The Microsoft co-founder and philanthropic leader sets out an agenda of global issues that he thinks whoever wins the presidential election should address.
In an election season of sound bites and fleeting controversies, Bill Gates is calling for moon shots.
The Microsoft co-founder and philanthropic leader isn’t broadcasting his pick in the U.S. presidential election, but he is urging whoever wins to not neglect big-picture goals like eliminating disease or improving education.
In a post Thursday on his Gates Notes blog, Gates said he’s been thinking recently about a topic he says Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have not addressed in detail: “what political leadership can do to accelerate innovation.”
What follows is a 1,500-word plea for renewed political commitment to bold goals like developing a vaccine for HIV and the kind of public-sector investments that, with private-sector help, can bring them to fruition.
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“I’ve heard some people argue that life-changing innovations come exclusively from the private sector,” Gates said, referring to the view, common in some Silicon Valley circles, that entrepreneurs are society’s difference makers and government is most often an impediment to change.
“But innovation starts with government support for the research labs and universities working on new insights that entrepreneurs can turn into companies that change the world,” he said.
Gates turns to his own biography for an example, citing the U.S. government research that enabled the microchip revolution and the creation of the internet, two trends underlying Microsoft’s success and Gates’ rise to become the world’s richest person.
He asked national leaders worldwide to prioritize four goals, each of which lines up with work by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: providing affordable energy while combating climate change; eliminating HIV and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s; protecting the world from future health epidemics; and giving students and teachers the tools for a better education.
The post echoes some themes Gates discussed last month in an appearance at a Microsoft-sponsored gathering of Northwest business and government leaders. Gates at that event said he was concerned by the apparent rebuke to globalization delivered by Britain’s Brexit vote and “some other things.”
He didn’t mention Donald Trump by name, but the Republican presidential nominee has drawn support from some voters who believe they haven’t reaped the rewards of a more tightly integrated global economy
Advances in areas like health care and technology, Gates said, are “predicated on continuing to be a totally global market” where the best ideas win. “I think we do need to step back and say are we doing enough in communities, are people seeing these benefits,” he said.
Publicly, Gates has typically been reluctant to weigh in on partisan political topics.
The best leaders, Gates said in his note Thursday, can address urgent current issues like terrorism, job creation and migration, while at the same time laying the groundwork for moonshots.
That work, he said, requires a clear goal that “captures the imagination of the nation and fundamentally changes how we view what’s possible.”