Jan 27, 2018

The case for life is better than ever

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

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 5,931,112 — Total deaths: 357,929 — Total recoveries — 2,388,172Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 1,711,313 — Total deaths: 101,129 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. States: New York to allow private businesses to deny entry to customers without masks.
  4. Public health: Louisiana Sen. Cassidy wants more frequent testing of nursing home workers.
  5. Congress: Pelosi slams McConnell on stimulus delay — Sen. Tim Kaine and wife test positive for coronavirus antibodies.
  6. Tech: Twitter fact-checks Chinese official's claims that coronavirus originated in U.S.
  7. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 24 seconds ago - Politics & Policy

Twitter fact-checks Chinese official's claims that coronavirus originated in U.S.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

Twitter slapped a fact-check label on a pair of months-old tweets from a Chinese government spokesperson that falsely suggested that the coronavirus originated in the U.S. and was brought to Wuhan by the U.S. military, directing users to "get the facts about COVID-19."

Why it matters: The labels were added after criticism that Twitter had fact-checked tweets from President Trump about mail-in voting, but not other false claims from Chinese Communist Party officials and other U.S. adversaries.

Podcast: Trump vs. Twitter, round two

President Trump is escalating his response to Twitter’s fact check of his recent tweets about mail-in voting, issuing an executive order that's designed to begin limiting social media's liability protections. Dan digs in with Axios' Margaret Harding McGill.

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