He also has some insights into social welfare and the problems with the private sector.
After all, he is therichest man in the world
. And while money isn't necessarily an indication of intelligence, he's clearly doingsomething
(I don't say this lightly either; I've been a loyal Apple user for 22 years, and even I can admit the guy's had a few good ideas here and there.)
Specifically, he talks about the relationships between research and development (R&D) and public versus private funding and how a historical look at the radical advancements in cancer treatment, the Internet, and more could serve as a guide for the future of the clean energy industry.
Here's a problem with investment strategies: Venture capitalists are looking for a return. And they usually want it fast, and they want it to be bigger than the cash that they put up in the first place.
Gates points out that this money-as-sole-incentive approach is kinda BS when the future of the planet is at risk. Instead, the people like him who can afford to take risks should be the ones doing so — even if the ROI doesn't come through quite as quick or strong as some hip tech startup.
There's no clear consensus on the most effective form of renewable energy — another factor that keeps those potential risk-taking investors away. After all, why should they throw their money at hydroelectric power if solar's going to end up running the market? And then what happens in another 100 years when wind power emerges as the best option?
Unfortunately, we can't make those perfect predictions until we've done more research and development, which is why Gates says we should take those risks while we still can and invest in everything that might help us to combat the climate crisis.
"U.S. government R&D has defined the state of the art in almost every area," Gates says, pointing to the development of nuclear energy, hydropower, shale-gas, and more. He argues that, historically speaking, most advancements of the 20th century came from government incentivizing the private sector, which in turn then invested in the people (because when profit is the only motivator, altruism is often left behind).
But the change has to start somewhere, right? We've already wasted too much time waiting for someone else to take the lead, which only allows for the problem to get worse. (Spoiler alert:It has
A lot of the issues he addresses about the current climate threat boil down to the never-ending debate between public and private sectors, between capitalism and socialism. But as Gates rightly points out, those issues are not nor have they ever been black and white.
Maybe that way we won't be have to choose between cash or the survival of the human race as our only two choices for return-on-investment. Because if "life itself" is not incentive enough to inspire innovation, what else is left to do?