Bill Gates never completed his four years at Harvard. But for status-obsessed American parents, there’s perhaps no one better to offer advice for blossoming adult children than this college dropout.
After two years at the elite university, Gates left in 1975 to start Microsoft with Paul Allen. He became the richest person in the world (a title he’s lost and reclaimed), and then devoted his second act to philanthropy with his wife, Melinda. Now as an older, presumably wiser, version of himself, Gates has some words of advice for those who do finish college.
In a 14-tweet thread on Twitter, Gates told his followers about his educational regrets, and gave advice to young grads on what industries he thinks are most promising:
No advice from the philanthropist comes without a book recommendation. Gates also said that the one gift he’d give to all graduating students is The Better Angels of our Nature. The 2011 book by experimental psychologist Steven Pinker argues that humanity has become less violent over time.
Some reviewers have criticized the book as reductive, and say it glosses over whole swaths of human history.
All the same, the book is Gates’s way of telling young people that things can get better for humanity—a foundational belief of his philanthropic work—and encouraging them to work toward that improvement. Optimism will be just as important as software, Gates seems to be suggesting, for future generations to build a better world.
The book reflects Gates’s own world view. In a 2012 blog review of Pinker’s book, Gates wrote: “I’m a dogged advocate for innovations that have brought us longer life spans, better nutrition and more freedom. But I’m also concerned about the things innovation can’t always change, like how we look at justice and violence.”
The Better Angels of our Nature is now the Number 2 bestselling book overall on Amazon, up from 12,231 in the last day.