Reshaping COVID, Capitalism and Tech With Bill Gates - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Reshaping COVID, Capitalism and Tech With Bill Gates

Reshaping COVID, Capitalism and Tech With Bill Gates

By Nick Fouriezos


Because he's been at the forefront of global health.

By Nick Fouriezos

Microsoft cofounder and philanthropist Bill Gates sat for a revealing interview with OZY’s CEO and co-founder on the latest episode of The Carlos Watson Show. The following are some of the best cuts from the full conversation, which you can find on the show’s podcast feed.

What can still be done about COVID and future pandemics?

Bill Gates: Well, our behavior is what creates this exposure that we’re still associating and particularly as it gets up to older people, and I know people are fatigued, but behavior is super important. We’re hoping that this therapeutic called monoclonal antibodies can prove to work out in modest doses so that we can get into lots of people, not only in the U.S. but in the entire world. So all these tools are coming. We wish we had them at the beginning. Even new ways of doing testing are going to start to show up, but mostly that’ll be valuable for the next pandemic, where we will make the investments and have people on standby to do far, far better than we did this time.

Carlos Watson: How do you see that next pandemic? Coming soon? Will it be a derivation of COVID-19? What’s your expectation?

BG: Well, every decade or so, there’s likely to be something. And then the question is always, does it break out? How infective is it? What’s the death rate? This virus, although horrific, is nowhere near the worst case. The death rate actually for younger people is very modest, and it doesn’t transmit as effectively as something like measles.

So we may have to be a lot better next time this happens. Very unpredictable. Will it come out of Africa or Asia like it did this time? We have to have better surveillance out there. If we’d caught in the month of December, exactly what was going on, it might not have spread to so many countries. So that the tools of surveillance will be important.

I think this has been so dramatic that Europe, China, the U.S., all the countries are going to build these new tools and have people who are standing by. You know, they can work on other infectious diseases like malaria in the meantime, but there’ll be a whole core, at least 3,000 people well-funded by the rich countries who when a pandemic breaks out, they’ll immediately drop their current work, and yet they have the skills and understanding. It’s like paying for a fire engine even in years when there’s no fire.

On combating COVID conspiracies

BG: The conspiracy theories have not died down in terms of why we’re making this vaccine. You know, is there some plot behind this, that myself or [Dr. Anthony] Fauci are somehow involved in. That’s all untrue. I worry that it will make people more hesitant. We need over 70 percent of people to take the vaccine to really have the numbers of infections drop dramatically. So at least we don’t have to get anywhere near to 100 percent, but that’s still, it’ll be a test of the messaging, figuring out who’s trusted. It’s too bad the states are having to do this because they have less capacity, but we should track, are there geographies or communities, ethnicities that are being more reluctant, and who would they listen to about the importance of not only protecting yourself, but protecting other people?

And so next year’s challenge will be not only the logistics, but the demand side and historically, sometimes vaccines get bad rumors get out there. I hope that doesn’t happen this time.

What is the technology people should be paying more attention to?

BG: Well, CRISPR is still making great progress. There’s a great book coming out from Walter Isaacson that talks about the amazing scientists, many of the women who did that work. It will play a role in fixing gene defects, things like sickle cell, which we haven’t had the treatments or even in the United States, not to mention in Africa. Early cancer detection — you’re going to see huge breakthroughs there where we used this DNA sequencing, where we can look, take a sample of your blood every year and find even the slightest hint that you might be at risk and catch that very early. A company like Illumina is actually out in front on that. There are companies working on things like obesity drugs, and that’s not in the next few years, but I do think there’s a lot of promise there. The amount we’re learning in biology makes this the golden age that there will be better interventions.

I have a child who is in medical school so I’m enjoying learning with her the latest about what we know. And every disease that comes along, even COVID, helps us learn about the immune system, how to make vaccines, how to make antibodies that are cheap. So although the digital innovation gets the most focus, and that continues to go full speed, these things in biology, I think people will be surprised. We can improve the quality of life a lot by diagnosing better and then having new treatments.

How would you like to see capitalism reformed, improved, optimized going forward?

BG: I’ve written about various ways that you could collect more taxes from the rich without completely disturbing the wonderful incentive system that we have, particularly in the United States where you’ve had a lot of entrepreneurship. And so, within what I’d still call capitalism, I think we can get more resources to the government without killing that drive towards innovation that’s made the U.S. a leader, very important for us strategically to stay strong in that respect. Some proposals would go too far in my view, but there is room to have more equity and still the magic of our competitive economy in the breakthroughs that we are still by far the leader in.

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