Don’t look for Bill Gates to join the other tech tycoons building spacecraft as an avocation.
“In terms of improving the state of humanity, I don’t see the direct connection,” he told BusinessWeek in an interview published today. “I guess it’s fun, because you shoot rockets up in the air. But it’s not an area that I’ll be putting money into.”
That sass may make things awkward at the next neighborhood potluck in Medina, especially if Jeff Bezos shows up.
But it’s hard to argue with the priorities Gates has chosen. The world’s richest man is putting most of his energy into battling polio, malaria and childhood mortality rates.
The interview mostly covered his philanthropic work but it included a few wry comments about other technology players, including Silicon Valley fads and Google’s idea to provide Internet connectivity via balloons in developing countries.
“When you’re dying of malaria, I suppose you’ll look up and see that balloon, and I’m not sure how it’ll help you,” he said. “When a kid gets diarrhea, no, there’s no website that relieves that.”
Gates makes it clear that he no longer has a major role at Microsoft and is focused mostly on his charitable work and his family. Asked what “winning” would look like for the foundation, he said:
“If the death rates of poor children come down to the amazingly low rate of rich children, that would be a signature accomplishment. In the U.S., if we have an education system where the inner-city kid and the suburban kid have equal opportunity, that would be a huge contribution.”