Science | April 13, 2022 3:51 pm

Bill Gates Knew a Virus Like COVID Would Be Disastrous

In a TED Talk from 2015, the Microsoft founder said the world wasn’t ready for a pandemic. He was right.

Bill Gates at COP26
Bill Gates at COP26
Chris Jackson via Getty

At the TED2022 conference, Bill Gates got an “I Told You So” moment. 

In his 2015 talk to the conference, Gates had said that the world wasn’t equipped to handle any kind of pandemic, noting that viruses “pose the greatest risk of global catastrophe.” On stage Tuesday at TED2022, Gates said most people had watched that video too late. 

His 2015 talk has been viewed over 36 million times. Gates had said in 2015 that if anything had the potential to wipe out millions of people, it was “not missiles, but microbes.” As of this writing, it’s estimated that over 6 million people have died of COVID-19. 

In his 2015 talk, Gates called for governments to invest in healthcare and medical technology, a sentiment he restated in his 2022 talk.  “It’s hard to overstate how awful [COVID has] been.” Gates said, “It’s increased the health inequities between the rich and the poor. Your survival depended partly on your income, your race, the neighborhood you lived in.”

The U.S. has experienced the most COVID deaths of any nation in the world, with current data showing over 1 million deaths. With mask mandates being lifted and vaccine requirements no longer in place, the U.S. is currently experiencing what some have called the first “so what” wave of the pandemic. Waste water data is showing COVID spiking everywhere, but governments are no longer calling for closures or social distancing measures. 

Gates said that the next move would be nations coming together while COVID is fresh in the memories of citizens and leaders, using the example of the United Nations being created after World War II, but says that the slow response from leaders has been shocking to see. “So far, the action has been less than I would’ve expected. I’d be stunned if we don’t go forward with something pretty close to what I’m laying out.”