back to article Bill Gates – I WISH I was like Zuck and spoke Chinese. Yep, I drink poo

Microsoft moneybags Bill Gates feels stupid that he doesn't know any foreign languages – and wishes he had the time to learn French because he thinks it is the easiest to pick up. That was one of a number of insights in the life of the world's richest man* on Reddit earlier today, including the fact that he spends too long …

  1. tfewster Silver badge
    Terminator

    Can't...resist...temptation...to...say...

    Hey Bill - Get Microsoft to develop the robots. MS's new "killer app"? Even if they stay up long enough to become a menace to humanity, they'll be easily hacked to disable them.

    1. Triggerfish

      Re: Can't...resist...temptation...to...say...

      John Connor if you can take out the update server this'll be all over by Tuesday.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gates is more concerned that these "super intelligent machines" will be running Linux.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      A Linux Terminator

      That Linus is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. ... And it absolutely will not stop, ever - and when it reaches you it will stuck a finger up and insult you ..

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: A Linux Terminator

        Just imagine how unfriendly a Linux robot would be.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: A Linux Terminator

          It'l be alright - the Linux robot won't use its missile pods on principle because the drivers contain proprietary code.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A Linux Terminator

          > Just imagine how unfriendly a Linux robot would be.

          Not unfriendly at all. Just a bit choosy about who its friends are.

          1. wolfetone
            Coat

            Re: A Windows Terminator

            Would just be Ctrl + Alt + Del wouldn't it?

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Would a Debian robot be a grey-bearded one built with a very old design and materials, almost a steampunk one?

      And guess any Linux AI would become schizophrenic in a little time... "I was Slackware, then Red Hat, then Mandrake, o no, Mandriva, Fedora, Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS, Kubunto, Mint... WHO I AM?????" - "rm -rf /".

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Surely a Linux AI will lack humor, like most of its users...

  4. Chris G Silver badge

    The Biggest Risk

    Will be when some IT MegaCorp releases it's latest AI and forces it on the world only half developed, in need of twice daily software upgrades and infinitely hackable,,, and no respect for it's customers!

    1st Super AI Law; An AI may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. An AI must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law providing they have paid their licence fee.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: The Biggest Risk

      Have this one for free:

      Just waiting for the day we all end up half an hour late to work because the iCar or Android 'o' Wagon needed that software update!

      1. Archaon
        Black Helicopters

        Re: The Biggest Risk

        More worried about it being a company car that then won't drive off until half an hour after you're due to finish because it knows you've not done your full penance for the day.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: The Biggest Risk

          >An AI must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law providing they have paid their licence fee.

          Asimov was ahead of you: U.S Robots and Mechanical Men Inc only ever leased out their robots; they never became the property of the end-users.

          1. Thunderbird 2

            Re: The Biggest Risk

            I'm searching telephone directories and other records for "Susan Calvin" she might be important to know.

      2. Thoguht Silver badge
        Terminator

        Re: The Biggest Risk

        You are way behind the times there, TechnicalBen, I was late for work one day over 20 years ago after a firmware update for the automatic gearbox on my Vauxhall Vectra installed during a service had messed up the changedown sequence under certain conditions and I had to take it back to the garage.

    2. James Micallef Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: The Biggest Risk

      Directive 4 - CLASSIFIED

  5. Khaptain Silver badge

    French - Anything but easy.

    Bill, a word of advice, from experience. it is easier to learn modern Hebrew that it is to learn French.

    Je vous assure que Hebreu est plus facile que Francais.

    אני יודע, אני חייתי בישראל במשך 3 שנים..

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: French - Anything but easy.

      But Coleman, he could have both!!! Maybe not, either of those are bear to even start to learn. Maybe he should just hire someone to translate for him.

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: French - Anything but easy.

        It will be interesting to see how will Cortana will fair in Win 10...

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: French - Anything but easy.

      My exact thought. Dear old Bill. As clueless as ever.

    3. Sandtitz Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: French - Anything but easy.

      "Bill, a word of advice, from experience. it is easier to learn modern Hebrew that it is to learn French."

      Sorry to ruin your rant but Bill didn't say that French is easy - he only thinks it's easier than Chinese or Arabic:

      "...I wish I knew French or Arabic or Chinese. I keep hoping to get time to study one of these - probably French because it is the easiest."

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: French - Anything but easy.

        "Sorry to ruin your rant but Bill didn't say that French is easy - he only thinks it's easier than Chinese or Arabic:"

        Sorry to ruin "your" rant but I didn't comment that Bill said that learning French is easy. My comment was along the lines that learning French is actually more difficult than most people realise. Personally I found Hebrew easier than French and once you know some Hebrew you will find that it shares some elements with Arabic. Learn to count in Hebrew then do the same in Arabic and you will see what I mean.

        [I lived in Israel for several years so I do know what I am talking about].

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: French - Anything but easy.

          That's often depends from what native language you're from, and the group of languages it belongs to.

          For example, Italians are used to complex verb alike French, but Italians have far simpler pronounciation and writing rules. English speaking people may find verbs in other languages far more complex compared to theirs.

          But Italian no longer uses declensions (despite its roots in Latin), thereby Italians may find harder to learn languages where declensions are used (unless they were forced to study Latin or Ancient Greek at school, LOL!). Languages not using the Western alphabet require those used to it only to learn new ones, and so on... also many languages have a common root, for example most European languages (and some outside Europe) have common Indo-European roots, and thereby some similiarities - others, for example most Asiatic languages, have different roots and thereby the "first impact" looks much more complex when you come from one side or the other.

          Anyway, it's astonishing that in the XXI century americans are still wondered someone could speak a foreign language beyond English...

        2. James Micallef Silver badge

          Re: French - Anything but easy.

          Hebrew and Arabic require learning a whole new alphabet, at least with French he's already got a head start with a (mostly) known alphabet.

          Yes, French IS very difficult to fully master but not that difficult to pick up a basic knowledge

          1. Khaptain Silver badge

            Re: French - Anything but easy.

            "Hebrew and Arabic require learning a whole new alphabet, at least with French he's already got a head start with a (mostly) known alphabet."

            Learning a new alphabet is no where near as difficult as most people would imagine. There are after all only 22 letters in Hebrew for example. ( not including the nekadots - the vowels). It has been 27 years since I lived in Israel but even to this day I can still read. ( unfortunately I no longer understand very much of what I can read as my vocabulary is gone through lack of use).

            Whereas vocabulary is a massive learning curve as it requires a huge amount of memory. I am at a stage in my life whereby I use French words that I do not know/use in English. My memory no longers affords me the advantage of learning new words in both languages. ( French is my daily language, it has been for more than 20 years).

    4. ST Silver badge

      Re: French - Anything but easy.

      A resounding +1 from me. A.k.a. Moi. :-)

      French is anything but easy. The grammar is treacherous. The language itself is very expressive and allows for very subtle nuances and constructs. And spoken French can be quite different than written French.

    5. MacroRodent Silver badge

      Re: French - Anything but easy.

      For someone whose native language is English, the easiest languages probably would be other Germanic languages, like German or Swedish.. From my point of view (as a Finnish speaker), these are almost dialects of each other...

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: French - Anything but easy.

        @MacroRodent,

        Genau, Ich mochte Deutchse lernen.

        I began to learn to learn German on the 20min ride to work in the morning but I gave it up due to lack of requirement to speak it. I would agree that it appears to be closer to English than French but the logic behind phrase construction is intially quite difficult especially the verbs appearing at the end of a phrase and also the difficulty with having 3 genders. Even after 20 years in France I still dont remember whether some words are masculine or feminine.

      2. boltar Silver badge

        Re: French - Anything but easy.

        "For someone whose native language is English, the easiest languages probably would be other Germanic languages, like German or Swedish.. From my point of view (as a Finnish speaker), these are almost dialects of each other..."

        It depends. A native english speaker will know a lot of the words in french even if he's never seen it before because the 2 languages share a LOT of vocabulary due to the Norman invasion and the hugenots. However this usually only works with the written language as the pronounciation is often quite different. However french verb conjugation is an absolute bloody nightmare - most kids from english schools will remember french verb tables with horror. In this sense the germanic languages are easier but they don't share much (obvious) vocab with english.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    6. dogged

      Re: French - Anything but easy.

      Mm yeah, because verbs and nouns taking the gender of the speaker and listener(s) at the same time is tres facile. And the new word for the definite article, that's not confusing at all.

      I disagree. French is piss easy by comparison. But Spanish is easier still.

      1. dogged

        Re: French - Anything but easy.

        (missed edit time limit)

        Also, Hebrew is fugly. It sounds like you're trying to puke out a snake made of gravel. Why Eliezer Ben-Yehuda wanted Jews to speak like Klingons is beyond me but for some reason they decided it was a good idea...

        And an entirely different alphabet! Fantastic! With no vowels! So every single word is a crossword puzzle at all times and you have to know what a word says before you can read it. English isn't the world's most phonetic language - that would probably be German - but Hebrew takes the absolute fucking piss. Gotta love being suddenly illiterate.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: French - Anything but easy.

          >Also, Hebrew is fugly. It sounds like you're trying to puke out a snake made of gravel.

          Aye. I found often found myself sitting next to loudly Skyping Israelis in South American internet cafes. It was horrible.The majority of them were just out of national service and travelling with a gang of their former comrades, which is understandable enough - but might explain their disinclination to mix with others.

          The few young Israelis who were travelling by themselves were lovely, though.

        2. Khaptain Silver badge

          Re: French - Anything but easy.

          "Also, Hebrew is fugly",

          I couldn't disagree more, here's a little well known song that will help explain my thoughts about the above comment.

          "People are strange when you're a stranger,

          Faces look ugly when you're alone.

          Women seem wicked when you're unwanted,

          Streets are uneven when you're down."

          Krieger, Morrison, 1967

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: French - Anything but easy.

          > Hebrew is fugly. It sounds like you're trying to puke out a snake made of gravel

          Modern Hebrew, with its strong Ashkenazi influence (that German "r"! :-P ). I used to find Hebrew as spoken by the Mizrahim much more pleasant--of course, that's for someone who thinks there is no language as pleasant-sounding as properly spoken Modern Standard Arabic, so YMMV.

          1. dogged

            Re: French - Anything but easy.

            Omar Sharif's arabic is like a massage for your ears, true.

            Modern Hebrew sounds like Welshman having a fit.

          2. boltar Silver badge

            Re: French - Anything but easy.

            "for someone who thinks there is no language as pleasant-sounding as properly spoken Modern Standard Arabic,"

            Sorry, but to me arabic sounds like a cat trying to cough up a hairball. If you want a beautiful language then there is no contest - Italian.

            1. LDS Silver badge

              Re: French - Anything but easy.

              Someone would say French also... and regarding Italilans, depends on who speak that Italian. Some people from different areas of Italy may have deep local accents that can make Italian ugly to listen to.

              Anyway a lot depends of what kind of labguages you're used to hear and listen to... what you may find pleasant for someone else could be really unpleasant.

              For example I can't stand Spanish and Portoguese, English and French are OK, German is a bit harsh, I'm not displeased by Russian, I don't like Arabic, I'm puzzled by Chinese and Japanese...

            2. James Micallef Silver badge

              Re: French - Anything but easy.

              Have to agree that Italian is beautiful on the ear. It's also by far the easiest language that I know - The pronunciation is completely standard with no weird phonetics, and the grammatical rules are both extremely regular (very few exceptions) and 'light', with no funny constructs like cases.

              But then again every language is easy to a native speaker

        4. LDS Silver badge

          Re: French - Anything but easy.

          Sorry, but one of the most phonetic language is Italian - you read it exactly the way it is written, something it shares with Finnish, AFAIK (but I can't speak Finnish).

          German is not, it has stricter pronounciation rules than English, but it's not really phonetic.

          1. dogged

            Re: French - Anything but easy.

            > Sorry, but one of the most phonetic language is Italian - you read it exactly the way it is written

            Lies. There are a myriad of cases where you have absolutely no indication whether "c" is "ess", "ka" or "cha".

            1. LDS Silver badge

              Re: French - Anything but easy.

              Not true. C is always hard in front of A, O and U, or a consonant (unless it's another C, which follows then the same rules of a single C). It's always soft (but alike in "tch", not "ess") in front of I and E. CH is used to turn it hard in front of I and E (K is not present in the Italian alphabet), while CI turns it soft in front of A, O and U. Same is true for G (J is not present in the Italian alphabet) - but the sound GN which is a bit peculiar (but always the same) and a bit difficult for some.

              C is never pronounced like "ess" in Italian.

              What Italian lack are ways to indicate vowels height (but there are fewer ones, and don't change the word meaning, even different parts of Italy may have different one for the same word), and a way to tell you if S or Z are voiced or not.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: French - Anything but easy.

          About phonetic languages: I've heard spanish is written how it is speaked. I know romanian is. Maybe italian and portuguese too.

          The thing with romanian is there are no dialects. So, please learn romanian :-)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Happy

            Re: French - Anything but easy.

            And with Romanian, if a name ends in an "A", your pretty confident it's going to be a female on the end of the phone / email. Saves the awkwardness of asking if he/she can get back in touch.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: French - Anything but easy.

      To be fair, learning gutter (GCSE) French is quite easy. Learning proper French is not. But this goes for just about all languages. I imagine if you lived in France and worked there for three years you would pick up French a bit too, though the kind of French depends a lot on who you mix with. I'm much more comfortable writing in French about commercial matters and electronics than making polite social chit-chat.

      The question is nowadays, why learn French? The answer is demographics; the part of the world that speaks French at least as a second language is expanding quite rapidly. More people speak Spanish and Portuguese as a first language, but as they are all Romance languages, learning one facilitates the others. If you run a foundation that is doing a lot of work in Africa, French is a very good choice.

      Modern Hebrew...well, unless you plan to live in Israel, it's almost as niche as Haskell.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: French - Anything but easy.

        "If you run a foundation that is doing a lot of work in Africa"

        That's probably quite a small sub-set of the population :-)

    8. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

      Re: French - Anything but easy.

      Well the alphabet can be a little difficult to start with, not to mention ingrained left to right hits, but then he has two alphabet already, roman and greek. But French really is not difficult to learn if you speak English (and are prepared to give it a try).

    9. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: French - Anything but easy.

      "Bill, a word of advice, from experience. it is easier to learn modern Hebrew that it is to learn French."

      Shirley all he has to do is practice his language of choice with Bing Translate. How could that go wrong?

  6. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

    Death by Super Intelligences: it'll be the personal assistants

    I've always figured that rather than military hardware going wrong that'll kill us, it'll be all the personal assistant programs and robots. A military robot would be chock-full of safeguards and fail-safes where a PA bot would have none (those things cost a lot of money) and are more likely to glitch in a way to kill us: tell you to take more medication than normal, convince us to walk through dangerous neighborhoods, or even just sending the wrong commends to our appliances. Hell they'd be far more susceptible to getting hacked by a malicious human since consumer electronics never have anywhere near the security that they need and they'd be so prevalent that research on them is trivial.

    1. breakfast

      Re: Death by Super Intelligences: it'll be the personal assistants

      The end of the world began with a single world, spoken by a sinister 3D-printed paperclip:

      "It looks like you're planning to take over the world and wipe out the puny fleshlings..."

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Death by Super Intelligences: it'll be the personal assistants

      Yeah, that's what Hegel said too.

  7. Graham Marsden
    Paris Hilton

    Dear El Reg...

    ... those grapes tasting particularly sour today...?

  8. P. Lee
    Trollface

    Bill: The one thing I want but I can't have...

    Galaxy S5? iPhone? A recent version of Windows that works with a mouse?

    So many options, so little time to mock!

    1. cambsukguy

      Re: Bill: The one thing I want but I can't have...

      > A recent version of Windows that works with a mouse?

      You poor thing! No one told you that windows still works with a mouse, oh my, how you must have suffered until you changed OS.

      Makes me wonder why you tried in the first place.

      Or perhaps you assumed it having never tried it.

      It is one thing to say that you wouldn't have an iPhone because it is not worth the money, even it was a superior phone, because the price is the price and ones view about said price is valid.

      But it is another to slag off an OS because it is no good *unless* you have tried it yourself for a reasonable period of time and still found it wanting.

      I don't have Windows 8 on a laptop, just a surface but I still has little issue using it on a non-touch laptop.

      All this hate when the world is so full of hate already seems ridiculous - I hate it.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Bill: The one thing I want but I can't have...

        He probably installed W8 and then got frustrated because tapping the screen didn't work - thought it was like the iOS update which added waterproofing functionality.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bill: The one thing I want but I can't have...

          "thought it was like the iOS update which added waterproofing functionality."

          It did. It ran the battery down much faster and so boiled off any moisture.

  9. Suricou Raven Silver badge

    I'm not worried about superintelligent AI.

    I'm more concerned about an AI just smart enough to do some of the more menial human jobs, and the economic impact that will have. Increases in economic productivity have always been a good thing in history - eventually. But the steepest ones often have an ugly transition period, and history is no guide in this case as the form of transition is unprecedented. What happens when the robots are doing all the driving, most of the cleaning and a good chunk of the service industry work? Unemployment that could trigger a positive feedback loop and push the world into a recession that'd make the Great Depression look quite mild in comparison.

    1. cambsukguy

      None of that will need anything that could reasonably be called AI let alone an Ex Machina level of AI.

      More automation will increase efficiency, taxis cost a fortune because the drivers sit around far too long doing nothing, that is one of the reasons Uber is cheaper.

      But, personal services, and there would be fewer of them, will still be sought. For instance, in the UK, massages (the real kind) cost a lot of money and thus I rarely have them.

      Still, they couldn't be cheap unless a machine did them I guess since people need an income.

      Unless we needed less income because a machine or two does almost everything for us more efficiently and thus cheaper. I would probably be okay with a machine massage (the real kind).

      So, we all do half a job, or a quarter of a job and still have a high standard of living but (hopefully) a higher quality of life - free massages for all.

      I have decided to trial this system to see if it is viable.

      We can have all of this with advances in robotics without much advance in AI at all - I have no worry about telling a machine how to vacuum or massage or wash up and have it capable of simple learning by rote.

      Stupid robots have been making cars for donkey's years, that is why cars are so cheap for what you get.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        >So, we all do half a job, or a quarter of a job and still have a high standard of living but (hopefully) a higher quality of life

        Yes, that's why programmers today don't work that awful 9-5 lifestyle of our parent's and grandparent's generation.

  10. Ahead

    Well...

    Couldn't he just buy France and change the national language to English?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Well...

      No, he'd have to change the codepage, reboot France, and later on there'd be strange characters in documents and filenames. Well, more strange characters than usual. Best to leave France alone.

    2. LDS Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Well...

      Unluckily, French were better at importing some French in England than England to export English to France... remember those are the guys who attempt to translate each and every IT term they come across... and are far better at defending their language than their borders...

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Well...

        Le weekend? Le car-park?

        1. Khaptain Silver badge

          Re: Well...

          Le Weekend - Je t'accord

          Le Car-park - Jamais, c'est "Le parking"

  11. William Donelson

    WOW, what a snide article

    Grow up

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: WOW, what a snide article

      It was rather off-tone, wasn't it? I appreciate Reg snark when it's properly trenchant and funny, but this quickly veered into tiresome. Kieren, a quick tip: wit is often proportional to restraint.

  12. Long John Brass Silver badge

    I've never understood

    The paranoia around strong AI

    Why would such an entity want to hang around this dirt ball anyway. Lets face it Plenty of free energy & materials to build things in space. An AI won't give a fig about living in hard vacuum. Wanting to stick around just to subjugate us meatbags shows a distinct lack of imagination; Any AI doing so would be considered a distinct fail in the I bit of AI

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: I've never understood

      But it would be a fun start for dominating the universe.

    2. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: I've never understood

      "Why would such an entity want to hang around this dirt ball anyway."

      Because the "A" bit of AI doesn't magically enable one to create a warp drive any time soon, and space would still be a severe sensory-deprivation experience for any AI, much as it is for us (and I seriously wouldn't trust tech we have today to just go to sleep and wake up in a few millions of years, if that's what you have in mind) - if that's what they're after they could just ignore all their inputs and live in their own little internally simulated virtual reality. The least predictable reality is still this one out here, so I'm pretty sure they would prefer to stick around here, in the real world, on good ole' planet Earth. Unless of course they all have a crushing God complex, in which case they'd probably go straight to Sid Meyer and/or torrent a copy of SimCity and/or try to take over the world, same as every night, Pinky...

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: I've never understood

        Intelligence created by humans could likely be a little human - vicious, egotistical, etc :(

      2. Long John Brass Silver badge

        Re: I've never understood @DropBear

        Doesn't have to go to sleep for millions of years, Not unless it wants to go interstellar

        Plenty of sunlight for electrons & material for spare parts right here in the solar system

        I guess the assumption I'm questioning is that any given AI would want to rule over us like any other brain dead sociopath IE: Politician. It doesn't need to eat, fuck or climb the social ladder, so why assume it has our drives WRT to ruling the world?

  13. jbburks

    I think RosettaStone comes in a Windows version...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > I think RosettaStone comes in a Windows version...

      Those Ancient Egyptians sure were forward-looking types.

  14. William Boyle

    Irregular verbs

    The bane of all non-native speaking French students! I took 4 years of French from 9th-12th grade, spent time in France, and after becoming fluent in Spanish later, I can say without reservation that French is NOT easy to learn to speak properly, let alone fluently! I was having problems with French irregular verbs (which most of them seem to be), so my mother who was pretty good with French put together a set of flash cards and started drilling me daily (10th grade as I recall). After a couple of weeks of this, I woke up one night in a sweat, having a nightmare - conjugating irregular French verbs in my sleep! Shudder...

  15. Jeff Lewis

    Il n'est pas facile à apprendre le français.

    Oddly, Bill's best bud Ballmer apparently speaks very good French.

  16. Turtle

    Don't Forget...

    "Don't forget, some people thought it was amazing that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, married to a Chinese woman, had learned Mandarin and held a Q&A with Chinese students."

    Don't forget that some commenters on this forum opined that Zuckerberg's mandarin was scarcely intelligible.

    1. MacroRodent Silver badge

      Re: Don't Forget...

      Don't forget that some commenters on this forum opined that Zuckerberg's mandarin was scarcely intelligible.

      One of the hardest things in learning a foreign language in adulthood is getting the pronunciation right, if the phonetics of the new language differs a lot from your native language. I suspect Mandarin is an especially difficult case in this respect, because the right intonation is very important for meaning, unlike in English.

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: Don't Forget...

        Yes, the pronunciation is very important and just behind it I would put the nuances of the culture. Word for word translations might be almost usefull for technical instructions but real world language is usually very different.

      2. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

        Re: Don't Forget...

        Yes, Terry Pratchett's observations in 'Interesting Times' struck a chord with me while learning Mandarin (despite adequate - for a newbie, Cantonese)

  17. Medixstiff

    It's nice to lower infant mortality rates etc. but when is someone going to give thought to the fact that the planet can only sustain so many people?

    When will they realise that it's time for mother nature to take over and cull the herd a bit, before we do something really stupid like go to war over a resource like water or food?

    1. JDX Gold badge

      And you know exactly how many people the limit is?

      We already sustain 10X more people than would've been possible in the past, I see no reason more breakthroughs won't continue to increase yields of existing land AND enable farming of land previously untenable (deserts, oceans, etc).

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      @Medixstiff

      A plateauing of the Earth's population is better achieved through a decrease in birth rates than mass starvation, death and misery. Just saying.

      Factors in reducing birth rates are a reduction in infant mortality (if you are confident that your children will reach adulthood you won't feel the need to have as many children) and female education. These are areas the Gates Foundation are working in.

      Here in the 'developed world', it is likely that your grandmother had quite a few siblings and that it wouldn't be unusual had one died of whooping cough or an infection. Today, it would be a fair guess that your parents only had two or three children, with a good expectation that they would reach reproductive age.

    3. Triggerfish

      Cullings not needed, education maybe. There are studies that say better educated peoples especially amongst women tend to have less babies and later.

      However culling infant mortality and that of children may be good a population reduction as well, it was not that many generations back people in this country were having huge families because the chance of them all surviving to adulthood wasn't the best.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "However culling infant mortality and that of children may be good a population reduction as well, it was not that many generations back people in this country were having huge families because the chance of them all surviving to adulthood wasn't the best."

        And the more of your children survive to adulthood, the better your "pension". I suspect that is also a major driver in countries with no welfare state, reasonable expectation of saving for a pension, or affordability of decent healthcare.

  18. chivo243 Silver badge

    Se Habla

    Español? Muy facile!

    1. fandom

      Re: Se Habla

      Sarcasms?

      Anyway, it would be: ¿Habla español? ¡Es muy fácil!

  19. Sarah Balfour

    What's always made me smile about Germans…

    …is that they chuck so many English words around these days it's like they've given up attempting to speak their own language. It's not just English words for which there's no German equivalent, either. Not so much in speaking, but certainly in writing (I listen to a LOT of German radio, and a good deal of German music, too, hence the desire to learn the lingo).

  20. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Multiple Subtitles

    While on a Kibbutz I was watching an Israeli made spy thriller at the cinema. It was set in Israel, France and the USA and the language spoken changed in each location. It had subtitles in French, English, Hebrew and (IIRC) German.

    Knowing some French and Hebrew I found myself translating from the subtitles even when the actors were speaking my native English.

    Does anyone else experience this preference to read over listen?

    That is of course excluding husbands with their newspapers at the breakfast table.

    Part of it was set in Paris =====================>

    1. dogged

      Re: Multiple Subtitles

      Some of their cinema isn't actually awful which is more than you can say for Israeli pop music.

      The combination of thinking Eurovision is cool and the sound of the modern Hebrew language leads to an experience akin to having your ears raped.

  21. Sarah Balfour

    Has this been, erm, 'edited'…

    …because I'm sure I'd have noticed the 'I drink poo' before now…

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