The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which focuses on philanthropic efforts toward healthcare and eradicating disease, and has donated billions to various causes around the globe plans to run for just another 25 years. While the foundation intends to remain focused on those efforts, Bill Gates has been mulling over another issue.
What Happened: At the 2022 Forbes 400 Philanthropy Summit, Gates said, “People seek simple solutions [and] the truth is kind of boring sometimes. Anybody who's got good innovations on reducing polarization, getting the truth to be as interesting as the crazy stuff, that would be well worth investing in."
The Microsoft founder was talking about the polarization in U.S politics, which the Pew Research Center defined as the vast and growing gap between liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats.
"I admit that political polarization may bring it all to an end, we're going to have a hung election and a civil war,” the billionaire said at the summit.
In the U.S., the political divide has been escalating for years. The differences between Republicans and Democrats in Congress have only widened, and the majority of Americans get their news and information from sources that support their political views, which magnifies conflicts over the essential details of numerous political issues.
"The polarization and lack of trust is a problem," Gates said. "One of the best-selling books last year was a book by Robert Kennedy, saying that I like to make money and kill millions of people with vaccines. It's wild that sells well."
Why It Matters: Polarization and misinformation go hand in hand, and the American News Pathways project by the Pew Research Center found consistent differences in what separate segments of the population — including political partisans and readers of particular news sources — heard and believed about the developments surrounding COVID-19 and the 2020 election.
For example, news consumers who often only viewed outlets with right-leaning audiences were more likely to come across and accept certain untrue or unsupported claims.
The study also revealed that, in certain instances, terms such as "fake news" and "misinformation" have come to refer to news and information that does not support people's preferred worldviews or narratives, regardless of whether the information was in fact false.
"I'm generally optimistic about the future, but one thing that dampens my outlook a bit is the increasing polarization in America, especially when it comes to politics," Gates wrote in a blog post, promoting “Why We’re Polarized,” by Ezra Klein.
Originally published Sept. 28, 2022.
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