Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates explores the mind of an American business mogul, the founder of Microsoft. Directed by Davis Guggenheim, the three-part Netflix documentary details Bill Gates’ attempts to change the world through new technological innovations, with the primary focuses being global health, polio eradication, and safe/economic nuclear power. Here are the biggest reveals.
Currently 63 years old, Gates is worth over $100 billion. After co-founding Microsoft with Paul Allen and forever changing the computer software industry, Gates was ultimately antagonized during the late ‘90s for allegedly putting competitors out of business. But after establishing the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000 and later receiving $31 billion from fellow mogul Warren Buffett, he’s dedicated his life to healthcare, education, poverty, and the future of planet Earth.
Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates primarily focuses on the subject’s evolution as a curious individual. Gates’ wife, Melinda, plays a prominent role in Netflix’s documentary, and humanizes a man who can sometimes appear slightly arrogant and distant, if only because of his unfathomable wealth. As a director, Guggenheim often challenges Gates during the three-part series, but prioritizes how the mogul processes information, and how personal structure translates to global business endeavors. Here are the biggest reveals from Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates.
A Tragedy Led To Bill Gates And Paul Allen's Partnership
In 1975, Gates and Allen co-founded Microsoft, and both men later become household names in pop culture. However, Gates’ best friend and primary collaborator as a teenager was Kent Evans. The Seattle natives were indeed familiar with Allen (who was two years older), along with Allen’s classmate Ric Weiland (who later became Microsoft's second employee). When Gates was removed from a tech project for essentially being too young, he and Evans were asked by their high school to fix the scheduling system for 400 students. However, Evans was killed during a mountain climbing accident before the project was completed.
Netflix’s documentary shows how Evans’ death connects to Microsoft’s origin story. Desperate to succeed, Gates recruited Allen and finished the scheduling project, which preceded bigger and better opportunities. In retrospect, Gates recalls that his scheduling algorithm was “all about conflict” and optimizing the students’ movements. Gates also discusses how Allen introduced him to alcohol and Jimi Hendrix, and that they were inseparable over the summer. Gates and Allen may have ultimately worked on other high school projects, but Evans’ tragic death led to the immediate “intensification” of their relationship, which in turn led to Microsoft's foundation soon thereafter.
Bill Gates’ Mother Trained Him To Be Social
Gates reveals that he first realized his intelligence while listening to mathematics records in school for educational purposes. For example, he could instantaneously multiply numbers while his peers needed more time. Gates’ sister notes that she doesn’t believe her brother viewed himself as being different, even though he would spend the majority of his time reading at home. In the Netflix documentary, Gates talks about how conflict with his mother prepared him for the real world.
After an intense and “sarcastic” dinner conversation with his mother, Gates believed that he was “at war.” But he soon realized that Mary and William Gates were not the enemy, and that they were trying to support him. From that point forward, as Netflix’s documentary reveals, Mary would “create” social opportunities for Bill, whether it was inviting him to dinner parties or public events. This type of “forced engagement” ensured that Bill would have the appropriate skills while pursuing his goals as an adult. Gates speaks lovingly of his late mother, and even recalls being embarrassed about his dinner rant. He also identifies June 10, 1994 - the date of Mary’s death - as the worst day of his life.
Bill Gates Reads Everything (Especially Vaclav Smil's Books)
Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates highlights the subject's self-education. Family members recall Gates’ voracious reading habits as a teenager, and professional colleagues similarly detail the man’s unusual ability to consume and process information. Gates once read 14 books during a vacation (the numbers of days aren’t specified), and can presumably read 150 pages per hour. He also travels with a bag of 14 books at all times. “If there’s a good book, I’m gonna read it,” he says.
During a segment about nuclear power research, Gates cites Czech-Canadian scientist Vaclav Smil as a favorite author. In fact, Smil appears in Netflix’s documentary and discusses Gates' unique ability to understand new data. Gates also reveals that he takes a lot of notes while reading Smil’s work, which informs his approach while seeking a safe and economic way to potentially use nuclear energy for global electricity. Interestingly, Gates acknowledges the criticism that technology can’t necessarily solve “everything.” “That’s my hammer,” he says, “lots of problems look like nails.”
Melinda Gates Is Heavily Involved In Bill Gates’ Professional Life
Gates’ wife, Melinda, plays a major role in Netflix's documentary. During on-camera interviews, her lively personality shines through, along with the admiration for her husband. When Bill speaks about Melinda, he often gets emotional while contemplating the past and his intense work schedule. Both seem to have a solid grasp of the other’s needs, whether it’s Bill’s walks through Washington's Hood Canal to “distill and slow down” or Melinda’s desire to have a smaller home, if only to feel safer. Overall, Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates underlines the fact that Melinda is very much an “equal partner.”
Melinda Gates is an accomplished businesswoman, a graduate of Duke University. She originally joined Microsoft as a marketing manager, and recalls when Bill requested a first date two weeks in advance. Melinda also describes his vulnerability, and that she discovered a “tender, warm-hearted person,” in contrast to the calculating businessman that she first believed him to be. The documentary spotlights Melinda the philanthropist and her complete re-structure of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with her investment in female entrepreneurs. Melinda describes Bill as the data expert, whereas she’s responsible for pinpointing the human aspect. Bill notes that planning projects with Melinda “gives it meaning.”
Bill Gates Reached An Epiphany Before Paul Allen’s Death
Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates mostly focuses on the subject’s plans for more technological innovations. As for Microsoft, the Netflix documentary covers the most relevant facts, including Gates’ conflict with Allen after the revealing publication of the latter’s 2011 memoir Idea Man. Two years prior, Allen had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and his cancer treatment was effective for nearly a decade. In October 2018, however, Allen ultimately passed away at age 65. The documentary shows just how much Allen’s death still weighs on Gates’ mind.
At times, Gates is speechless while remembering Allen. So, Larry Cohen - the CEO of Gates Ventures - fills in the gaps. He notes that Gates essentially reached an epiphany and decided that Allen’s friendship was more powerful than any unresolved conflict. While Microsoft’s co-founders did indeed reunite over the phone, they didn’t see each other in person during Allen’s last days.
The America-China Trade War Ruined Bill Gates’ Nuclear Power Plans
Netflix’s documentary extensively covers Gates' nuclear power plans. The Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters are referenced and demonstrate how Gates hopes to ensure a safe way to address climate change issues. Specifically, he’s seemingly found a way to store nuclear waste (uranium) in the ground for up to 125 years, allowing for a “Traveling-Wave Reactor” to generate nuclear electricity - an inherently safe nuclear power design. As Gates notes, “Energy is this miracle, and that’s core to the modern lifestyle.”
Gates believed that his nuclear concepts would be moving forward after meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, but the logistics of his plan were affected by Donald Trump’s trade war with China. Cohen recalls the Gates simply said “oh, shit” when learning about new developments that would derail any technological advancements in China. The entire Netflix documentary builds up to this point, at which the director questions if perhaps Gates is “in too deep.” But the narrative comes full circle with a clip of Gates' mother, Mary, who says, “It’s not what you get, or even what you give - it’s what you become." Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates shows that its subject is more curious than ever, but also aware that he can’t always be right in every situation.