This year is considered by many to be the worst year in life due to the global coronavirus pandemic. What will happen next is even worse to imagine. Entrepreneur and billionaire Bill Gates shared his vision of what awaits us in 2021.
One of the founders of Microsoft expressed his assumptions at the GeekWire 2020 online conference, dedicated to the future of technology, business, science, healthcare, politics and innovation.
1. The situation with the pandemic will get worse, but then it will get better
“From now until the end of the year, the situation will worsen,” Gates said when asked about the timing of the victory over COVID-19. But after that, he said, it will become easier: “The good news is that the best therapies – primarily based on monoclonal antibodies – will be more available by the end of this year or early next.” There are also several vaccines in development, so it is likely that by early next year, two or three of them, which are now in phase three trials, will be approved.
However, the pandemic will not end until the disease is beaten everywhere, Gates warned. “We will not return to normal life until we get rid of this virus around the world,” he said. Some countries, such as New Zealand, Australia and South Korea, quickly contained the spread of the virus, but faced new infections from overseas. “So, global eradication [of the virus] and active cooperation is what we really need now,” he said.
2. We will be better prepared for the next pandemic, as well as some of today’s diseases
Governments around the world are now doing much better at responding to pandemics, Gates said. In addition, the race to eradicate COVID-19 has likely accelerated the development of RNA vaccines. Traditional vaccines work by infecting a recipient with severely weakened or dead pathogens to trigger an immune response. RNA vaccines are not whole pathogens, but simply a “template” that triggers a similar response from the immune system. RNA vaccines are safer to use, easier to manufacture, and potentially more versatile.
“This is a very promising approach both to reduce the time to create a new vaccine and to get a universal ‘factory’ that would work no matter what disease you are going to fight,” said the entrepreneur. “We want to use this platform for a possible vaccine against HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.”
3. The biggest challenge in climate change will not be cars, but buildings
Most people think of fighting climate change in terms of green solutions like solar or wind power and the ubiquitous use of electric vehicles. And while Gates emphasized his support for these initiatives, he said we face a bigger challenge when it comes to cement and steel production. “We don’t have a way to produce cement that doesn’t have significant emissions,” he said.
This means that while changes in human behavior to reduce carbon emissions may make a difference, technology remains the only solution. “Nothing will work without innovation,” the billionaire is sure.
4. Overall, the world is getting better
Bill Gates is known for his optimism, he showed it now.
According to him, in fact, everything is not so bad: slowly but surely, we are beginning to understand how to treat minorities and women. The death rate from cancer is declining, and we are beginning to better understand things like diabetes and Alzheimer’s. There are setbacks, and the coronavirus pandemic is a prime example of this. But even 100 years ago, the under-five mortality rate was about 30%. Now there is no place in the world where everything would be so bad. “Progress will continue. So, you know, I’m optimistic, ”he concluded.