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Bill and Melinda Gates. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

Bill and Melinda Gates used their annual letter to review a number of "surprises" they've encountered in recent years.

Details: It's a list that includes inaction and denial over climate change, the struggle to grasp that AI algorithms can be as biased as humans, and a lack of global commitment to vaccines.

"The world looking backward from today is very different from what we pictured a couple years ago," the pair wrote in the letter, published today. "A benefit of surprises is that they’re often a prod to action. It can gnaw at people to realize that the realities of the world don’t match their expectations for it."

Yes, but: Not all the surprises have been bad, they note. Melinda points to the effect smartphones have had in empowering poor women.

In the end, the letter sounds an optimistic note, as anyone who knows Bill and Melinda would expect.

"When we're feeling overwhelmed by negative headlines, we remind ourselves that none of us has the right to sit back and expect that the world is going to keep getting better. We have a responsibility to do everything we can to push it in that direction.
"In that way, we've found that optimism can be a powerful call to action. And it has a multiplier effect: The more optimists there are working for a better future, the more reasons there are to be optimistic."

— Bill and Melinda Gates

The pair dedicated the letter to Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder who died last year.

Go deeper: Bill Gates' new crusade: Sounding the climate-change alarm

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
9 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Why Trump may still fire Barr

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Attorney General Barr may be fired or resign, as President Trump seethes about Barr's statement this week that no widespread voter fraud has been found.

Behind the scenes: A source familiar with the president's thinking tells Axios that Trump remains frustrated with what he sees as the lack of a vigorous investigation into his election conspiracy theories.

Mike Allen, author of AM
10 mins ago - World

Scoop: Trump's spy chief plans dire China warning

Xi Jinping reviews troops during a military parade in Beijing last year. Photo: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Thursday will publicly warn that China's threat to the U.S. is a defining issue of our time, a senior administration official tells Axios.

Why it matters: It's exceedingly rare for the head of the U.S. intelligence community to make public accusations about a rival power.

Ina Fried, author of Login
29 mins ago - Technology

Tech's race problem is all about power

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

As problematic as the tech industry's diversity statistics are, activists say the focus on those numbers overlooks a more fundamental problem — one less about numbers than about power.

What they're saying: In tech, they argue, decision-making power remains largely concentrated in the hands of white men. The result is an industry whose products and working conditions belie the industry rhetoric about changing the world for the better.