Bill Gates has always been eerily prophetic when it comes to the future of tech. He predicted social media, smart-watches, instant online payments and personal assistants decades before they reached our screens and took over our lives.
So let’s just hope he doesn’t have the same knack for healthcare, because the Microsoft honcho has a grave warning for us all.
Speaking at a discussion about epidemics hosted by the Massachusetts Medical Society and the New England Journal of Medicine on Friday, Gates believes that the next deadly disease that will cause a global pandemic is coming, and that we’re not prepared to face it.
“There’s one area though where the world isn’t making much progress,” Gates warned the crowd, according to the Business Insider. “That’s pandemic preparedness.”
The 62-year-old philanthropist also believes that individuals and groups could create weaponised diseases that easily spread across the globe.
New pathogens emerge all the time as the world population increases and humanity encroaches on wild environments. It’s becoming easier and easier for individual people or small groups to create weaponised diseases that could spread like wildfire around the globe.
According to Gates, a small non-state actor could build an even deadlier form of smallpox in a lab.
And in our interconnected world, people are always hopping on planes, crossing from cities on one continent to those on another in a matter of hours.
Gates presented a simulation by the Institute for Disease Modelling that found that a new flu like the one that killed 50 million people in the 1918 pandemic would now most likely kill 30 million people within six months.
And the disease that next takes us by surprise is likely to be one we see for the first time at the start of an outbreak, like what happened recently with SARS and MERS viruses.
Gates presented a simulation by the Institute for Disease Modelling that showed how a new flu, similar to the one that killed 50 million people in 1918, would mostly likely kill 30 million within six months.
What’s more, the next pandemic will most likely see the emergence of a new disease. Gates believes that governments need to place an onus on battling threats.
“In the case of biological threats, that sense of urgency is lacking,” he said. “The world needs to prepare for pandemics in the same serious way it prepares for war.”
The good news, according to Gates, is that there’s still time to get our priorities straight.