (Laughter.)
?BILL GATES: I'm sure you could kill me at Halo very easily. Well, that would be an interesting thing. Now they're going to have Halo 3 and it's going to be amazing. Actually, one thing Xbox has is the thing called Xbox Arcade, which is going to have games that you can just download over broadband that are kind of smaller games, very inexpensive games that are more casual, some of the classic old ones and some neat ones, so you'll have the full spectrum of the big, deep games like Halo and Project Gotham, and you'll have the small games as well. In terms of societal impact, it's very important that this discussion about what technology is going to do be broadly known and so that it's not just the engineers who are deciding how we're going to apply these things. I do think in the past some advances haven't been used the way they should; for example, medical technology has not been focused on the diseases of the developing countries in the right way, and I hope we don't make other mistakes like that. Also there's going to be huge issues about privacy or how jobs are done, Digital Rights Management, intellectual property that we want to get broad society into the discussion. There's a recent book that I recommend, even though lots of people would disagree with it, it's from Ray Kurzweil called "The Singularity Is Near," and he paints a picture of artificial intelligence achieving sort of superhuman levels. And at least people reading that can think about how quickly things are going to come and some of the big issues around it. So I bet it won't sell very well, but I wish it would.
QUESTION: Hi. Do you think that Digital Rights Management, on the subject you just mentioned it, is an effective way or will be an effective way of protecting copyrights and other forms of intellectual property I guess? And in addition, do you think that there's a risk that Digital Rights Management could restrict the free flow of information between individuals and devices, that vision that you presented now ?
BILL GATES: Well, it's one of the trickiest problems in this new era is to strike a balance between the idea that somebody who writes a book or composes music may want to be paid for that with the idea that these digital bits move between systems very, very rapidly. And for Microsoft, we want these things to be as easy to use, we want great content to be created, and so we keep looking for technology solutions that can avoid it just being a debate of, you know, everything should be free and authors should never make any money to the debate of, no, it should be locked up so hard that even if it's really difficult to use, at least you get paid properly when use gets made. And that's actually come up in this recent Blu-ray versus HD format thing where Blu-ray has a protection scheme that's too favorable to the studios and too hard for consumers, too anti-PC, and so we're fighting -- I don't know if we're going to succeed, but we're fighting for consumer ease of use in that one and I think it's really shame, I think they're really making a mistake. I think what they're doing will actually cause more piracy than if they struck the balance the right way. Certainly we saw that in music where music wasn't available and so it became very common to download it without a license. I hope that some type of subscription model with some very low pricing and ease of moving the bits around will allow the best of both worlds, because I do think, I personally think that somebody who makes a great movie or writes a textbook, if they take a high volume, low price approach, that they ought to be able to get some licensing fees. That's not to say there won't be tons of free stuff out there, but it should be complementary, you should have both forms of expression.
QUESTION: You talk about getting 6 billion desktops out to people in the world. Obviously they can't afford the latest, greatest Dell Dimension desktop. What is Microsoft doing to reach that goal? I mean, I've read something about what is dubbed the $100 laptop that is almost self-powering by hand crank, developed by people at MIT. What do you think about that, what is Microsoft doing in that direction to reaching that 6 billion desktop goal ?
BILL GATES: Well, our goal is very simple: We want the hardware to be free. (Laughter.) We're not in the hardware business. And in a sense we will achieve that, because in the future we'll have the ability to have a wireless network -- you know, just take an extreme case. We'll be able to have a display projector and some cheap plastic glasses that will only cost a few dollars. When you put those on, that projector connects to a wireless network and the actual computation is not there but through the network we can run Microsoft Office, run the browser, run your e-mail, and so projected up in full high definition resolution onto your retina is that complete computing experience, and we're actually using computers back on the Internet somewhere else to do that work. And so if you're somebody from a poor country, a student, that can be made virtually free to you. As you move up and work for a multinational corporation, then you're paying a bit more for it so that it defrays the expenses and people can do that new research. So computing is headed to be free, and that's why we do all the software donations. Hardware prices have come down to, say, $200, and that hand crank thing I'm not a big believer in that. The idea that you have to actually crank it ten minutes to get a minute of computing, so at most you have 10 percent of the time you're computing. That reminds me of standing in line for VACS computers, which was the way computing worked when I grew up. I don't think we need to bring that back. We can bring computing better than the richest kid has today to the poorest kid basically for free within this next decade. Now, it requires amazing software to do that, to create the ability to do those services remotely, to have that wireless network work in this nice mesh fashion, but absolutely the field will deliver on that. And that's key. You know, our employees love that idea of pervasiveness.
QUESTION: Hi. Kind of in the same vein as the last question, obviously in the poorest countries you can't have computers without electricity, you can't have connection to the Internet without the proper connections, and so what is Microsoft doing in terms of getting that infrastructure there in order to enable the more widespread distribution of computers ?
BILL GATES: OK, well, the first thing that I think is important to point out is when we think of inequities in the world and what is a problem in poor countries, getting computers there is not anywhere near the top of the list. The fact that kids don't survive to age 5, there's no sanitation, there's not enough food, there's not literacy; those are all things that we've got to get the priority list right and solve all of these problems. And so as you go in and get there to be electricity in the schools, and as you go in and get there to be electricity so you have a well so there's water that's clean, and as you go in and as you go in and invent the new vaccines that are going to save lives there, as you get down that hierarchy of things, yes, electrical infrastructure needs to be built. The amount of electricity that will be required by this future device will be tiny, tiny, so even if it has to be done with a chemical battery of a helium store or even a fuel, methane type store type approach, that can be made incredibly inexpensive. And so it's actually these other needs that are more basic that drive the needs to get low cost electric power out into those villages. And it's very important to spend time out in these villages to kind of see that you say to them, "Hey, we're going to bring you computers," their reaction would be like, "Well, great, my child is sick, let's deal with that."
QUESTION: I was just wondering in the current iteration of games systems that's sort of given rise to the mod community and the PSP, if it's shown anything, is that that's sort of leaving the videogame realm and moving into more sort of user-defined software for even media devices. And I was wondering just sort of what your position or Microsoft's position in these future media devices, how sort of malleable they might be on the user end from a software point of view ?
BILL GATES: Yeah, we have some recent very basic breakthroughs that have to do with the idea of letting people add arbitrary code to Web services that we provide, and yet being able to know whether that code actually interferes with the operation of other code. This kind of isolation technique has always been very heavyweight and it's been tough to do across all the different resource sets. But by thinking about computing in a different way and using some of the .NET work, we think that this type of arbitrary extensibility with code will be very, very common. And as you said, that should apply in the gaming realm, it should apply in the mapping realm where we and others are doing these virtual reality environments where you can go into an urban area, see all the stores and things. Well, we'd like to have other people do logic to create layers on top of these maps, and that means running code you can't run on a client because it's got to run 24 hours a day, it's got to be close to the data. We want not just data layers from the community at large but also code layer, and so it requires a different structure to make that economic, but we can actually make it free or very cheap to host those things. In terms of game mods, you do want to separate out two different things. There's game mods that essentially let you cheat so your friends think you're better at the game than you are. We want to avoid those types of games mod, while allowing ones that are really creative where you're taking the visualization or the algorithms and changing it and somebody explicitly knows they're dealing with something that changed there. So making sure it's a sort of cheating-free environment is important. We can see that in the videogame realm where we've been able to control that, multiplayer gaming and concepts is very popular, whereas in the PC realm where those mod kits have made it so that somebody can come in and kill anyone in a second it's really the curse of the multiplayer environment. So we need to make sure we still have an understanding of who's using the mod kits and who isn't. But there will be way more of that in the future for the user defined games. And I even think in terms of making computer science fun, letting people do little programs that do those things will give them a sense, a quick feedback visual sense of their own work in a way that some type of programming doesn't today.
QUESTION: Yes. Mr. Gates, thank you very much for coming to Princeton. My question is about intellectual property, and I think Microsoft over its history has had a very interesting relationship with intellectual property. It made a lot of money by selling software which is protected by copyright, but it's also been at various times on the other end of patent litigation. And I was wondering what you like and what you don't like about intellectual property as it is represented today, maybe what would you change if you could rewrite the law.?
?BILL GATES: Well, that's a very complex topic, but let me give you some key thoughts on that. First let me say that the intellectual property system in the United States is the envy of countries like China and India. They are moving to create that system, because after all they have lots of smart people there who want to participate in the software industry and they realize that the way they're going to be able to pay for their jobs and let their workers have a rising standard of living is by having some copyright and patent type things. And so it's amazing how sophisticated they are in understanding our intellectual property system. And so at a time when people are talking about maybe we should make ours weaker, they're making theirs stronger, maybe we'll cross in the middle, we'll head towards non-incentive system based approaches, which they've tried for many decades, while they're focused on incentive based approaches. So fundamentally it's very easy to think how you could tinker with the patent system and make it better in various ways, but this system is a million times better than not having a patent based system. The entire pharmaceutical industry is based on being able to invest hundreds of millions of dollars and then having a period of time where they uniquely exploit those innovations. And I certainly get involved in this in terms of the ?Foundation work I do where I look at how they provide free drugs and differential pricing and think about what's the real barrier. The real barrier is that they're not incentivized to develop new medicines because if they do developing world medicines, their view is they're going to get told to give those things away, and so as a consequence they don't do a malaria vaccine, they don't do tuberculosis vaccines. So toying with the incentive system, the impact of that, there's nothing more powerful. It's a super power. If you change incentive systems, you change behavior very dramatically. And we've run that experiment where different countries use different incentive systems. The patent system, it should do a better job at looking at prior art, it should pay the examiners more, it should be more online; there's a ton of things that could be better. As you say, we've always been a defendant -- so far -- that may change some day, but so far we've been always a defendant in patent lawsuits and there's certainly a few where we go wait a minute, why are we in this. But we still think it's a super important system and the changes we're advocating for are more on the edge in terms of making it better than any question about the idea that inventors should have some protection.
MODERATOR: We have time for one last question. Yes, in the second row ?
QUESTION: Hi. My name is David Martin, I'm a freshman. You talked about how China and India are using the latest technologies to improve the standard of living for their citizens, but something that I've been following that's been troubling me about China is that they've been using the latest technologies to restrict certain civil liberties as far as using the Internet, cybercafes and things like that. So I wanted to know about your opinion on that.?
BILL GATES: Well, the beauty of the technology is it's basically impossible to restrict it. The ability to do encryption on a local machine and send that in a way that -- encryption technology is ahead of decryption technology and so somebody in China can encrypt something in such a way that no one in their government can go and figure out what it is, and yet the person on the other end can understand that information. And so the ability to restrict information flow just isn't there, and so we're very proud as an industry that, in fact, we've provided these tools of empowerment. It's not just people with printing presses now who get to make statements. It used to be if you owned a TV station or a printing press you could get your ideas out in a way that nobody else could. Now, anyone with a personal computer can get out there and make statements or statements can be found, pointed to. So governments will try and restrict things but they won't have any success against this technology. This is fundamentally empowering technology. Now, in some cases the citizenry is actually in favor of certain restrictions. If you think of things like child pornography or in Germany pro-Nazi type statements or perhaps even the building plans for building a nuclear bomb, there actually are one or two things, a fairly narrow set that we all have an interest in thinking about whether that information should be broadly available. Unfortunately, there's no special exception here. The fact is that technology, because we can't block valid political speech, we also can't block to some degree those other things. We can make them harder to find, we can make them more difficult, but we can't block them. And so bad guys are using technology as well and that's one of these issues we have to become aware of and understand that that's just the nature of it. And so the way we defend against things has to change, it's not going to be based on restricting information flow.?
MODERATOR: Well, I hope all of you will join me once again in thanking Bill for a fascinating hour. (Applause.) We have one last and very important piece of business to do, and that is to ask the students who were involved in the Crystal Tiger Award selection committee to join me here at the podium. ?
STUDENT: Thank you, President Tillman. Mr. Gates, on behalf of all Princeton University students, I want to thank you for taking the time to visit with us. We appreciate it very much and hope your hour spent here at Princeton makes you regret your year spent at Harvard. (Laughter.) The Crystal Tiger Award is awarded by undergraduates of Princeton University to an individual responsible for a transformative impact on our lives, our communities and our values. It seeks to recognize individuals with whom a generation of undergraduates identifies. It is our hope that the years to come the award will enable Princeton undergraduates to engage with leaders, thinkers and creators who in short show us a richer humanity and inspire us to view it. As Chairman and Chief Software Architect of the Microsoft Corporation, you reinvented the way the world accesses information. Through your innovation and leadership, you significantly improved the lives of billions of people. Though you're widely respected and hailed around the world, Mr. Gates, it is in particular our generation of students who identify with and admire you. Throughout the last two decades, we have witnessed firsthand the major advances in technology that altered every aspect of our lives. Your success is not simply that of the innovator and businessman but also leader in the global community. You've been a driving force in many of the most important issues in the last quarter century, from changing the way we communicate to promoting greater equity in both education and global health. Above all, Mr. Gates, your determination to tackle these major global issues head on is what captures our imagination. Our motto here at Princeton University is, "In the nation's service and in the service of all nations." I cannot think of an individual who embodies this ideal more so than do you. Thank you for setting a course of incomparable philanthropy that we can only hope to emulate. And so on behalf of the undergraduate student body of Princeton University, it is our great honor to present the second annual Crystal Tiger Award to the Chairman and Chief Software Architect of Microsoft and co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates. (Applause.)
BILL GATES: Well, it's a real honor to get this and certainly to be in the company of Colin Powell. I hope you can keep up the good work of picking people who are making a difference, and I'm committed to do even more in the future. Thank you. (Applause.)



© 2009 The Trustees of Princeton University