Johnson: Yeah. And exciting. And how do you decide—with the big kind of questions—like well these are the three new areas we’re gonna open up? What’s the decision-making process for that?
Gates: Well, the basic goal is to say that because we think all lives have equal value, a child born in a poor country at age 5 should be alive like they are in countries that are better off. And they should have a chance to achieve their potential—that is their brain, their body should be fully developed. And so anything that—set of partnerships, set of challenges that can help us reduce that unbelievable gap. You know, in the case of death, you know, Nigeria, 15 percent of the kids die before the age of 5. There’s a few places left that are 20 percent. In richer countries it’s well under 1 percent of the kids. And so, you know, that’s gotta change. It’s just very inequitable that the work hasn’t been done. And it’s mostly infectious disease.
For the things where you’re alive but not as capable, understanding how much of that is diet versus sickness, and how do we in a cost-effective way intervene in that. There’s still a lot of missing understanding there, but we wanna gain that understanding and go out and completely solve that.
Johnson: And is there a specific project that you’re particularly excited about? An innovation you think is really promising, or…?
Gates: You know, we work in so many different disease areas—the idea of taking malaria and country by country doing local eradications: We’re very enthused about that because we have new tools and new models, new understanding. We wanna finish the polio eradication, which we’re fairly close on.
You know, it’s tough ‘cause the last few countries are gonna be the most difficult countries. And it’s Nigeria and Pakistan are the two where we’ve never gotten zero cases.
But particularly in Nigeria, we think we’re getting very, very close to that. So ideally we’d get polio done. Then have—
Johnson: Check that box.
Johnson: Check the polio box.
Gates: Then have new tools, and then really start down the path of taking that malaria map and slowly but surely shrinking it to eventually getting that down to zero.
Johnson: One last question: You and I are both very optimistic about the long view of progress. Why do you think most people aren’t? Right, why do you think there is this kind of general feeling? You see it in so many different things where people are just like, “Well, things were better 50 years ago, back in the day.” I mean, where does that lack of faith in progress come from?
Gates: Well, in a sense we’re attuned to think about problems, you know, what might go wrong, what is the problem. And the things like, "Oh, I’ve got a toilet.” You know, should I celebrate? I’ve got nutrition; should I celebrate?
I’ve got nice clothes. I learned to read. I get to watch more shows. You know, just take access to music, now versus in the past. Or even social issues, where society—including gender inequality—we’ve really made progress. We say, “Of course!” You know, we take that for granted. You know, the Pinker book, Better Angels of Our Nature, talks about how the only thing that improves faster than violence reduction is our distaste for violence. So that we’re constantly saying, "Hey, we think this is the most violent time ever," because our willingness to put up with it is so low. And so I think the idea that people are worried about problems, like climate change or terrorism or these challenges of the future, that’s okay. But boy, they really lose perspective of what’s happened over the last few hundred years. And how science and innovation have been a central factor of that.
And I think that’s too bad, because people are lucky to live now. And they should see that that progress is actually taking place faster during their lives than at any time in history.
Johnson: And celebrating that kind of innovation, and telling those stories, and then supporting new stories as they’re getting developed: That’s a great goal, and a great foundation to do it. So thank you for everything you’re doing. And congratulations.
Gates: Thank you.
Johnson: Thanks, Bill.