Monday, April 7, 2014

Bill Gates Gives Great Rolling Stone Interview

From a couple weeks back but fascinating stuff. Take a few minutes.

Do you think some of these concerns people have are overblown? 

There's always been a lot of information about your activities. Every phone number you dial, every credit-card charge you make. It's long since passed that a typical person doesn't leave footprints. But we need explicit rules. If you were in a divorce lawsuit 20 years ago, is that a public document on the Web that a nosy neighbor should be able to pull up with a Bing or Google search? When I apply for a job, should my speeding tickets be available? Well, I'm a bus driver, how about in that case? And society does have an overriding interest in some activities, like, "Am I gathering nuclear-weapons plans, and am I going to kill millions of people?" If we think there's an increasing chance of that, who do you trust? I actually wish we were having more intense debates about these things. 

Should the state be playing a greater role in helping people at the lowest end of the income scale? Poverty today looks very different than poverty in the past. The real thing you want to look at is consumption and use that as a metric and say, "Have you been worried about having enough to eat? Do you have enough warmth, shelter? Do you think of yourself as having a place to go?" The poor are better off than they were before, even though they're still in the bottom group in terms of income. 

The way we help the poor out today [is also a problem]. You have Section 8 housing, food stamps, fuel programs, very complex medical programs. It's all high-overhead, capricious, not well-designed. Its ability to distinguish between somebody who has family that could take care of them versus someone who's really out on their own is not very good, either. It's a totally gameable system – not everybody games it, but lots of people do. Why aren't the technocrats taking the poverty programs, looking at them as a whole, and then redesigning them? Well, they are afraid that if they do, their funding is going to be cut back, so they defend the thing that is absolutely horrific. Just look at low-cost housing and the various forms, the wait lists, things like that. 

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