In 2015, I asked Bill Gates a simple question: What are you most afraid of?
He replied by telling me about the death chart of the 20th century. There’s the spike for World War I. The spike for World War II. But between them sat a spike as big as World War II. That, he said, was the Spanish Flu, which killed an estimated 65 million people. Gates’s greatest fear was a flu like that, ripping through our hyperglobalized world.
Gates saw this coming, and he tried to warn the world. But the virus came, and we weren’t ready. Now, we all live in his nightmare.
Gates has reoriented his foundation and committed hundreds of millions of dollars to the world’s fight against coronavirus. He recently published a long essay detailing what we know and don’t know about the disease, and what we need to invent and deploy to safely return to normalcy.
I spoke with Gates to explore those questions, plus a few more. What does it feel like to be at the center of so many coronavirus conspiracy theories? What happens if we reopen too soon? Why are different cities seeing such different outcomes? Do rich and poor countries need different responses? What are the true chances of a vaccine in 18 months?
But above all, I wanted to ask him the inverse of the question I asked him in 2015: what does he hope for? What is his vision for life after coronavirus?
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