Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bill Gates of Dystopian Future 10 Years Hence

http://www.informationweek.com/news/windows/microsoft_news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=222500110

As quoted in Information Week, Bill Gates argues:

"If we project what the world will be like 10 years from now without innovation in health, education, energy, or food, the picture is quite bleak," said Gates, in his annual letter from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, published earlier this week.

Health costs for the rich will escalate, forcing tough trade-offs and keeping the poor stuck in the bad situation they are in today," Gates wrote. The damage won't be limited to the Third World, Gates said.

"In the United States, rising education costs will mean that fewer people will be able to get a great college education and the public K-12 system will still be doing a poor job for the underprivileged," he said.

Gates added that stalled innovation could ultimately lead to a hotter planet where food and energy are in short supply.

"We will have to increase the price of energy to reduce consumption, and the poor will suffer from both this higher cost and the effects of climate change. In food we will have big shortages because we won't have enough land to feed the world's growing population and supports its richer diet," said Gates


I agree with Gates that the immediate future holds significant challenges including oil and water scarcities and widespread pollution threatening human health.

The market is not capable of solving these problems. The market has incentives for short-term profits and publicly traded companies do not have incentives for investing in costly infrastructural changes that will reduce energy consumption and pollution.

Government alone is capable of directing and incentivizing needed changes. However, governments everywhere are so corrupted by financial interests that it seems improbable that they will put the long term needs of the planet first when policy is viewed as undermining market autonomy or as creating costs.

I do not see a bright future as I believe the imminent problems will simply be allowed to develop into full scale disasters. We saw that happen in New Orleans and we saw that happen in Haiti. Expert authorities were well aware that these locales would become disaster zones in the likely events of storms and earthquakes. Yet no efforst were made to forestall forseen disasters because such efforts would have been costly and might have disrupted existing power structures....

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