Bill Gates Discusses His Prophetic Epidemic ‘TED Talk’ on ‘The Daily Show’

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Bill Gates discussed his TED Talk, which predicted a debilitating pandemic, during an interview with Trevor Noah on The Daily Social Distancing Show Thursday. He also talked about the coronavirus and the steps that must be taken to beat it and prevent a future outbreak.

In 2015, Gates gave a presentation in which he gamed out a potential scenario that showed just how unprepared the world would be for an outbreak of a highly contagious respiratory disease like COVID-19. Gates said he gave the talk and reiterated his points in future articles and presentations in the hopes that it might prompt governments to better prepare for such a pandemic, although, of course, as he noted few really followed through.

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“This keeps me up at night, more than war, which is no small thing,” Gates said. “And yet, in terms of being systematic about, OK, let’s run a simulation and see how we would reach out to the private sector for tests or ventilators, and what kind of quarantine we would do — as we enter into this, we haven’t practiced at all. Every state is being forced to figure things out on their own. It’s very ad hoc. It’s not like when a war comes and we’ve done 20 simulations of various types of threats and we’ve made sure that the trainings, communications, the logistics, all those pieces, fall into place very rapidly.”

Elsewhere, Gates spoke about what lessons we can learn from how South Korea and China tried to contain the virus, the importance of increasing and prioritizing testing to help the case rate plateau, and what the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is doing to fund research and development of potential vaccines. Toward the end of the interview, Gates spoke about possible scenarios where things like schools and some businesses might be able to start re-opening in the summer — with some cautionary measures still in place — and how he hopes this experience will prepare us for the future.

“One thing I feel good about is — this is such a big change to the world — that this time it won’t be like Ebola, which was just there in West Africa or Central Africa,” he said. “This time, the tens of billions [of dollars] to have the diagnostics standing by, the manufacturing standing by, this time we will get ready for the next epidemic.”

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