Image by World Economic Forum

Bill Gates has an unfortunate prediction for the future: whether or not it's as bad as the current coronavirus pandemic, he thinks that each generation will likely face its own viral outbreak.

Last week, he told Financial Times that "now people realize, OK, there really is a meaningful probability every 20 years or so with lots of world travel that one of these [viruses] will come along."

It's a grim outlook, but the billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder also shared an optimistic upshot.

When COVID-19 hit, he believes, the world was vastly underprepared. But Gates thinks that the survivors of this pandemic will emerge far more cautious and vigilant. So the next time an outbreak begins, Gates told FT that it will probably be easier to nip in the bud.

"This is the biggest event that people will experience in their entire lives," Gates said. "We will have standby diagnostics. We will have deep antiviral libraries. We will have antibodies scale up. We will have vaccine platforms. We will have early warning systems. We will do germ games."

And if we actually prepare in advance by investing in medical research, in public health initiatives, and other preventive measures, the financial toll of the next outbreak will be trivial compared to how much the COVID-19 response has cost the country, Gates says.

Gates concluded: "this time, we've been whacked on the head here at home, people we know. The science is there. Countries will step forward."