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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

Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Containers carrying doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine arrive in Brazil. Photo: Maurio Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil on Saturday began distributing the 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine that arrived from India Friday, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Brazil has the third highest COVID-19 case-count in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The 2 million doses "only scratch the surface of the shortfall," Brazilian public health experts told the AP.

Sullivan speaks with Israel's national security adviser for the first time

Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat U.S. Photo: Mazen Mahdi/Getty Images. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Photo: Chandan Khanna/Getty Images

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke on the phone Saturday with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben Shabbat, Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is the first contact between the Biden White House and Israeli prime minister's office. During the transition, the Biden team refrained from speaking to foreign governments.

Biden speaks to Mexican president about reversing Trump's "draconian immigration policies"

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

President Biden told his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on a phone call Friday that he plans to reverse former President Trump’s “draconian immigration policies.”

The big picture: The Biden administration has already started repealing several of Trump’s immigration policies, including ordering a 100-day freeze on deporting many unauthorized immigrants, halting work on the southern border wall, and reversing plans to exclude undocumented people from being included in the 2020 census.