Bill Gates, the philanthropic multi-billionaire, has things worrying him as the New Year arrives. However, as alarming as that sounds, he is much more optimistic than he is worried. He listed both of his opinions in his latest blog post for the year’s end.
The title of the post is “Reasons for optimism after a difficult year”. In it, Gates included hopes like the pandemic finally coming to an end. Or, revolutionary technological changes like “the metaverse” being ever-more popular. However, among all that, he could not help but worry about something interesting: the people’s loss of trust in governments.
Gates’ Worry Can Impede Many Other Fights
According to Gates, preventing pandemics or fighting climate changes need public institutions (like governments) to play a big role. However, they can hardly do much if the people refuse to comply with their guidance because of their principles.
“If your people don’t trust you, they’re not going to support major new initiatives. And when a major crisis emerges, they’re less likely to follow guidance necessary to weather the storm.”
He notes that it is not the case for just a few countries, but rather the whole wide world. And the pandemic has made it so much clearer. For example, misinformation about Covid has spread widely enough to hamper the vaccination rates of any country. Gates admits that it is one of the biggest reasons why the pandemic is still ongoing.
However, a 2019 Pew research poll showed that this distrust has existed for quite a while. In 2019, 75% of American adults polled believed that the citizens were losing trust in the government. 64% of the people polled said that the trust between citizens was decreasing as well. About 40% believed that this loss of trust had made it tougher to face issues like gun violence, immigration, and health care.
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Is The News To Blame?
In the blog post, Gates pinpoints 3 reasons for the mistrust among many others:
“There are many reasons for this growing divide, including a 24-hour news cycle, a political climate that rewards headline generation over substantive debate, and the rise of social media.”
He expressed special interest in the social media part since it involved technology. However, he believes that government-regulated online platforms might become compulsory to deal with so much misinformation.
Even if Gates had not said it, online misinformation has been on the agenda for lawmakers for a while. In October 2021, an ex-Facebook engineer had even testified about the crisis the company faced regarding misinformation.
But time might be running out, according to Gates. He explains that such misinformation might lead to Americans favoring politicians who encourage and publicly express distrust. This can cause the distrust to snowball further.
Unfortunately, even Gates does not seem to have the answer. Instead, he looks towards the younger generations who spent more time on the internet to have a better idea:
“This is usually where I’d lay out my ideas for how we fix the problem. The truth is, I don’t have the answers. I plan to keep seeking out and reading others’ ideas, especially from young people. I’m hopeful that the generations who grew up online will have fresh ideas about how to tackle a problem that is so deeply rooted in the Internet.”
Gates, finally, agrees that innovation will not be enough to solve this problem. It is not as easy to test out a political idea as it is for a scientific one. As such, Gates believes that the solution lies in choosing the correct leaders and giving them space to try something new.
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