Bill Gates And Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions is a brand new podcast series in which the mega-billionaire tech founder teams up with the actress to tackle major issues facing our world today.
I was drawn to the concept of gaining some unfettered access to the mind and brilliance of Bill Gates but the delivery and execution of this new podcast ultimately underperformed for me.
Let us take a look at some of the potential pitfalls facing this new podcast to try and peel the onion and determine how and why I was ultimately disinterested in sticking around as a long-term listener.
Prior to digging any further into some constructively critical feedback on Bill Gates And Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions I want to state very clearly what my concerns and critiques are not.
I am not someone who believes in nor pays attention to the absolute wackadoo conspiracy theories that are out there in the bizarro world regarding Bill Gates.
I am not even going to dignify them by going any further, other than reaffirming I think that those conspiracy theories are utter garbage.
Bill and his wife Melinda have made it their life’s work to be incredibly generous with their time, energy, and hard-earned resources to try and improve the quality of life for humanity.
That is beyond commendable.
I am also not someone who rails against the “liberal elites” or feels anyone associated with Hollywood should just stay quiet, act, and entertain us.
That is nonsense as well.
I am a big believer in people using or creating platforms to do things that can help to improve our world.
Some people are clearly more informed or just genuinely more interested in certain causes and those with heartfelt intentions are typically easy to identify versus disingenuous virtue seekers.
None of these issues though, be it conspiratorial garbage or some anti-Hollywood stance, are at play in my critiques.
Along with respecting Bill Gates, I think Rashida Jones is a brilliant actress with some of the most organic, comedic chops out there.
She not only hung with Bill Murray in On The Rocks but she gave him a run for his money.
Her comedic sense is subtle but it plays so well on the screen.
I enjoy her work and am able to view and discuss this new podcast on its own merit.
I think the first challenge for this podcast in sustaining interest is that it is too broad. From Covid, to why we believe lies, to climate change, is just way too much ground on such disparate topics to cover in brief stints.
Some of the most successful and entrenched podcasts out there hyper-focus on a certain niche or area of interest and get granular on the research, exploration, and discussion of the topic.
50 Minutes spent exploring and coming to conclusions on whether it is too late to stop climate change is too daunting for a truly comprehensive approach to such a heady and existential topic.
The producers and hosts might counter that 50 minutes is a sweet spot of total episode time for mainstream podcast consumption but these are big questions being asked.
These are not benign topics being cued up for a superficial take on a puff piece podcast. We have Bill Gates at the table and the opportunity feels squandered.
The series might have been better suited in asking a big question per season and allowing the discussions, debates, and potential answers to unfold over something like 6 episodes per season.
That would have allowed for multiple credentialed guests, dissenting views, healthy debate, and a more nuanced discussion that rightfully honored such a weighty subject by exhausting all avenues of exploration.
Does the unimpeachable success Bill Gates experienced as a tech founder mean he is qualified to provide answers on why we believe lies or whether it is too late for climate change?
I am not sure it makes him a credentialed expert on anything other than technology but it does make me curious to hear his thoughts and perspectives on just about any topic.
The podcast also does do the right thing in bringing on a subject matter expert to lend their expertise to the discussion but for these humanity-impacting topics, I am left wanting and needing to hear more.
When introducing a topic like “what will the world look like after Covid19” how about instead of just an infectious disease expert we also hear from a historian who can chronicle the changes to society after the early 1900s Spanish Flu.
How about we hear from an economist or a child psychologist about the other major implications on our lives beyond vaccines and wearing masks, which are the two things we probably hear discussed the most already in mainstream coverage.
There was an opportunity to get deeper, more creative, and especially to even allow for dissenting opinions to be voiced.
The questions they are asking deserve that kind of treatment.
This last constructive critique may have more to do with me personally, admittedly, but I am guessing it will apply to a significant swath of the podcast consuming audience as well.
I am beyond burned out and fatigued on the Covid19 discussions and that was the very first episode that this podcast series rolled out with.
They also brought on Dr. Anthony Fauci as the first and only guest for the discussion. Prior to going any further, I will state another quick disclaimer: I like and respect Dr. Fauci.
His treatment by our president and others in prominent positions has been disgraceful.
That disclaimer aside, the question posed was “what will the world look like after Covid19” and Dr. Fauci feels more like our guy to discuss how the heck can we get through Covid19.
Perhaps due to the work that Bill Gates does with vaccination programs and the pandemic being the most obvious and pressing big topic in our world, they felt they had to come right out of the gate and tackle this question first.
I just know I am personally exhausted on all things Covid19 so when I turn to my beloved world of podcasts I am seeking something else.
But if by chance the topic of a podcast does need to be Covid19 then I am certainly wanting and expecting to be delivered something other than the typical mainstream coverage.
That delivery also includes wanting to hear from someone other than Dr. Fauci, even as credible and critical of a voice on this subject as I view him to be.
All new podcasts need time and reps to get into a groove, get on their right footing, and truly find themselves.
I think the overarching creative idea here was a good one in pairing a curious, thoughtful, and endearing actress with one of the most successful and brilliant minds of our time to tackle humanity’s most pressing questions.
The execution was just lacking for me and I am not compelled to stick around for future episodes.
I do wish the show well and welcome any platform that can offer an open dialogue that is free from being limited by 2-minute talking head segments, which is ultimately the beauty of podcasting.