So it came as a surprise when the founder of Microsoft brandished a jar of human waste at a forum on the future of the toilet in Beijing on Tuesday.
The stunt was an effort to draw attention to a problem affecting developing countries around the world: not enough toilets.
"In places without sanitation you have got way more than that," Gates said, pointing to the feces inside the clear canister resting on a table.
"And that's what kids when they are out playing, they are being exposed to all the time, and that's why we connect this not just with quality of life, but with disease and death and with malnutrition," he told attendees.
The billionaire has used part of his considerable fortune to provide clean, comfortable sanitation facilities to the nearly half of the world's population that suffers without.
"When you think of things that are basic right up there with health and enough to eat, you think that having a reasonable toilet certainly belongs on that list," Gates said.