When asked what Bill Gates would really want to know if he met a time traveler from the year 2100, most of us would say what his descendants look like or how big Microsoft's stock is.
Well, we'll fall. The billionaire Microsoft co-founder might wonder: Are people thriving? “Ultimately, everything is measured by human well-being,” Gates said on the latest episode of his “Unconfuse Me” radio show.
Guest on his own podcast
In the episode, Bill Gates interviews Oxford University data scientist Hannah Ritchie, whose book Not the End of the World presents an optimistic vision of how the world can win the battle against climate change.
Gates asked the author to tell him the “most important questions” she would ask a time traveler from the future. She answered: What percentage of the world's population can live on less than $20 a day in 2100? He explained that the answer will reveal a lot about poverty rates in the future and whether “we have achieved progress in health, agriculture, and addressing poverty.”
Currently, more than 9% of the world's population – more than 700 million people – must live on less than $2.15 a day, in extreme poverty, according to the World Bank. If a significant proportion of people live on more than $20 a day by 2100, especially in low-income countries, that “would be a remarkable achievement,” Ritchie said, and a sign that humanity has likely made progress in mitigating climate change. .
The first thing that comes to his mind
First, Gates said he would prefer to ask about energy production and artificial intelligence. “How do you generate energy? Is it fusion, fission, or something unexpected?” he said. “And then (I would like to understand) whether AI has helped people come together, or in general how they have met this challenge.”
Note that fusion and fission are two types of nuclear energy. Gates has touted both as promising sources of clean energy — he co-founded nuclear energy startup TerraPower in 2006 — that could help fight climate change.
Also, when it comes to artificial intelligence, Gates has disagreed with various doomsday scenarios about its progress, arguing that the technology could eventually help the world solve global challenges in areas like health and education.
After much thought…
But upon reflection, and despite his personal interests in energy and artificial intelligence, Gates changed his mind and made his reaction more consistent with his guest's justifications. He said that the best research is the one that reveals the general well-being of people around the world.
“You're right,” Gates said. “The question is not strategy. It is quality of life.”
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