What are your general beliefs about the world? Do you think we’re progressing or moving backward in recent years? What do the data say? These are a few questions to think about. The media often shows the negative picture, disasters, corruption, robberies, scandals, and things that scare people. You hardly hear about progress, development, innovations, and overall uplifting news. Yet, progress happens all the time.
A big advocate of showing the facts about the world was Hans Rosling, a Swedish professor, physician, statistics guru, data lover, and public speaker.
In his posthumous book Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, he wrote “I’m not an optimist. That makes me sound naive. I’m a very serious “possibilist”. That’s something I made up. It means someone who neither hopes without reason, nor fears without reason, someone who constantly resists the overdramatic worldview.”
If you’ve never heard about the man, watch one of his famous TED talks — “The best stats you’ve ever seen” (2006), “Let my dataset change your mindset” (2009), “Global population growth, box by box” (2010), or “How not to be ignorant about the world” (2014).
Hans busted a lot of myths and stereotypes about the developing world and other worldwide issues through his speeches and interactive presentations.
The definition of a preconceived idea is an opinion formed beforehand without adequate evidence. It’s very easy to have preconceived ideas even in the Internet era, where we’re two clicks away from finding the correct answer. People like to form their own opinion. In some cases, the evidence and facts don’t matter. Even if all the experts and scientists say one thing, there will always be someone claiming the opposite. It’s not productive to argue with the second group.
A simple example of a preconceived idea about the world is the life expectancy and family size of developing countries. For a long time, countries in Asia and Africa have been known to have a shorter life expectancy and large families with many children. In reality, things have changed tremendously for the past years and many countries that were once considered “developing” have now caught up to the Western world. Countries like Thailand and Vietnam have almost the same life expectancy and the average size of households as the U.S.
Certainly, there are still countries that face major issues and have problems to solve, but many of them are going in the right direction. If there was a key lesson learned from Hans Rosling, it’s forming an opinion based on reliable data stats rather than a gut feeling. Presenting the data in the right format is half the battle won.
Interactive Visually Pleasing Presentations
How could we make data sexier? Data is normally considered dry and boring, but when you put it into cool moving bubbles, then all of a sudden, the general audience starts to understand and believe in it. If you want to learn how to build animated charts like Hans Rosling, see in the article below.
How to build Animated Charts like Hans Rosling — doing it all in R
A Small Educative Project for Learning Data Visualisation Skills leveraging 2 libraries (gganimate and plot.ly) —…
Facts or Feelings
World issues would always exist, but it’s good to acknowledge the things that are better off nowadays and learn from the good examples happening out there. The Gapminder foundation started by Rosling’s family does a good job of promoting basic global facts and challenging common misconceptions. A mission of the foundation is to fight ignorance and investigate what the public knows and doesn’t know about global trends on important topics.
How many people are rich and how many are poor?
In this video, we learn that most people are somewhere in the middle.
One billion people live with less than $1 a day, more than half of the population with less than $10 a day, and some with more than $100 a day.
The gap between the richest and the poorest is huge, but we should also focus on the majority of people who are in between. Having a clear perspective with easily accessible data helps to understand the overall situation and therefore come up with better decisions.
Using data is useful not just for world critical issues, but also in day-to-day life. You can start making more data-driven decisions in your work for how to manage the next big project or better promote a product to clients, and even in your personal life for daily spends, online shopping, insurance, and so on. Data is cool.
A couple more positive data-facts about the world:
- In the last 20 years, the number of people living in extreme poverty decreased by half
- 80% of people in the world have some access to electricity
- The income per person doubled since 2000
- Child mortality has fallen by more than half since 1990
- The installed capacity of renewable energy worldwide grew by 80% since 2010
In tough times, let’s remind ourselves of the good things in life. The world is not always so terrible. Sometimes it is, but also a lot of good can be found if you search for it.