Bill Gates Maintains Neutral Stance on Apple vs. FBI in Reddit AMA

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation testifies before a Senate hearing in March 2015. On Tuesday, he answered questions in a "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

During his live Q&A chat on Reddit on Tuesday, Microsoft founder Bill Gates reiterated his call for more dialogue between Apple and the FBI on the issue of the San Bernardino, California, shooter's iPhone.

In an Ask Me Anything (AMA) response on the Apple vs. FBI legal battle that has attracted national attention in recent weeks, Gates preached transparency and communication. "I think there needs to be a discussion about when the government should be able to gather information," Gates says. "The government needs to talk openly about safeguards. Right now a lot of people don't think the government has the right checks to make sure information is only used in criminal situations."

Bill Gates re-created a personal photo from 1973 to verify to Reddit he will be answering the questions in a "Ask Me Anything" chat. Bill Gates/Courtesy

Gates also emphasized that this is not just an American issue—governments in the United Kingdom and France are having similar discussions—and called for both Washington and Silicon Valley to get their act together. "For tech companies there needs to be some consistency including how governments work with each other. The sooner we modernize the laws the better," Gates says.

Gates has clarified his stance on Apple vs. FBI a few times already to the media. After a February 23 Financial Times article described Gates as "break[ing] ranks" to be pro-FBI, he went on Bloomberg that same day to clarify his position. "That doesn't state my view on this," Gates said in a television interview.

Redditors had a mixed reaction to Gates's answer, one calling it a "nice non-answer," while another called it a "very sensible and level-headed stance."

Gates tackled several other technological questions in the AMA thread, from quantum computing ("There is a chance that within six to 10 years that cloud computing will offer super-computation by using quantum.") to artificial intelligence ("I share the view of [Tesla CEO Elon] Musk and [theoretical physicist Stephen] Hawking that when a few people control a platform with extreme intelligence, it creates dangers in terms of power and eventually control").

He also delved into political matters in which his philanthropic Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have been involved, most interestingly on climate change and the difficulty of starting discourse in the United States. "Politics operates in four-year cycles, and climate change is a challenge that needs decades of work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Gates says. "I am disappointed that the U.S. is where the debate has been the most difficult."