Breda O’Brien: Time to question our tech billionaire overlords

I had one such moment when reading a Bloomberg Businessweek profile on Prof Sarah Gilbert of Oxford University, lead researcher of what later became the AstraZeneca vaccine. Buried in the story without comment is this line: “during the search for [research] money, Gates pushed [Prof Sarah] Gilbert and [Prof Adrian Hill] to partner with a big pharmaceutical company.”

The Nation uncovered “$2 billion in tax-deductible charitable donations to private companies – including some of the largest businesses in the world, such as GlaxoSmithKline, UnileverIBM, and NBC Universal Media”. It queried the ethics of “a foundation giving a charitable grant to a company that it partly owns – and stands to benefit from financially – [which] would seem like an obvious conflict of interest”. It also points out that the foundation’s protection of patents which make life-saving drugs prohibitively expensive rebounds on the vulnerable people the foundation is allegedly trying to help. 

In 2018-2019, they donated a higher percentage to the cash-strapped WHO than the individual donations of the EU Commission, the US and the UK. Gates discovered that it is more than possible to buy political influence and to shape the course of human history, all while being praised for being such a great guy. Is it not past time to question our new overlords?

Irishtimes Breda O’Brien: Time to question our tech billionaire overlords