Notes on 'Inside Bills Brain'

'Inside Bills Brain' on Netflix was one of the most fascinating docu-series I've watched in a long time. Not only did it do a remarkable job at telling the story of Bill's life but it let you understand how differently Bill views the world.

As someone with a passion for technology, being able to see how Bill thinks about the worlds biggest challenges leaves you not only in awe but in a state of mind that encourages you to think bigger.

Previous to watching this I viewed Bill as the founder of Microsoft who had turned his hand to philanthropy in the later stages of his career. After watching it was clear that I was off the mark. By a lot.

Bill Gates is an incredible optimist who is confident every problem can be solved if you work hard enough. In fact it was this that was the difference between himself and Paul Allen through the early days of Microsoft. Paul no longer wanted to consistently work the long hours that got them out of the starting block and often through the night. For Bill, that wouldn't change.

Bills biggest fear

The number one thing that stuck with me after watching was his response to the question, "What is your greatest fear"? The answer was the same thing that had helped him get to where he was, his brain.

"I don't want my brain to stop working" was his response.

In a way if we all think about it, losing your ability to use your brain effectively is probably towards the top of list for most of us and advancements in Alzheimer's science are always keenly picked over. This is a topic that is also interesting to me as people like David Sinclair have been able to make strides in the field of human longevity which looks promising in reducing our chances of developing it in the first place. But that is a topic for another article.

The problems he is trying to solve.

Fast-forwarding through the incredibly successful days of Microsoft, Bill turned his focus to solving some of the biggest issues facing the world today alongside his wife Melinda. As equal partners in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, they have, as of Aug 2018 donated over $38 billion to causes in the sectors of global health, education and poverty.


Initially targeting Malaria and more recently Polio, the foundation has managed to greatly reduce the impact of these two diseases although the puzzle is not yet solved. What was interesting is that one of the biggest blockers faced by the foundation was conflict is African states where the flow of both vaccinators and information gets restricted.

Since efforts began in 1988 cases of Polio have decreased by 99% with immunisation efforts reaching over 3 billion children over that time.

The foundation has committed over 3 billion towards the effort.


Alongside his efforts in disease, it's clear that his passion lies in low carbon energy solutions such as nuclear. A contentious subject to most Bill has, over many years been working on designing and taking steps to create safer and cleaner nuclear reactors through his start-up Terra Power.

The reactor they designed runs not off of enriched uranium but off of depleted uranium and should the power go out, the reactor stops producing energy and doesn't meltdown like designs of old. In fact at one point talks with China were so advanced that following a personal meeting between Bill and the Chinese President Xi Jinping, Terra Power reactors were going to built across China. Unfortunately, the trade war stopped this in its tracks.

But his efforts towards energy solutions don't stop there. Through his investment in Breakthrough Energy Ventures, they are helping bring clean energy solutions to market faster. One area that is of particular interest to him is solving the problem of materials as the making of steel, cement, plastic, glass, aluminium and paper - is the third biggest contributor to greenhouse gasses behind agriculture and making electricity. A fifth of all emissions.

Additionally, to pursuing zero-emission options of the above there are some other areas he is excited about that include Carbon Capture, Electrification, Fuel switching and Recycling.

His method of learning

One thing that Melinda eluded to was his ability to read and process information at the same time no matter how complex the topic. A former employee of Bills also mentioned that while on holiday Bill would read up to 14 books at a rate of 150 pages per hour. Oh and he also carries a bag of books where ever he goes.

If you are interested in the books he reads and also what is currently in his book bag you can find these over on Gates Notes.

The way that Bill learns is something that fascinates me. It is also different than how I and likely many others approach reading. Taking the topic of climate change, for instance, Bill would read every book worth reading on the topic so that any information gained above and beyond a base level can be compared, compartmentalised and referenced against previous materials. This enables him to learn about complex topics quickly and to a high level.

It is said that often he is able to ask questions from a completely different perspective and often leaves the other dumbfounded.


If there was one overarching feeling to take away from this it would be that Bill Gates is someone who is so inspired by the work he is doing it has never felt like work to him. From the slightly arrogant young man in the early days of Microsoft defending his company against monopoly charges to the much wiser Bill Gates of today, work is his life, his passion, his hobby and his dreams.

After setbacks in his war against Polio, Bill was asked if he's ever considered giving up. His answer, "I just have to work harder".

In conclusion

I highly recommend giving this a watch if you are interested in biographies, technology, global challenges or just want to see Warren Buffet deciding to give Bill Gates $3 billion over a cheeseburger.

You can find a database of all of the grants made so far through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation here.