By: Lykke E. Andersen*
There is probably nobody I admire more in the entire World than Hans Rosling, so getting him as keynote speaker for the next Bolivian Conference on Development Economics is a major coup. Unfortunately my biggest hero and role model seems to be largely unknown among Bolivian Economists. This is a disappointing fact, which I am going to work on remedying before Rosling comes to Bolivia; starting with this newsletter.
There are several things I love about Hans Rosling. The first is his chosen mission: To replace devastating myths with a fact-based worldview. This is absolutely crucial, because we can’t make sensible decisions and policies, if we have a completely distorted view of the world. And as Rosling has repeatedly pointed out, most of us know less about the World than a chimpanzee (see his first TED talk from 2006 “Debunking myths about the ‘third world’” or take his recent “Ignorance Test” at the BBC News Magazine yourself).
The second thing I like about him is his chosen method: Making development data accessible and easy to understand – even beautiful! The lemma of his Gapminder foundation sums it up very nicely: “Unveiling the beauty of statistics for a fact-based worldview.” And unlike many lemmas, that is actually pretty accurate (see for example this amazing high-tech video “200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes”). I completely agree with him that data and facts are crucial, and it is amazing how he can make the data sing.
The third amazing thing about Hans Rosling is the way he presents his points. He is an absolutely outstanding speaker, and when you have both an important point to make, massive amounts of data to back it up, and humor and talent to present (and a son and daughter-in-law with great programming skills), it just makes for my dream keynote speaker. Check out a few examples of his unusual presentations on the Gapminder videos page. In his 2007 TED talk “The seemingly impossible is possible” he actually ends up swallowing a sword. In this talk (which is rather hard on hard core environmentalists) his main prop is a washing machine, and in this talk on population growth and inequality he uses IKEA boxes.
If you have never heard about Hans Rosling before, please explore the links provided and “let his data set change your mind set.” I promise you are in for a treat!
Dr. Lykke E. Andersen is senior researcher at INESAD and a huge fan of Hans Rosling.