UC Berkeley News


A glimpse of Gates
He highlights key role of university research in maintaining U.S. lead in tech innovation

| 08 October 2004

A light moment in last Friday's conversation between Bill Gates (right) and Engineering Dean Richard Newton, before an audience of primarily students. (Peg Skorpinski photo)
On Friday, Oct. 1, Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft, spoke with Dean Richard Newton of the College of Engineering (which sponsored Gates’ appearance) in a public conversation at Zellerbach Hall. The event drew an audience of nearly 1,500 people, consisting primarily of students from engineering and the rest of campus, as well as a number of engineering faculty members.

When asked by Newton to advise the students about which areas of technology hold the most promise in the near future, Gates pointed out the growing importance of computer science in health and medical research. He also emphasized the promise of research in artificial intelligence that would allow computers to “see” and understand both text and images.

Gates addressed the effect of globalization on the technology industry, noting that competition from China and India is challenging the United States in a way that hasn’t happened before.

“It’s a fantastic thing that a large part of the world’s population gets to participate in a capitalistic society,” he said. “It’s not a zero-sum game. It’s not like war, where there’s one winner and one loser.”

During a question-and-answer session with students, Gates was asked to identify hot areas in the computer industry’s future. Other questions addressed his approach to balancing dual roles as a philanthropist and a businessman, the computer industry’s impact on the environment, and the likelihood of Microsoft attracting more students to its workforce if it didn’t have antitrust troubles with the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Commission.

During his hour on stage, Gates emphasized that research universities like Berkeley are a key part of continuing innovation in the field of technology, especially in the United States.

“I believe the university system is the number one thing that has allowed the U.S. to stay at the center of innovation,” he said.