Derek: So how did it feel to make this
prediction and then
have the world essentially not listen
and not prepare?
Bill Gates: Well there’s no good feeling that comes
on something like this saying i told you so
If anything kills over 10 million people
in the next few decades,
it’s most likely to be a highly
rather than a war.
You know I just think back and could I have been more persuasive?
We’ve actually invested very little
in a system to stop an epidemic.
We’re not ready for the next epidemic.
Derek: How did you make such a prescient prediction?
How did you know this was
going to happen?
BG: Well there’s a number of respiratory
and from time to time one will come along
that’s very transmissive and causes some level of fatalities.
Respiratory diseases are very scary
because you’re still walking around
on a plane, a bus when you’re infectious
unlike some other diseases like ebola
where you’re mostly
in a hospital bed by the time the viral
infects other people.
Derek: Hey, so recently i got the chance to interview
Bill Gates when his foundation’s annual
letter came out
I’ll link to it in the description and
we talked about lots of things including
conspiracy theories and misinformation
but about the pandemic i wanted to know
if so many people could see this coming
and the costs of prevention were
relatively small then
why wasn’t more done about it?
BG: Well there’s some risks like earthquakes
where we see small earthquakes all the time.
Or you know the history of war or fire or
hurricanes so you don’t forget.
These pandemics only come along so irregularly
that being lulled into a sense of
security where it probably won’t be a
problem in the next few years, why should
we put money into that?
You don’t buy the insurance policy,
This one will help us understand it
needs to be a priority.
Derek: I feel like humans have an issue though
with fighting the last battle
if we focus on pandemics now and there
isn’t one say for another hundred years
What is the next disaster? What is the one that we’re not prepared for?
BG: Well I’d point out two:
One is climate change.
Every year that would be a death toll
even greater than we’ve had in this
Also, related to pandemics is something
people don’t like to talk about much
which is bioterrorism, that
somebody who wants to cause damage could
engineer a virus and so that means the cost
the chance of running into this
is more than just the naturally cost
epidemics like the current one.
Derek: It feels to me like
there’s something similar about
pandemics and you know climate change or
like asteroid impact, which is that you
know they’re not very
tangible but you could do a little bit.
I don’t know it seems like humans are not
very good at those sorts of problems.
BG: Well my favorite writer, Vaclav Smil,
you know wrote about all the potential
kinds of disasters like you know
the risk of an asteroid, the risk of a
you know yellowstone-like eruption
and in fact he showed that pandemics
the biggest thing other than a
human-caused nuclear war
that we needed to be more prepared for
Derek: So what changes do we put in place
to be readier for the next one and
is it possible that covid-19 could be the
last global pandemic?
BG: Well certainly there will be more pandemics.
The ways that humans interact with other
species, these viruses are coming across
a species barrier whether it’s from bats
or monkeys or
Derek: but you don’t think we could increase our preparedness to such
a level that
it never sort of becomes this global
BG: We could increase our preparedness so we
never have a death toll
uh anywhere near what we have today.
You know pandemics can be worse in terms of
the fatalities. Smallpox was a
over 30 per cent fatality. You know so a little
bit we were lucky that the fatality here
not super high but we can nip it in the
bud it’ll still
get to a lot of countries but the number
of deaths you know
uh with the right system should be a
tenth of what we we’ve seen here.
Derek: And the systems that you want to put in
place so this
sort of so you can nip it in the bud or
so what are the key elements
that we didn’t have that we should have
BG: I would divide it into two sections:
There’s the field based activity and the R&D activity.
In R&D we need to mature mRNA
so we can make it even faster and have
factories all over the world,
have it be cheap and thermal stable.
There’s a lot that can go into
therapeutics including antibodies.
On diagnostics having the ability to give
10 million PCR tests a day.
Then in terms of the field we need
a lot of diagnostic machines all over
We need a team of epidemiologists. So the
investments are about equal between
R&D and the the field-based group and information that should beconstantly flowing.
Derek: You know I feel like there’s a meta-issue
that is kind of above
all of these issues which is you know
the way that people connect with
reality and figure out what’s true and
what’s not and you know what information
I’ve got to say that you know as i was
growing up and coming into this
information age it seemed like the
Internet and all these tools were going
the correct information so much more
easy to access and
bring us into a more fact-based world.
Instead it doesn’t look as though it’s
bringing us there.
I wonder if you shared a similar vision
you know what the Internet might do for
all of us and
i don’t know if you have any thoughts
about the current state of it you know
how do we deal with this?
BG: Well the internet has done something fantastic
which is if you want to learn
you know the people who watch you are
you know getting an opportunity to
science and what’s going on and that
just wasn’t there
uh and so for a lot of people they’re
so much more informed.
I mean I have friends who ask me about these variants
where I’m just stunned at
how up to date they are with the latest
for people who want to learn facts this
is a golden age.
You know we focus on the negative part
with some of these conspiracy theories
and anti-factual things
and so because social media is so new
figuring out how you
curb that, you know labeling it restrict
the speed of spread of things that are
titillating but false.
We are missing some good ideas to
you know not have this kind of scary
phenomena that in the case of
anti-vaccine things may
slow down how quickly we get lots of
uh to take the vaccine and therefore
extend the epidemic and
and cost us in in tens of thousands of lives.
Derek: It feels like you’re running up against
you know kind of that
great American principle of free speech,
right? I think it’s a great point
that you bring up that you know in the
past the problem was kind of scarcity
getting access to this sort of
information and now it’s sort of a
problem of too much and figuring out
which is the good stuff and which is not.
BG: Well there are certainly
clear things like you know saying
completely false things about you know
vaccines but there is kind of a gray
area in the middle
that figuring out what the rules are and
who should be the one looking
and interpreting those rules
Wow, we are missing that today.
You know can you get a group of experts
that are weighing in on these things you
don’t really want the profit motive involved
But you want
you know expertise and capacity and so
you know a few years from now i hope
we’re more sophisticated on
what or how that line should be drawn
Derek: you know a while back on my second
channel I made a video called
Be Hated, which was kind of about my
thoughts about pushing back against
misinformation, that we should
see anything that is wrong in the world
and we should do our best to fight it so
you should not be liked by everyone
because there are some people out there
with bad ideas and you should be pushing
back against them. That was
essentially my thought but since then I
feel like my views have softened a
and now I think of our pushing back
against misinformation a little bit like
an immune system. Obviously it’s a
problem if your immune system is weak if
it doesn’t respond to anything
but it’s also a problem if your immune
system is too strong.
You know during the 1918 flu pandemic
there’s a really interesting
distribution of deaths where the young
were more likely to die obviously
because they have weak immune systems
but also people in the sort of 25 to 35
year-old range because their immune
systems were just so strong
they were overactive and that ended up
resulting in mortality
so I feel like there’s a sweet spot in
terms of how much we push back against
You know you’ll never see me make a
flat earthers because i just don’t see
You know making that video only kind of
reconfirms their world view and there’s
not really any minds to move
there so that’s kind of how I’m conceptualizing
misinformation these days,
a bit like we have to be a targeted immune system.
So i wanted to push Bill a bit further
on this idea and I brought up a tweet
that I had seen doing the rounds on
twitter that basically said
that the Oxford vaccine development, they
were going to open source that vaccine
the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
got involved and said
no you must partner exclusively with a
big pharma company AstraZeneca
and so obviously it seems to the people
on twitter that something nefarious was
going on there, but I wanted to know from Bill what was the real story
BG: Well the making a safe vaccine
is more complicated than say making a
and people are very picky about
vaccines in fact you could ruin the
reputation of vaccines if you’re making
them in factories
where the quality control at every stage
is not exquisite.
and you know any mistake you know you
can have that factory shut down
literally for months
at a time when its output is needed to
save millions of lives.
So vaccine factories are not
something that you just you know
you know like open source code that you
can take and you know mess around with
and so the the limitations on
how many vaccines are being made, that’s
based on how many great
capable vaccine manufacturers there are
in the world and we’ve made sure that
the AstraZeneca’s being made in these
big indian factories and there’s no
royalty for that,
no charge at all. Now we’ve had to fund
that, the Gates Foundation.
These are companies we’ve been working
on their factory quality for over a
so that there was spare capacity to
make inexpensive vaccines
so Oxford University is is wonderful,
but they’re not capable of doing a phase
and they they don’t have factories
We did tell
Oxford that they needed to seek somebody
and AstraZeneca came in and we didn’t
control that agreement but they came in
and said hey they want to do it on a
and I’m impressed with how they put
their best people on it and helped out.
You know the pharma companies who
didn’t get involved
nobody’s criticizing them. So you know
you feel sorry for the ones that are
miraculously helping make these
These are the very good reasons that I
suspect exist but
that that’s where I feel like social
media just doesn’t get the nuance
and you know it pains me to see
the world like that.
And you know even to see you, Bill,
you know be the target of some of these
It seems to not bother you but you know
it kind of bothers me as a guy who wants
you know everyone to live in the same
kind of reality and you know I see
you out there doing great things and I
think that you know that should be
commended as opposed to
what you get.
I’m not in a position to complain much you know
I have a lot of things that you know
make me extremely lucky
and you know I hope these conspiracy
theories go away
and I don’t know what what it’ll mean
for the future.
Derek: How do you feel about the vaccine roll-out so far?
BG: Well we you know we need the supply,
we need the logistics and we need the
and there are huge challenges in each of
I’m hopeful that Johnson and Johnson in
the next month will get approved because
that’s a single dose vaccine,
very cheap highly scalable so
AstraZenica, Johnson and Johnson and a
few months later Novovax.
Most of the developing world, those are the vaccines
that will be going to them
and so we put billions into trying to
make that happen and
you know in a few months hopefully it’ll