Bill Gates is famous for being one of the few public figures to warn about the danger of a global pandemic -- and just how unprepared the world was to cope with one -- years before the coronavirus emerged. If he foresaw the start of the pandemic, does that mean we should also trust him to tell us when it's going to end?
If your answer to that question is yes, you may want to check out Gates's newly released 2021 'Year in Review.' In it, the Microsoft founder and philanthropist acknowledges that he's had a turbulent year both for personal reasons and for the same reasons it's been a particularly trying year for the rest of us.
"In 2021, the pandemic has dominated our lives since day one. We've all had to adapt to a 'new normal,' although what that looks like is different for every person. For me, the result has been a year spent mostly online," he writes. "My personal world has never felt smaller than it did over the past 12 months."
That sounds both familiar and depressing. But if you are in the weird position of relating to a billionaire's 2021 troubles, I have good news for you. Gates goes on to predict that 2022 will be a lot rosier for all of us.
Will we finally stop worrying about the pandemic in 2022?
Gates first acknowledged that he was overly optimistic about how much progress we would have made against the pandemic by now.
"Because of the Delta variant and challenges with vaccine uptake, we're not as close to the end of the pandemic as I hoped by now," he admits. "I didn't foresee that such a highly transmissible variant would come along, and I underestimated how tough it would be to convince people to take the vaccine and continue to use masks."
But despite his less-than-perfect track record, he braves another prediction for the year to come: "I am hopeful, though, that the end is finally in sight. It might be foolish to make another prediction, but I think the acute phase of the pandemic will come to a close some time in 2022."
But wait, you might interject, what about this new Omicron variant I keep reading about? Did Gates take this even more transmissible strain into his calculations when making his prediction? Happily, he did. "There's no question that the Omicron variant is concerning," he says, "but I'm still hopeful that, at some point next year, Covid-19 will become an endemic disease in most places."
Here's Gates's hopeful picture of what that would look like: "Communities will still see occasional outbreaks, but new drugs will be available that could take care of most cases and hospitals will be able to handle the rest. Your individual risk level will be low enough that you won't need to factor it into your decision-making as much. It won't be primary when deciding whether to work from the office or let your kids go to their soccer game or watch a movie in a theater."
The new normal will still have plenty of big challenges
In the remainder of the long piece, Gates delves into all the new science that is helping us reduce the toll taken by the coronavirus and other global challenges. It is full of dedicated researchers, amazing breakthroughs, and reasons for optimism, but Gates doesn't shy away from acknowledging we still face serious challenges.
"Based on what I've seen over the past couple of years, I'm more worried than I've ever been about the ability of governments to get big things done," he writes, adding that "social media has played a huge role in spreading misinformation that makes people suspicious of their governments."
Even a guy as smart as Gates is still searching for solutions to these complex cultural issues. But while political gridlock and insane conspiracy theories are likely to continue to trouble us in 2022 and beyond, Gates still closes his yearly look back on a positive note: "I think 2022 will be a year when many of us finally settle into a post-pandemic new normal."
I personally really, really hope he's right.