Swedish physician and statistician Hans Rosling insisted that facts must be used to guide debates over public policy. This stance is surprisingly rare since most “serious” politicians and pundits make their livings by falsely peddling dystopia and by dispensing “alternative facts.” In order to get the facts about population, living standards, food supplies, ecology, economic growth, life expectancy trends, and so forth to the public, Rosling established the fantastic Gapminder project. “Unveiling the beauty of statistics for a fact based world view” is Gapminder’s motto. Gapminder makes brilliantly available in easily graspable graphics the best statistical information about the human and planetary prospect.
“We promote a new way of thinking about the world and the society which we call Factfulness. It is the relaxing habit of carrying opinions that are based on solid facts,” states the website. Gapminder exists because…
…We humans are born with a craving for fat and sugar. But we are also born with a craving for drama. We pay attention to dramatic stories and we get bored if nothing happens.
Journalists and lobbyists tell dramatic stories. That’s their job. They tell stories about extraordinary events and unusual people. The piles of dramatic stories pile up in peoples minds into an overdramatic worldview and strong negative stress feelings: “The world is getting worse!”, “It’s we vs. them!” , “Other people are strange!”, “The population just keeps growing!” and “Nobody cares!”
For the first time in human history reliable statistics exist. There’s data for almost every aspect of global development. The data shows a very different picture: a world where most things improve; a world that is not divided. People across cultures and religions make decisions based on universal human needs, which are easy to understand. The fast population growth will soon be over. The total number of children in the world has stopped growing. The remaining population growth is an inevitable consequence of large generations born decades back. We live in a globalized world, not only in terms of trade and migration. More people than ever care about global development! The world has never been less bad. Which doesn’t mean it’s perfect. The world is far from perfect.
The dramatic worldview has to be dismantled, because it is stressful and wrong. It leads to bad focus and bad decisions. We know this because we have measured the global ignorance among the world’s top decision makers in public and private sector. Their global ignorance is high, just like the ignorance of journalists, activists, teachers and the general public. This has nothing to do with intelligence. It’s a problem of factual knowledge. Facts don’t come naturally. Drama and opinions do. Factual knowledge has to be learned. We need to teach global facts in schools and in corporate training. This is an exciting problem to work on and we invite all our users to join the Gapminder movement for global factfulness. The problem can be solved, because the data exists.
Rosling died of pancreatic cancer on Tuesday morning. Rosling did great good for the world and he will be sorely missed.