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Bill Gates. Photo: Yana Paskova / Getty Images

Bill Gates and Steven Pinker made the case for being optimistic about the direction of the world — in ending wars, in philanthropy, in reducing poverty — in an interview with the New York Times' Philip Galanes.

Why it matters: The overall attitude about the way things are going is seemingly negative, but Gates said the "techniques we use as a society...as imperfect as they are, are working by lots of key measures."

What to be optimistic about:

  • Reducing global poverty. Global poverty has been reduced from 90% to 10% over the last 200 years, Pinker says. But at the same time, there are still 700 million people living in extreme poverty; "They're the same fact, and you have to be able to describe them to yourself both ways."
  • Learning from #MeToo. We're more aware of what has been happening for years, but "five years from now this outrage will have been a factor in making things better than five years ago," Gates said.
  • Ending war between countries. Pinker said war between countries is something he's optimistic about solving: "There are only 192 countries. They could agree not to declare war on each other. I think we're on the way."
  • Eliminating disease. Gates said the idea of disease elimination "runs against people's general pessimistic outlook," and he believes that by 2025, it will be reduced to "very tough places, like equatorial Africa."

Pinker said: "We have no right to expect perfection. We should appreciate how much better off we are and try to improve our institutions guided by what works and what doesn’t."

Read the full NYT interview here.

Go deeper

Biden says presidency "will be determined" by outcome of spending plans

President Biden walks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after addressing the House Democratic caucus on Thursday. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden told the House Democratic caucus Thursday "my presidency will be determined" by the votes he wants in the next week on his $1.75 trillion social safety net expansion and $1.2 trillion infrastructure package.

Driving the news: Biden made the comment, according to a source in the room, as he tried to rally support for the $1.75 trillion package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acted immediately, calling for a vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill later in the day.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
35 mins ago - Energy & Environment

China declines to speed emissions cuts in new UN pledge

A view of the skyscrapers in the haze in Shanghai, China, in December 2020. Photo: Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Chinese leaders are sticking with a prior target to bring the country's carbon emissions to a peak before 2030, according to documents filed with the United Nations Thursday under the Paris climate agreement.

Why it matters: The new documents come just days ahead of the UN climate summit (COP26) in Glasgow. China is by far the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, and its emissions path is key to whether the temperature-limiting goals of the Paris agreement can remain within reach.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden lays out $1.75 trillion "framework" before Europe departure

President Biden in Kearny, N.J., on Oct. 25. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

President Biden announced Thursday a "framework" for $1.75 trillion in social program and climate change spending after failing in prior efforts to win over his fellow Democrats on a much broader and costlier package.

Why it matters: Biden is gambling that by proclaiming the broad contours of the proposal, which he immediately began selling in a meeting with House Democrats before jetting off to Europe, progressives will vote for his $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan if and when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brings it to the floor.