Ask Bill Gates Anything: Being a Billionaire is Strange, Microsoft Co-Founder Tells Students
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if you’re curious and you want to learn something. When I was young and I wanted to ask a question about, ‘Hey, what’s fertilizer?’ if the World Book didn’t have it, I wasn’t going to get the answer.”
Gates talked at length about the ways technology is affecting the education system, particularly how the Khan Academy‘s online video lessons are being tested to see how that model might help flip the traditional classroom model, with lectures at home and “homework” in the classroom.
Asked whether he thought computer science should start being introduced very early in kids’ educations, Gates said he actually would start with statistics.
“There’s certainly a level of complex, symbolic thinking that is valuable to be exposed to. Personally, I might put statistics in instead of geometry. I’d put statistics in before calculus,” Gates said. “Where computer science belongs in that hierarchy I don’t know.”
“I do find that people who have computer science backgrounds, when given a problem from another domain, the idea that they take the system and they look at the size of various elements, they look at the rate-limiting steps for various elements, and they can say, ‘OK, we need to optimize here,’ that type of thinking is like—uh, yeah,” Gates said. “And what other domain gives you that type of systems thinking? Maybe some parts of science and engineering, but the basic notion of what’s an algorithm, and that many systems in society are basically poorly designed algorithms, I think that’s very worthwhile.”
When asked to predict where personal technology would be headed now that we’re in the age of the pervasive smartphone, Gates talked about displays that show up on the human eye and sensors that allow hands to manipulate virtual screens—something that sounds like an outgrowth of the OmniTouch project from Microsoft Research.
“In a sense, the only difference between a phone and a PC is sort of the screen size. You have the size of the screen, and the input technique,” Gates said. “The next generation is either a screen that you can fold out to any size that you want, kind of going back to the papyrus scroll, or more likely it’s simply projecting onto your retina.”
“If I have a projection ability, and I have a camera that’s watching my gestures, I can just say, ‘OK, I want a newspaper this size,’ and I can get perfect HD resolution right in front of me. And the cost and weight of having that capability is almost zero,” he said.
“So eventually, we’ll laugh that there were these big, flat, glass screens that were expensive, and if you dropped them you broke [them],” Gates said. “All you’re trying to do is put stuff on your eye. That’s all. So what a weird contraption, all these LCD chemicals and chips and things. You’re just trying to project into my eye, why don’t you just go ahead and paint there?”
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