Bill Gates has made a New Year’s resolution. He is committed to learning and thinking about the balance between privacy and innovation, and about the use of technology in education.
These, he writes in a blog post, are two areas where “technology has the potential to make an enormous impact on the quality of our lives, but also raises complex ethical and social considerations.”
Reviewing his own work and that of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation during the past year, Gates writes about achievements in health care, energy and medical research.
Gates saw two positive trends in Alzheimer’s research in 2018. He had contributed $100 million to startups and a venture capital fund focused on the disease the year before.
Researchers, he says, are focusing on two new hypotheses about why patients’ brain cells break down: (a) because their mitochondria, or energy producers, wear out; (b) because part of the immune system gets overactivated and attacks them.
In addition, the Alzheimer’s community is working to get and share more data, the better to understand questions such as how the disease progresses. One challenge ahead is to develop more efficient ways to recruit patients for clinical trials — at present, he notes, it can take several years to enroll enough patients in trials.
A big disappointment last year, Gates writes, was the uptick in polio cases when he had thought the disease’s eradication was close at hand. He puts this down to the difficulty of vaccinating children in areas where political violence and war are facts of life. “This is a key reason why Afghanistan and Pakistan have never been free of polio — in fact they are the only two countries that have never been free of polio.”
On the clean energy front, an investment fund in which Gates is involved is starting to put money in companies that are looking at all the drivers of climate change, and taking innovative clean-energy ideas out of the lab and putting them on the market.