The world’s richest man, Bill Gates, has said he is “bothered” by the lack of generosity in a world where preventable diseases kill millions every year.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, the founder of Microsoft talked about his efforts to give away the majority of his fortune – estimated at £55.6bn – to help save and improve the lives of the world’s poorest people.
He also admitted his teenage software skills ensured girls he liked sat next to him at school.
His life had changed in 2008, Mr Gates said, when he started working full time at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“I knew that Melinda and I wanted to give [the wealth I had from Microsoft] back in the most impactful way,” he said.
“And so after a trip to Africa, we really started learning about disease and we were stunned to realise that for each $1,000 [£700] we gave we could save a life.”
He spoke of how polio had been eradicated from Africa and hoped to help rid the world of malaria.
But Mr Gates appeared frustrated by those who don’t share this ambition. “It does bother you,” he said, “that there’s not more generosity or there’s not more creativity and that we’re not drawing in the best scientists.”
His choice of book was more optimistic. The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker was, he said, a “brilliant discussion about how humanity is treating humanity better”.
His music included “Two of Us” by The Beatles, in tribute to the late Apple founder Steve Jobs, who was “absolutely” his good friend, and a Jimi Hendrix song with which he said Paul Allen, his school friend and co-founder of Microsoft, used to tease him.
“He would sometimes taunt me with the title of this song, ‘Are You Experienced?’, because I hadn’t gotten drunk or other various things … so this was one of our favourites,” Mr Gates said, laughing.
He confirmed that he and Mr Allen programmed the class schedules to enable them to sit near girls, although his friend left for college too soon to “benefit” from this.
“It wasn’t that I could talk to them or anything, but they were there,” Mr Gates said. “I was particularly inept at talking to girls.”