Virus: Bill Gates predicted an epidemic

 No one could have seen this coming? Coronavirus, I mean.

Hang on to your sorcerer’s hat, Nostradamus (h/t to Julian Fox), but a viral attack that would lay low an unprepared world was presented as a TED Talk in 2015.

Bill Gates in 2015. (Photo: TED Talks)

By Billionaire Bill Gates.

The talk is less than 9 minutes and it takes him less than 30 seconds to  identify the future killer of millions as a virus, like the Ebola virus we had survived a decade earlier. The threat to humanity is “Not missiles, but microbes,” he says. “We can build a really good response system” — but we did not. 

And here is Kara Harris of USA Today fact-checking a claim that this had happened. There isn’t much more I can add to it.

“Based on the current coronavirus spread and reaction to it, Gates’ claim of lack of preparation looks to be true, even in the U.S.,” writes Harris.

That TED Talk followed the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, but was contained there. It gave rise to the 1995 hit movie “Outbreak,” starring Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey and Cuba Gooding Jr. Because westerners were heroes, that lead to predictable griping among some black critics that it presented the “bwana syndrome” in which white paternalists are required to save benighted black men. Sigh. 

Forget the movie. Why didn’t anyone listen to Gates? 

Maybe because that was not his field of speciality, although everything he said made sense.

Maybe because he didn’t write a check for a billion to launch a medical corps he had proposed. (“Put your money where your mouth is, Bill,” I can hear someone whispering. That is unfair, but life is unfair. That’s why Jimmy Carter didn’t get a second term and why I wasn’t born rich.)

More to the point, I think, is that humans, as a species, tend to ignore warnings and we are not motivated by theory, but by disaster. We are cheap.

That’s why dams get built after a flood, not before, even though a flood was easily predictable.

That’s why Pearl Harbor happened, even though the Japanese ambitions were very clear.

“They wouldn’t dare,” some thought.

“How could it happen to us, we are clean and scientifically advanced,” some thought about epidemics. So now we are fighting from behind. As we have many times before.

Winston Churchill once said, “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have tried everything else.”

Churchill knew us, perhaps because he was half us. His mother was born in Brooklyn and Churchill deeply loved his heritage and America.

He had warned of the dangers of a rising Nazism as Gates warned of an epidemic.

But they were among many oracles and prophets who get things wrong. When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, he was first viewed as just another in an endless line of prophets.

Our challenge is to winnow out the prophets who are right — and then act on what they say. 

Will it happen? I don’t know. I’m not a prophet.

14 thoughts on “Virus: Bill Gates predicted an epidemic”

    “put your money where your mouth is, Bill”, just about sums it up. Gov Cuomo and every other governor is obligated to protect the residents of their state. Same with President Trump. The big difference between Governors and Mr. Trump, is that congress gave Trump the money to bail out the people of the United States. Key word being, United.
    Governors will not put their constituents deep in debt over a “maybe”. The states can’t afford to maintain infrastructure as it is, with subtle tax increases.
    It is as P.M. Churchill and Bill Gates and Stu Bykofski have all said. Actually, it was me. ” don’t fix it if it isn’t broke !”

  2. a few other prescient people who were ignored, or even punished for their warnings:
    General Billy Mitchell, who tried to warn the Navy that ships were vulnerable to air attack. He also told the military that the Japanese could attack Pearl Harbor. Winston Churchill, who tried to warn the world of Hitler’s menace. Bob Ebeling, an engineer who warned that the O rings on the Challenger would fail.
    Failure is an orphan, success has many Fathers.

  3. Thanks from me too, Stu. Great article. Nothing will ever change going forward regarding anyone of consequence making a future prediction. It’s general human nature to pass them off as somewhat kooky – even if they are rich ones.

  4. still HAPPY WEDNESDAY !!!
    going off subject just a bit. Stu started this blog about standing up with your convictions. I think that this crew has done just that over the years, and probably still do just that. Me, I’m still breathing, still Italian, therefore, still bitching. I always have an opinion on all subjects. Some items are very intense. Some, not so much. The point, when I take a stand on a subject, I do so with the conviction that I have done my homework, and that I know what I’m talking about. If it was at work, my rule was very simple. I’m right, prove me wrong. If I’m wrong, then I’ll own up to it.
    I think most people have lost their compass. No strong convictions. Is it because, after all of these years, every one is tried from being beat down by the government? Notice that I said government. Not dems nor reps. They have been dirty for many many years. Now, they’re being looked at by an outsider, President Trump. You may not like him, but he is shaking up the apple tree, and you just can’t deny that he’s doing it for the American people.
    So, here I stand. I’m proud of my family and friends. I respect our President, but very few politicians. I love our country, Vets and Emergency Responders and I’ll continue on as last as I can.

  5. Say what you want about psychics…the late Sylvia Browne also predicted this pandemic in her last book before she died.

  6. To keep things in perspective, we should remember those people who predicted nightmare scenarios that never happened. Does anyone remember the 1970s, when scientists predicted a new Ice Age, and suggested that soot be sprinkled on the polar caps to help melt them? Does anyone remember Al Gore’s prediction that by 2010 or so Florida would be under water? How about Rachel Carson’s prediction that all the birds and bugs would be killed (in her book Silent Spring)? Or Paul Ehrlich’s prediction of mass starvation in his book The Population Bomb? Or the scariest of all: those MSM talking heads who predicted Hillary would win in a landslide? Win a few, lose a few.

      1. Actually, she was raging about DDT, which did a lot of damage to eagles’ eggs. But there was never a possibility that all birds would be killed. In any event, she did do some good.

  7. National Medal of Honor Day
    March 25, 1863 was the first presentation
    Here in Philly, we have a number of men who were awarded the Medal of Honor. I never did identify all of our distinguished Veterans . I know of the last ( Viet Nam ) and I know of several Civil War Vets buried in Mount Moriah. A total of 54 native Philadelphians are interred here in the city, that received the MoH for action during the Civil War. Sorry to say, I must finish the research and visit these interred heroes.

  8. The most astute Churchill quote in my opinion is: ” a lie will get half-way around the world before the truth has a chance to put it’s pants on”. This is something to keep in mind in dealing with this crisis and life in general.

  9. I am a neophyte columnist for a local newspaper, but I believe all you have said. We have forgotten how to think, to figure things out, to take time to research so we can make better decisions, not to foolishly fear.
    I write to help parents do some of the above so we help children to evaluate without fear.

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