9 surprises from 2018

Bill and Melinda Gates shared their 2018 annual letter yesterday. I loved the format – 9 surprises and their thoughts on the action they need to take. My 3 favorite bits of insight were –

(1) The 5 areas we need to solve for zero emissions – electricity generation, agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, and buildings. I’ve been searching for a pie chart like this for a while.

2) The modern flush toilet was patented in 1775 (!). Bill Gates has been writing about innovations in this space and I love the idea of having a toilet that requires no zero infrastructure and that converts feces and urine into useful byproducts.

Even more fascinating was the impact this might have on the lives of women. Rather than risk defecating in a dangerous urinal, women in some nations have developed kidney trouble because of holding on to their urine all night.

3) And, I loved their note optimism

We get asked a lot these days whether we’re still optimistic about the future. We say: Absolutely. One reason is that we believe in the power of innovation. But an even bigger reason is that we’ve seen firsthand that for every challenge we’ve written about in this letter, there are people devoting their ideas, their resources, and even their lives to solving them.

When we’re feeling overwhelmed by negative headlines, we remind ourselves that none of us has the right to sit back and expect that the world is going to keep getting better. We have a responsibility to do everything we can to push it in that direction.

In that way, we’ve found that optimism can be a powerful call to action. And it has a multiplier effect: The more optimists there are working for a better future, the more reasons there are to be optimistic.

PS: As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I’m traveling in India over the next few weeks. Unlike in the past, I’m trying to keep normal email schedule – however, that occasionally means two posts arriving on the same day. Apologies!