The Chinese have taken part of our system and have adapted it to their own values and culture. Great. I want them to do terrifically. They’re not taking it away from us. They’ll come up with things that we’ll use just as we do things that they use.
Goldberg: Are you open to the idea that Trump might do something good?
Buffett: Any president comes in, there are all kinds of possibilities. We’ve been operating this way for a long time, and you’ve seen all kinds of zigs and zags, but we move forward.
Gates: Our foundation has worked with every administration. The last Republican administration put into the place the Pepfar program, one of the most generous new programs since the Marshall Plan. It has probably saved over 10 million lives, and it’s been maintained in a bipartisan way—Pepfar and the Global Fund together have saved millions of lives.
We’re not trying to say that there isn’t some uncertainty. It’s early enough to say that everything is open for discussion.
Buffett: Over time, it will average out. It may look like sausage-making in politics, but I do think people gravitate toward their better nature over time, with all kinds of zigs and zags, but I think the human potential that remains to be developed is huge compared to what we’ve seen so far.
Goldberg: Warren, do you see the entrepreneurial sphere producing other people like Bill Gates? And by that, I don’t mean people who invented smart things that made them rich, but people who pivoted in their lives to say that they’re going to spend their time reducing the disparities that separate humans?
Buffett: Absolutely, but Bill’s been a big factor in that. People follow examples.
Goldberg: What do you worry about the most?
Buffett: The thing I worry about is weapons of mass destruction.
Gates: Warren worries, appropriately, about nuclear weapons. He also worries about other ones. I worry more about bioterrorism.
Goldberg: So you’ve got the waterfront covered.
Gates: Well, we need someone to worry about chemical weapons.
Buffett: And cyber!
Gates: These are low-probability, high-impact things. If you say, what could drive us off the course, with the U.S. in the lead, that humanity is on, we would be more likely to say that it’s not politics, that it’s weapons of mass destruction, or an extreme natural disaster. Those are the things that, if we don’t solve them, that could knock us off course. Over time, if we don’t solve climate change, that starts.
Goldberg: But you’re climate-change optimists in the sense that you believe there are energy solutions to this problem.
Gates: If you told me that technology was frozen, that all we have is today’s technology, I would be very worried about climate change. But because of innovation, and research—I have this big breakthrough energy fund which is going to be a player in this—we have some really good inventions over the next 30 years or so. I think it’s likely to happen. I do think we’ll avoid the biggest downsides of climate change.