Bill Gates Predicted the Coronavirus Pandemic in His 2015 TED Talk

In 2015, Bill Gates gave a TED Talk in which he predicted the coronavirus pandemic. Now it's going viral.

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In 2015, Bill Gates gave an eight-minute TED Talk called "The Next Outbreak? We're Not Ready," which is now going viral as it seems to have chillingly predicted the coronavirus pandemic.

The part of the talk that's making the rounds on social media is from the beginning, when Gates explains that while the greatest threat to humanity when he was growing up was nuclear war, the greatest threat now is a virus.

"If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it's most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war," he said, which sounds a lot like the current pandemic.

Gates went on to say that while we'd invested a lot of money into nuclear deterrents, we'd "invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic." The problem with the Ebola virus—which was making headlines at the time due to a deadly outbreak in West Africa that had claimed more than 10,000 lives at that point—was "that we didn't have a system at all," Gates said.

We "didn't have a group of epidemiologists ready to go," we "didn't have a medical team ready to go," and we "didn't have a way of preparing people," he pointed out. All of this, Gates said, amounted to a "global failure." In movies like Contagion, there is always a group of "handsome epidemiologists" who are immediately working to save the day, but that's "just pure Hollywood," Gates said.

The reason the Ebola virus didn't spread further was due to the "heroic work by the health workers," as well as the fact that the virus wasn't airborne and didn't spread to cities. "That was just luck," Gates said. "If it had gotten into a lot more urban areas, the case numbers would have been much larger. So, next time, we might not be so lucky."

Gates used the Spanish flu of 1918—which killed more than 30 million people—as an example of what could happen. The good news, he said, is that we've made major technological and medical advancements since then.

He concluded the lecture by saying we need to deal with the prospect of an epidemic the same way we'd prepare for war, by investing in a global health system, knowing that the cost of preparing would not only save lives but also the trillions of dollars that a pandemic would cost. He also said doing so would make the world "more just as well as more safe."

"There's no need to panic," Gates said. "There's no need to hoard cans of spaghetti or go down into the basement, but we need to get going, because time is not on our side."

On Feb. 28, Gates wrote a post on his blog saying that "COVID-19 has started to behave a lot like the once-in-a-century pathogen we've been worried about." And he urged the government to take immediate action.

"Obviously, billions of dollars for anti-pandemic efforts is a lot of money," he wrote. "But that's the scale of investment required to solve the problem. And given the economic pain that an epidemic can impose—just look at the way COVID-19 is disrupting supply chains and stock markets, not to mention people's lives—it will be a bargain… These are the actions that leaders should be taking now. There is no time to waste."

Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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