Bill Gates, Book Critic
Bill Gates has started blogging. The homepage is here, and in the “What I’m Learning” section, he proves to be a fantastic book critic: “I really liked Freakonomics and I think SuperFreakonomics is even better. … I recommend this book to anyone who reads nonfiction. It is very well written and full of great insights.”
To be fair, Gates acknowledges that he has personal connections to some stories we tell in SuperFreak. One is the creation of the medical-informatics system Amalga, which Microsoft bought a few years back when it was called Azyxxi. Gates is also affiliated with Intellectual Ventures, the invention firm founded by Nathan Myhrvold, the former C.T.O. of Microsoft. Among the I.V. projects we write about are a hurricane-suppression idea and a variety of ways to stop global warming. Gates is not only an investor in one arm of I.V., but he is also an inventor: it was the presence of his name on a series of patent applications for the anti-hurricane idea that prompted a blast of media coverage last summer.
Gates wasn’t around when we visited I.V. during our research, so I later interviewed him by phone. About 30 seconds after hanging up, something happened that had never before happened in my life: my Microsoft Word crashed and I lost the entire file. I hadn’t recorded the call either. But luckily, someone on Gates’s end had recorded the call, and I was able to get that recording and transcribe the interview.
This was just a few weeks after I’d switched to a Mac after many years on Windows computers. It struck me as quite telling that Word would eat my interview notes so soon afterwards. A Microsoft curse? Did Gates have voodoo power? Was this one last effort to pull a wayward soul back into the Windows fold?
The crash made me fear that Word might be unstable on my new Mac. But in the nearly two years since, I haven’t experienced a single loss of Word data. And so, as good a book critic as Bill Gates may be, I vow to never interview him again while typing notes on this computer.