Holy moly. When one of the world’s smartest men puts the likelihood of a major catastrophe happening at “well over 50 percent” in his lifetime? That’s pretty serious.
In this exclusive interview with Vox, Bill Gates said that his greatest concern for a major event that will wipe out a large chunk of humankind? A massive outbreak of an infectious disease.
“Look at the death chart of the 20th century,” he told Vox. “I think everybody would say there must be a spike for World War I. Sure enough, there it is, like 25 million. And there must be a big spike for World War II, and there it is, it’s like 65 million. But then you’ll see this other spike that is as large as World War II right after World War I, and most people, would say, ‘What was that?’ ”
“Well, that was the Spanish flu.”
Gates continues that he funds a disease model group that uses computer simulations to predict the spread of and fight diseases, like polio, in developing nations. The group applied the same concept to what a disease like the Spanish flu could do today.
Thanks to our modern transportation systems, which are “50 times as great,” as those in 1918, Gates’ model estimates that a modern-day Spanish flu-like outbreak could kill up to 33 million people in just over 200 days, embedding itself in every urban center in the world. Gates called the findings “eye-opening.”
“The Ebola epidemic showed me that we are not ready for a serious epidemic, an epidemic that would be more infectious and would spread faster than Ebola did,” Gates says in the video.
“This is the greatest risk of a huge tragedy. This is the most likely thing by far to kill over 10 million excess people in a year.”
Watch the Vox interview with Gates below: