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Google's Brilliant prepares for climate change, bird flu

CORONADO, Calif. - Larry Brilliant is settling into his new role as the director of Google's philanthropic efforts, planning to look closely at problems such as climate change, global health care, and poverty, he told attendees of the final day of the Future in Review conference.

The group is in the middle of a self-imposed "quiet period" during which it's settling on the specifics, Brilliant said. But one topic taking up some of his time is the concern about a potential worldwide outbreak of avian flu, the specific topic of his talk at the conference.

Today's biggest problem with understanding the threat from avian flu is dealing with humans who have adopted some other undesirable avian traits, Brilliant said. "We have too many Chicken Littles and too many ostriches. That's the avian problem," he said. "It's hard to get to sober, rational decision making."

The probability of a worldwide outbreak is low, but it is there, and it only makes sense to prepare for it, Brilliant said. "Let's overprepare for it. The externalities are all possible if we prepare for it, and they are all negative if we don't."