Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates doesn't typically make New Year's resolutions. Still, he does enjoy taking stock of the past year, assessing what he's excited about and what he could have done better. It's a personal tradition that underscored for him the role of technology in improving our lives — and even led him to make a resolution of his own for 2019.
"Although I have never been one for New Year's resolutions, I have always been committed to setting clear goals and making plans to achieve them," wrote Gates in a blog posted on Saturday. "As I get older, these two things look more and more like the same exercise."
In the year ahead, Gates resolves to study how technology can impact two key areas of our lives, areas that raise complicated ethical and social questions.
One of those key areas, wrote Gates, is the balance between privacy and innovation in fields such as education and health. Whether it's assessing which schools do the best job of teaching low-income students or which doctors provide the best care for a reasonable price, Gates wants to find a way to use data to gain insights while also protecting people's privacy.
Gates is also excited about the use of technology in education. Though "overheated claims" have rightly made people skeptical about its impact over the years, he remains hopeful. Wrote Gates, "I think things are finally coming together in a way that will deliver on the promises."
In Saturday's blog, Gates reflected on the previous year and admitted that some advancements he'd hoped for have been slow in coming. He'd thought the world might be closer to eradicating polio, for instance, but polio cases actually increased in 2018.
While there's been progress on scientific research to potentially eradicate Alzheimer's, there's still a lack of efficient clinical trials and focus from global government leaders.
Through reflection, however, he stresses that technological advancements to come make him optimistic for the future. Alzheimer's, he said, is seeing significant momentum thanks to the development of scientific tools, diagnostics and access to data.
Testing for polio has vastly improved, helping the health community track the virus more easily, even in war zones. A new oral vaccine, one being tested in Belgium and Panama, could even be available for use by 2020.
While Gates promised more insights on his personal resolution in the weeks ahead, he remains confident in technology's ability to improve our lives.
"What connects it all is my belief that innovation can save lives and improve everyone's well-being," wrote Gates. "A lot of people underestimate just how much innovation will make life better."
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