Facts vs Emotions: Gapminder founder Hans Rosling has died and left a legacy

There is a nice Swedish documentary about Hans Rosling, where the camera team is following the statistics professor and TED talk star for a day, starting early morning in his house just after he has got up, as every other human being does, too. Day after day. While I was scrawling through the internet today, on a relaxing Saturday morning, I found out that Hans Rosling died on 7 February this year.

Bildschirmfoto 2017-09-02 um 14.46.05.pngI was not connected personally to him in any way, I only got to know him through watching his TED talks in recent years and reading a bit about his work. His talks always impressed me due to his impressive visual presentation style. He made international statistical data about world development trends not only understandable but exciting. He used data to counteract superficial and rather emotionally-loaded discussions on development trends. Here are just a few of his generic arguments:

  • Published trend discussions about world development are often not based on real factual analysis
  • There are many myths and a dominance of emotional argumentation when it comes to matters related to world trends. We need more evidence-based discussions
  • The distinction between developing and developed countries is  so superficial that is a shame that educated people still use it
  • The stereotypes about the development of certain continents promote racial stereotype thinking (e.g. Africa as a negative stereotype, EU as a positive one). If we do not differentiate further and look at longer-term trends, we close our eyes to actual development realities
  • Our belief systems and ‘corridor thinking’ often leads us to wrong assumptions. We have to decide ourselves how far we want to really understand the world using facts or whether we would rather stick to our mistaken interpretations.

You can find many videos of Rosling’s speeches and presentations on several topics if you Google his name on youtube, They are all fun to watch. They are all revealing. They all challenge our world views.

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This morning, before I went for a walk in the countryside, I searched for more information about his death. I found a very insightful  podcast documentary from BBC about him and his life, recorded just after his death. It was revealing and even moving to listen to the story of an individual who really wanted to understand better and who also wanted to enlighten his listeners about his findings. While listening to the podcast on this Saturday morning walk, I myself felt kind of enlightened. And I felt really thankful to him for these moments of meaningful insights. It is a vivid legacy he left behind.


2 Kommentare

  1. Hello Frank, Thank you for the great post. Hans really left behind a great legacy. What I also appreciated about him was that whenever I emailed him a question about any of this presentations or about the gap minder software, he always replied. And then he would follow up a few days later to hear if I was satisfied with his explanations. It always left me with a sense of awe that he was so driven to get other people to ask better questions about data, about health and about the progress of reducing poverty around the world! Thank you for also sharing your personal thoughts, I must admit that his death also left me feeling very sad and wondering about how I better contribute to the world.

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