Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bill Gates' Malaria Mistake

Bill Gates is working very hard to directly eradicate malaria. It is a high involvement, risky strategy and he knows it. "Zero is a magic number. You either do what it takes to get to zero and you’re glad you did it; or you get close, give up and it goes back to where it was before, in which case you wasted all that credibility, activity, money that could have been applied to other things." Gates has designed his charitable efforts to wind up 20 years after his death. If the malaria vaccine is discovered outside that time frame and the predicted backsliding happens, Gates' direct effort on malaria will be a failure.

That may, or may not be, a mistake. It's a high stakes roll of the dice and Gates is betting that the money won't run out before the crash program he's initiated pays off with that magic zero. I wish him the best of luck with that. The world would be significantly and demonstrably better off without malaria. On the issue of malaria, like Gates, I'm pro genocide.

Every single country that currently has malaria could be without it given peace and a good enough economy to fund the efforts that keep countries like the US and Taiwan, which have the climate to support malaria ridden mosquitos but little malaria, free of the disease.

Gates' malaria mistake is to denigrate other tech titans' efforts to indirectly improve lives in the poorest nations by creating the infrastructure to build the necessary economy so that they'll pay for their own malaria eradication. This indirect effort, unlike Gates', is both sustainable and builds on itself. There is no utterly predictable backsliding to what it was like before if only partial progress is made during a specific timeframe. It is a completely different approach to helping the world's poorest that allows their own priorities to inform where the money goes and which lack gets remedied first.

It is a dice throw as to which approach will do more good for the world in the end. I actually wish both sides of this philosophical difference luck on their efforts. The sniping is not helpful though. It is a mistake.

HT: Business Insider