What Bill Gates is “most worried about as we approach 2022”
For the most part, Bill Gates is optimistic about 2022. But the billionaire Microsoft co-founder still has some concerns for the year ahead.
In a recent year-end blog post by Gates titled ‘Reasons to be Optimistic After a Difficult Year’, he made several optimistic prognoses – from the Covid pandemic potentially ending to the looming rise of the metaverse.
But one particular problem could slow or derail much of that progress, he predicted: people’s distrust of governments. “This is one of the issues that worries me the most as we approach 2022,” he wrote.
Public institutions, Gates noted, must be major players in battles such as tackling climate change or preventing the next pandemic. But there’s not much they can do unless people reject their guidelines on principle.
“If your employees don’t trust you, they won’t support major new initiatives,” Gates wrote. “And when a major crisis strikes, they’re less likely to take the advice needed to weather the storm.”
Such mistrust has become particularly evident since the pandemic struck: Misinformation about Covid has spread both in the United States and the rest of the world, hampering the country’s vaccination rates and ultimately delaying the end of the pandemic.
But Pew Research Center to research from the pre-Covid era showed similar trends: In a 2019 poll of American adults, 75% of those polled said their fellow citizens’ trust in the federal government was declining.
Another 64% of those polled said that Americans’ trust in each other was also declining. And about four in ten respondents believed that mistrust made it harder to deal with issues such as health care, immigration and gun violence.
In Gates’ blog post, he noted that 24-hour news cycles, politically motivated headlines and social media have each played a role in the “growing divide” – and that governments may need to regulate online platforms to effectively dispel disinformation.
It’s already a priority for some lawmakers in Washington DC In October, former Facebook engineer Frances Haugen testified before a Senate committee about the company’s “crisis” of disinformation, a potential first step towards regulating social media platforms.
Time can be of the essence. Gates expressed concern that without swift intervention, Americans might become more likely to elect politicians who speak publicly and encourage mistrust. The snowball effect could then cause “even greater public disappointment”.
It’s a tricky issue to tackle – and even Gates has said he’s not sure how to do it.
“This is usually where I set out my ideas on how we solve the problem. The truth is, I don’t have the answers,” he wrote. “I intend to continue to research and read the ideas of others, especially the young people. I hope the generations who have grown up online will have new ideas on how to tackle a problem so deeply rooted in the internet. “
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