TED Conversations

Hans Rosling

Director, Gapminder Foundation


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What are your thoughts and questions on "the magic washing machine"?

I will be answering questions on my new TED talk today at 11.30 -1.30 pm EST.
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    Mar 26 2011: As engaging a speaker you are, I don't think your example was very profound.

    You fail to recognize that in these lesser developed countries, people wash their clothes MUCH less often. It is a modern western practice to wear clothes only once or twice before throwing it in the dirty bin. The truth is, these people often don't wash their clothes for MONTHS.

    I also think your tone tries too hard at emotionally triggering a guilt response. "If only us energy hoarders gave these poor people washing machines they'd have time to read books and learn." You don't mention the electricity, water and plumbing, infrastructure, and stable government required to have these luxuries such as a washing machine.

    Although your statistics are interesting and engaging, you make it seem like a bell curve of energy consumption is unnatural and ethically wrong. The result of capitalism is of course a very uneven distribution, but it helps everyone raise their standard of living. These underdeveloped countries are not struggling, they have absurdly high birth rates because of our ability to provide them with the food to keep exploding in population. And if you're going to use an example to demonstrate improvements in standards of living, at least pick something like agriculture that actually makes sense.
    • Mar 26 2011: Having spent a part of my life in that income group I can give you first hand knowledge of washing habits of that group. They do wash their clothes , almost every day ( unless youridea of that population is beggers and road squatters). With meagre supply of soap and water, normally cleaning efficiency is achived with vigorour rubbing or beating the cloth on a plank in villages or a slab in urban area. What would enlighten their life would be a communal washing machine with an affordable charge.

      It is a wonderful example and I appreciate Hans for selecting this indicator which is practical, understandable and to which most of the people can relate to.
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        Mar 27 2011: This is the third time I posted this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Le85KjalzwM&feature=watch_response_rev

        That is a link to a bicycle powered washing machine, made from two large drum barrels, and pipes. I'm sure a village could put together a few of these and save those who hand wash a full day of hard work. Now if they were to add a bicycle powered cart or wheel-barrow, they could bring their clean and wet clothes back home, and hang them to dry.

        If you check other videos posted by the same people, you'll see one where they could use bicycle-powered machines that can do other things. Best thing of all, it only costs as much as a bicycle; no need for a super-expensive engineering project that bankrupts the country and that puts several generations into wage slavery, and that only benefits the elite of their country.

        When Americans look back at their history, the greatest invention of all time wasn't something powered by steam or electricity, it was a simple machine that sped up our ability to remove seeds out of cotton. Teach people how to develop competency with simple machines and then let them build on that knowledge.
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      Mar 27 2011: You forget that people tend to have fewer babies as their standard of living rises.

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