Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates argues that something is going to desecrate humans, killing millions.
It’s not nuclear war. In an exclusive interview with Ezra Klein in Vox, Gates said, “I rate the chance of a nuclear war within my lifetime as being fairly low.”
It’s also not a “big volcanic explosion, gigantic earthquake, [or an] asteroid,” because the probability is, as he said, “very low.”
So what’s going to kill us? Gates predicts a virus or some sort of outbreak:
“I rate the chance of a widespread epidemic, far worse than Ebola, in my lifetime, as well over 50%.”
Gates is 59 years old.
So, according to Gates, in the next 20 years or so, some sort of outbreak is going to afflict humanity, killing more than 10 million. He fears this because he claims we’re not ready to deal with a far-reaching epidemic, pointing out how unprepared we were to the Ebola outbreak last year that killed more than 10,000 people. Right now, Gates said, we should be making up teams of volunteers and training them so they’ll know how to act and quickly respond to an epidemic if one happened. As Gates put it:
“A good comparison is that we prepare ourselves for war – we have planes and training and we practice.”
Gates’ argument is based on an algorithmic model of how diseases move through the world. The model was originally conceived to assist with his work eradicating polio. But then he used it to see how a disease like the Spanish flu of 1918 could affect us. That outbreak was the last pandemic to wipe out millions of people, claiming between 30 and 50 million lives worldwide.
The results of the model, Gate said, were surprising:
“Within 60 days it’s basically in all urban centers around the entire globe. That didn’t happen with the Spanish flu.”
According to the modeling, it’s going to be difficult to control the spread of an epidemic because about 50 times more people cross borders today than in 1918, Gates told Vox. And if they harbor new diseases, those will cross the borders with them.
Because of that and other factors, Gates’ model estimates that a Spanish flu type of disease spread over the world could wipe out more than 33 million in 250 days. As Business Insider points out, that number is about equal to the population of Canada. Gates told Vox:
“We’ve created, in terms of spread, the most dangerous environment that we’ve ever had in the history of mankind.”
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