The Beauty of Statistics

According to the saying, there are lies, worse lies, and statistics. However, statistics can reveal a great deal about the world when understood and interpreted correctly. The problem for the general population is that a list of numbers and percentages is neither appealing nor digestible and most people need a beginner’s guide to understand basic concepts of statistics. That’s where Hans Rosling and gapminder.org come in – Rosling challenges this perception and introduces the world to statistics like they have never seen it before.

Gapminder animates data on charts, turning them from a vague concept to a living organism whose shape, position and movement help visualize and internalize the issue discussed. It makes statistics accessible to people who don’t have a mathematical background, giving them the opportunity to understand it instantly. The interactive software, together with the lively presentation and passion of Hans Rosling, a Swedish professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, are “rockstars” on many events around the globe. His videos are among the top viewed, favorited and emailed of all times on TED, the popular lecture website.

Hans Rosling was voted one of the world’s “100 most important global thinkers” of 2009 by the Foreign Policy Magazine (December 2009), for “for boggling our minds with paradigm-shattering data. ” According to the magazine, his endeavor to use numbers to shatter stereotypes of rich and poor countries has brought him global prominence.

In May 2010 I was lucky to get the chance to talk to him for a few hours. As a result I produced this interview and the following youtube player on gapminder in which Rosling explains the idea behind it and the “media-strategy”.

The Origins of the Future

Last week I attended “Ciudad de las Ideas” in Puebla, 60 miles south east of Mexico City. Wonderful town, beautiful landscape …

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Venue: Complejo Cultural Universitario

Andres Roemer, President and curator of the festical, brought a stellar line-up of speakers on stage – many of them well known TEDsters. I enjoyed Chris Anderson, Hans Rosling, Michio Kaku (“After this introduction I can’t wait to hear myself speaking …”) and Henry Markram the most.

The entire set-up, the format of the talks, the “celebraties” was very TED-like – but not a bad copy at all! Ciudad de las ideas focuses on the same ideas as TED – but they distinguish themselves by including the youth and keeping the prices affordable (about 1200 Euro for 3 days, best category and 500 Euros for the way-up balcony seats)! It was very good to see so many students around! Made it very lively and refreshing!

Most of the participants came from Mexico, only a few Americans and hardly any Europeans.

My major takeaway from the festival – besides great conversations and the excellent food in Puebla – was the staturday morning debate on “Religion and God” – not because of the topic but the way it was presented. Very vital and agile format (in short: 3 vs. 3, giving statement first and then in a second round argueing against each other … then commented by a “neutral” person) … I really hope they will upload the video soon.

Twenty-twenty is tomorrow!

This blogpost is part 3 of a series of short videoclips with Hans Rosling, founder of gapminder and TEDster. On behalf of futurechallenges.org, Ole Wintermann and I went to Stockholm to interview Hans in May 2010. For me it was one of the most funniest and most inspriring interviews I have ever done … and I am truly looking forward to include Hans Rosling again in our next edition of we-magazine which will focus on Africa.
“The main misconception is that the world still is as I went to school.”Rosling was interviewed by the Shaping Ideas 2020 project by Ericsson.

The West really has to integrate into the rest of the world. It will just be about one tenth of the world.”
Asked about the shift in power in the world until 2020 he says that is too short a perspective: “Twenty-twenty is tomorrow!” Some of his grandchildren will live past the year 2100, so for him it does not make sense to only have a vision for the next ten years:“We are not yet serious about solving global issues because we have too short a perspective.”And he offers a compelling vision for Sweden to become a popular tourist destination: “Western Europe has a lot to offer the world for hundred of years to come.”

What would you say are our main future challenges? 1) The remaining poverty among two billion of our fellow human beings, 2) enormous pressure on the environment, and 3) remains the threat of war.“So far it has always resulted in a war when someone catched up with the most powerful nation. […] Let’s see if we can succeed this time without the Pearl Harbor.”

Hans Rosling also makes clear that child mortality has been dramatically decreasing in many countries: “This means that the population issue has been largely solved.”“There will be an additional increase of two billion people until 2050 and then we are done […] This is a minor problem for the environment. The major problem is that four billion people live miserable lives. To increase their standard of living up to what is decent, like Sweden in 1950, when we had washing machines, showers, and relatively good houses. […] That is a ten-fold bigger challenge than the number of people!”

We have to make a huge technological leap to increase standards of living: “We can’t do that with existing coal technology. But we are not investing in that seriously!” The OECD countries are spending 4-5 times more on agricultural subsidies as they are putting into green technologies.“But we are not serious yet! They are just trying to win the next election, they are not trying to solve the problem! […] The Indian and the Chinese scholars, the politicians, the media persons…I met, they are serious. They know how to count. They calculate for 25 or 50 years. Because they know where they want to move their countries, their companies, their societies. Whereas in West Europe and North America the vision is for four years, the next election or corporate quarter.
Part one
Part two
Full interview
All about gapminder

Upgrading Tintin’s worldview

This blogpost is part 2 of a series of short videoclips with Hans Rosling, founder of gapminder and TEDster. On behalf of futurechallenges.org, Ole Wintermann and I went to Stockholm to interview Hans in May 2010. For me it was one of the most funniest and most inspriring interviews I have ever done … and I am truly looking forward to include Hans Rosling again in our next edition of we-magazine which will focus on Africa.

“Tintin thought that it was the Western world and the rest.”
What is the core idea behind Gapminder? “Basically it’s a new map”, Hans Rosling says. “Instead of north and south we have healthy and sick.”

By using a game-like approach Gapminder makes world statistics understandable. And because he describes global trends like a sports commentator Hans Rosling has opened the eyes of a broad public.

But what is Rosling’s approach to attract such a large audience?

He was a medical doctor and teacher to fifty people, now millions listen to him thanks to the TED crew and his short lecture format. In fact he has an entire media strategy as there are stratified user groups:

With the Gapminder software and his funny-serious TED talks, Rosling is trying to reach lean-forward as well as lean-backward users on the web.
The world can never by understood without statistics. And it can never be understood by statistics only.
Part one
Part three
Full interview
All about gapminder

We need more world tastings

This blogpost is the start of a series of short videoclips with Hans Rosling, founder of gapminder and TEDster. On behalf of futurechallenges.org, Ole Wintermann and I went to Stockholm to interview Hans in May 2010. For me it was one of the most funniest and most inspriring interviews I have ever done … and I am truly looking forward to include Hans Rosling again in our next edition of we-magazine which will focus on Africa.

So have fun!

“The problem in West Europe is that we have too many who know wine and too few who know the world.”

Hans Rosling has become an internet sensation. The Swedish professor of international health and director of the Gapminder Foundation is using engaging data visualization and storytelling to dispel widely held misconceptions about the world we live in.
“The data goes out to the public, it goes into their eyes, it hits their retina. The problem is it doesn’t go into the brain!”

Hans Rosling worked as a medical doctor in Africa and discovered that the concept of ‘developing countries’ as he was taught it in school didn’t make sense anymore.

Rosling describes himself as a curious, humble person and thinks not everyone has to run advocacy. The role he sees for Gapminder is to provide a map of what the world really looks like.

Part two
Part three
Full interview
All about gapminder

we-magazine special: FutureChallenges

FutureChallenges, our third edition of we-magazine, is dedicated to futurechallenges.org, a new open online platform. futurechallenges.org is about the most important issues of our time, global megatrends, like climate change, migration, scarcity of resources, globalization … and especially the way they interconnect, reflect and magnify one another which will be decisive in shaping our common future.

So why did WE decide to dedicate this issue to FutureChallenges?

For us it is of the utmost importance that an institution like the Bertelsmann Stiftung is finally reaching out to the Web, that they embrace abundance and let the network set the agenda! Their goal is to build a highly connected virtual space based on the principles of participation, transparency and openness. futurechallenges.org is definitely a step in the right direction – WE will follow its path and see how it becomes more open and social.

WE are very proud to introduce an incredible line-up of authors – just to name a few: Peter Kruse, Hans Rosling, George Siemens, John Hagel III, Peter Spiegel, Isaac Mao, Emer Beamer and many more …

The magazine at a glance is here, the PDF is free for download:

we-magazine 03 – FutureChallenges

Learning about attitudes

At Le Web 3 I had the chance to talk to Hans Rosling about globalization and learning about attitudes in order to survive as an international company! Rolsing is also founder of gapmainder.org Gapminder is a non-profit venture for development and provision of free software that visualise human development. This is done in collaboration with universities, UN organisations, public agencies and non-governmental organisations. Gapminder is a Foundation registered at Stockholm. It was founded by Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund and Hans Rosling on 25 February 2005, in Stockholm.


Link: sevenload.com