Gates didn’t quite give up his stock options and join

When the modified bugs reproduce with regular ones, their female offspring won’t survive. The result: a massive decline in the number of disease-carrying mosquitos. The risk: still up for debate.
It’s not quite the 1990s Bill Gates, berating underlings into defending and advancing the all-powerful reign of Windows. But it’s also not the earnest softie making a patient and smiley plea for us all to do better. This is a Gates who demands his listener understand the stakes, and urgency, right now — and who frankly doesn’t have the patience to tolerate listeners who don’t get it. (And for good reason, given the circumstances.) He’s still a thoughtful person with selfless intent, but with merciless acumen and sharp elbows.
“With repeated releases over a number of weeks, the population of females gradually reduces,” says Kevin Gorman, Oxitec’s head of global field operations. “And we end up with vector control. It’s taking away that vector that is intended to reduce the incidence of disease.”
In the Wired interview — you can hear or read it here; there’s some editing variance between the audio and the transcript — Gates starts out critical, but measured and calm. And he professes to remain optimistic, at least when it comes to developing a vaccine.
It was right around this time that Gates put on a pink sweater and gave what’s now a famous TED Talk: “We’re Not Ready for the Next Epidemic,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Though the message is dire in the extreme — the world did a bad job fighting Ebola and did not seem to have learned much from that failure — he’s calm, professorial, reassuring. The next outbreak might be “more devastating” but “science and technology” can save us from that fate, if we prepare.
Oxitec, the U.K.-based company that engineered the mosquitoes, plans to place boxes filled with mosquito eggs in the area, releasing male mosquitoes bred with the self-limiting gene. When they breed with female mosquitoes, female offspring won’t survive. Because only female mosquitoes bite humans, this can help stop the spread of disease. The species they’re targeting is the Aedes aegypti or “yellow fever” mosquito, an invasive species that transmits diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, and Zika.But along the way, his comments start to sound more and more like Microsoft-era Gates. He calls treatment trials “chaotic,” adding: “It’s insane how confused the trials here in the U.S. have been.” And he sounds amused but exasperated as he describes having to meet with anti-vaxxer Robert Kennedy Jr. and others as some sort of precondition for talking to administration officials: “There was a meeting where Francis Collins, Tony Fauci, and I had to [attend], and they had no data about anything. When we would say, ‘But wait a minute, that’s not real data,’ they’d say, ‘Look, Trump told you you have to sit and listen, so just shut up and listen.’” But keeping an even keel, he dismisses this episode as “a bit strange.”A Big Bet on a Low-Cost Covid-19 Vaccine, By the Numbers
The world’s largest vaccine maker and the Gates Foundation bet big on a Covid-19 vaccine that’s still being
In the Florida Keys, the local mosquito control agency has just approved the release of 750 million genetically engineered mosquitoes. The test, which is likely to begin in 2021, will be the first time that mosquitoes — designed to be “self-limiting,” meaning that they’ll breed offspring that can’t survive — will be used in the United States.
Then, about 11 minutes into the audio edit, the question about testing comes up — the one that inspired his “just stupidity” response — and you can really hear how appalled Gates is, as he explains the problem of testing labs being paid the same whether results take a couple of days or a couple of weeks. “If you don’t care how late the date is and you reimburse at the same level, of course they’re going to take every customer,” he says sharply. “Because they are making ridiculous money… You have to have the reimbursement system pay a little bit extra for 24 hours, pay the normal fee for 48 hours, and pay nothing [if it isn’t done by then]. And they will fix it overnight.” It’s a convincing point, delivered with harsh clarity.

We did not prepare. And watching this talk now is chilling — and ultimately enraging, when you realize he was saying all the right things, and the right people just didn’t listen. Which brings us to Gates today. His foundation is an active financial supporter of Covid-19 vaccine development efforts, and Gates himself has been a regular participant in public discourse about the spread of the virus and what to do about it. (For his trouble, he’s been targeted by bizarre conspiracy theories in which the vaccine serves as a potential method of global control, and that Gates actually created the virus.)
This is someone, in other words, who figures it’s important to avoid the gentle civility that keeps us from getting to the heart of an issue quickly. It’s hard to say whether this is the Gates he wanted to be right now. But maybe it’s the Gates we need.
This is someone, in other words, who figures it’s important to avoid the gentle civility that keeps us from getting to the heart of an issue quickly. It’s hard to say whether this is the Gates he wanted to be right now. But maybe it’s the Gates we need.
This past weekend, on Fareed Zakaria’s CNN show GPS, Gates struck a similar tone. Again he started out with a mild demeanor, even as he, for instance, dismissed the idea that the early travel ban had any effect on slowing the spread of Covid-19 as “nonsense.” But when he gets to the subject of testing, he again becomes increasingly agitated: “It’s mind-blowing that you can’t get the federal government to improve the testing, because they just want to say how great it is,” he says, when in fact we’re often ending up “with the most worthless test results of any country in the world.” By this point he’s dropped his grin and is waving his hands around. “No other country has the testing insanity,” he concludes, caused by a government that just wants “to keep acting like they’ve done a competent job.”

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