An old interview from 24 years ago has resurfaced in which the late fantasy author Terry Pratchett warned of the spread of fake news on the internet, but Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates dismissed his fears.
Marc Burrows, who is writing a biography of Pratchett due for release next year, shared an image of the interview from the July 1995 edition of GQ magazine that he found during “deep dive research” for his book to Twitter on Tuesday.
Burrows noted Pratchett had “accurately predicted” how the internet, which was then still in its infancy, would “propagate and legitimise fake news” ― and that Gates “didn’t believe him.”
Pratchett, who died aged 66 in March 2015 following a yearslong battle with Alzheimer’s disease, theorized:
Gates offered an optimistic response:
Burrows shared a second image of the interview, however, in which Gates correctly foresaw the demise of VHS and the rise of streaming services:
Burrows told HuffPost he was “not in the slightest” bit surprised with Pratchett’s prediction about the spread of fake news, noting how he’d been a newsman who’d worked as a journalist or press officer “right up until 1987 when his career as an author really started to take off.”
“He knew how news and rumor worked on an instinctive level,” explained Burrows, whose provisionally titled unauthorized tome “The Real Terry Pratchett” is due out via the publisher Pen and Sword in August 2020.
Pratchett was also “a technology geek” who was “very involved in the growing internet culture” including as a regular contributor to the Discworld fan community at alt.fan.pratchett, said Burrows, adding that “the subject was right in his ballpark.”
The interview ― titled “I’m Not Sure What The Word ‘Nerd’ Means” ― has generated plenty of debate on social media, where the spread of fake news became a contentious issue during the 2016 presidential election: