When you hear words like computer, Windows, operating system, and billions, who comes to mind first?
Probably William Henry Gates III, known as Bill Gates. The founder of one of the world’s most powerful corporations, “Microsoft Corporation”, a successful business magnate, investor, author, philanthropist, and one of the most influential people in the world.
Oh yes, and one of the richest people in the world too! Since 1987, he has been on Forbes’ list of the world’s wealthiest people, and from 1995 to 2017, he consistently held the top spot on that list, but over time, he has fallen to the second position. Poor thing! Now, according to the latest information, he’s “only” worth 105.4 BILLION DOLLARS! However, according to recent news, there’s a possibility that he might (again) return to the top spot.
Bill had an interesting life journey, there’s no doubt about that. He wasn’t a classic rags-to-riches millionaire… pardon, billionaire. Born into a relatively affluent family, he had quite an unusual disposition and didn’t exactly behave in line with societal expectations. But, he had “smarts” and persistence. And that led him to success.
However, his adventures didn’t end when he stepped down from the Microsoft throne 13 years ago because he wanted to devote more time to philanthropic activities. No, he set new challenges for himself. Challenges that aim to change the world.
The Netflix series “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates”, directed by Davis Guggenheim (who worked on series like “The Shield”, “Alias”, “Deadwood” and many award-winning documentaries covering Al Gore, Barack Obama, Jimmy Page, and Malala), set high expectations from the start for this documentary series.
Did Bill’s story meet expectations? Well, let’s see…
Spanning three episodes, the series weaves through Bill’s conversations with Davis (though, given Bill Gates’ specific psychological profile, you get the impression he’s trying to answer questions from an oral exam… what can you do, that’s just how he is 😁), with questions ranging from the utterly mundane (favorite dog, what he eats for breakfast) to quite profound (how he sees the future of the world, whether he might be fighting lost battles with his philanthropic endeavors to change the world); then there are narrative parts about Bill’s childhood, relationship with his family, school days when he discovered his passion for computers, the beginnings of Microsoft with Paul Allen, his mother’s death and the infamous arrest for speeding, meeting future wife Melinda, and much more, interspersed with charming mini-animated episodes and archival footage and photographs.
Besides Bill Gates’ upbringing, each episode, or rather, the series, focuses on a key “task” that Bill has set for himself and his foundation, which concerns changing the world. Thus, Bill decided to tackle the problem of drinking water and sanitation systems in Africa, the ultimate eradication of polio, as well as the persistent fight to prove that nuclear power plants and nuclear energy are the future of planet Earth, not its threat.
What we will see from these episodes is that Bill’s fight with these challenges, even though he is one of the richest and most influential people in the world, is not easy at all. For his ideas on how to solve some global problem, he dedicates weeks and weeks of reading books on various topics, brainstorming with himself, sketching, noting, writing letters, appeals, and requests to companies, NGOs, and politicians to get involved in the fight to solve these problems. And these are long and difficult battles. And it seems that a (positive) outcome is not even in sight, after so much time and billions of dollars spent.
There are also interviews by the director with Bill’s sisters and his wife Melinda.
Of course, the icing on the cake are the conversations between the director and Bill. You get the impression that there were no pre-prepared questions for Bill here. For some questions, even the genius eccentric Bill had to ponder a bit before giving an answer. And the answers themselves are a story of their own. Some will pleasantly surprise you, some will shock you, many will confuse you, and there will be situations when you will be astonished by Bill Gates’ way of thinking, not sure whether he is a genius visionary or more a man lost in space and time. The director’s reactions also say a lot about Bill’s responses.
I liked the emphasis on how much Bill loves to read, and how he has his moments when he isolates himself from the world and spends days and days reading books and pondering what he has read (ah, billions in the bank do wonders for free time 😀).
Of course, one question remains unresolved, something the director himself wonders about at the end of the series. Bill’s persistence, passion, and dedication… there’s no doubt that these are virtues needed for success… but could they also be his flaws? The question arises: is Bill perhaps fighting some battles that aren’t meant to be won? Years and billions of dollars have been spent on various projects in an attempt to change/improve the world, but the results are rather “thin.” Does it require more time (and money)… or are there entire mysterious “mechanisms” that prevent the world from being better, of which Bill may not be aware (or is, but still wants to have his way)?
In addition to Bill Gates and the “Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” many billionaires are joining this movement, pledging most of their wealth for philanthropic purposes (the first to support this was Warren Buffet), as in “The Giving Pledge.” How this money will be used (and whether it will be) and for what purposes, only time will tell.
In any case, I think it wouldn’t hurt to watch this Netflix documentary, “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates,” and get to know Bill Gates a bit more deeply. 🙂
And you, dear reader, what’s your view of Bill Gates and his philanthropic endeavors? 🙂
Release date: 2019
Number of Seasons: 1 (3 episodes)
Runtime: 50 minutes per episode