At 58, Bill Gates (Trades, Portfolio) is not only the richest man in the world, with a fortune that now exceeds $76 billion, but he may also be the most optimistic. In his view, the world is a giant operating system that just needs to be debugged. Gates' driving idea – the idea that animates his life, that guides his philanthropy, that keeps him late in his sleek book-lined office overlooking Lake Washington, outside Seattle – is the hacker's notion that the code for these problems can be rewritten, that errors can be fixed, that huge systems – whether it's Windows 8, global poverty or climate change – can be improved if you have the right tools and the right skills. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the philanthropic organization with a $36 billion endowment that he runs with his wife, is like a giant startup whose target market is human civilization.
Personally, Gates has very little Master of the Universe swagger and, given the scale of his wealth, his possessions are modest: three houses, one plane, no yachts. He wears loafers and khakis and V-neck sweaters. He often needs a haircut. His glasses haven't changed much in 40 years. For fun, he attends bridge tournaments. Continue Reading »