“Africa is doomed to be poor” -- that wrongheaded statement is an example of the destiny instinct, the belief that innate characteristics determine the destinies of countries or cultures, says the late global health expert Hans Rosling. Here’s why it happens and how to overcome it.Continue reading
Why you should listen
Even the most worldly and well-traveled among us have had their perspectives shifted by Hans Rosling. A professor of global health at Sweden's Karolinska Institute, his work focused on dispelling common myths about the so-called developing world, which (as he pointed out) is no longer worlds away from the West. In fact, most of the Third World is on the same trajectory toward health and prosperity, and many countries are moving twice as fast as the west did.
What set Rosling apart wasn't just his apt observations of broad social and economic trends, but the stunning way he presented them. Guaranteed: You've never seen data presented like this. A presentation that tracks global health and poverty trends should be, in a word: boring. But in Rosling's hands, data sings. Trends come to life. And the big picture — usually hazy at best — snaps into sharp focus.
Rosling's presentations were grounded in solid statistics (often drawn from United Nations and World Bank data), illustrated by the visualization software he developed. The animations transform development statistics into moving bubbles and flowing curves that make global trends clear, intuitive and even playful. During his legendary presentations, Rosling took this one step farther, narrating the animations with a sportscaster's flair.
Rosling developed the breakthrough software behind his visualizations through his nonprofit Gapminder, founded with his son and daughter-in-law. The free software — which can be loaded with any data — was purchased by Google in March 2007. (Rosling met the Google founders at TED.)
Rosling began his wide-ranging career as a physician, spending many years in rural Africa tracking a rare paralytic disease (which he named konzo) and discovering its cause: hunger and badly processed cassava. He co-founded Médecins sans Frontièrs (Doctors without Borders) Sweden, wrote a textbook on global health, and as a professor at the Karolinska Institut in Stockholm initiated key international research collaborations. He's also personally argued with many heads of state, including Fidel Castro.
Hans Rosling passed away in February 2017. He is greatly missed.
What others say
“Rosling believes that making information more accessible has the potential to change the quality of the information itself.” — Business Week Online
Hans Rosling’s TED talks
More news and ideas from Hans Rosling
I was there when Hans Rosling first shook the room at TED, and transformed tiresome medical statistics into an action-packed, live performance about real people’s lives on the line. He’s since been namechecked by Bill Gates. And he outlasted Fidel Castro – twice. Not merely mortally. In an interview on the TED Blog, Hans recounts […]Continue reading