Christian Long

Hans Rosling: Let My Dataset Change Your Mindset

In TED Talks on May 20, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Reflection by TAYLOR C.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Hans Rosling: Let My Dataset Change Your Mindset

When listening in on a conversation between his students about global issues, Dr. Rosling noticed their concept of the world was based on “we” and “them”. “We” meaning the western world (or long life in small family) and “them” meaning the developing world (or living a short life in a large family). His problem with their ‘mindset’ of the world is that they were basing it on knowledge and data dated back from the time of their professors birth. In-fact (he explained) most of our population is unaware of what is actually going on in the world, and is unaware of the improvement many emerging foreign countries have made. So using a new google application he managed to put various types of data based on child mortality, poverty, population increase/decrease, average income, life spans, etc. of various countries. He was able to compare the countries in various categories, for example China and the US. Over the same time span he displayed the different type of growth America and China went through to eventually reach the same state. Americas economy was the first to grow, which caused wealth and eventually led to healthier people. On the other hand, in China the people first began to get healthier, which lead to social development and eventually economical growth and success.

Dr. Rosling then began to explain that all of the successful countries or ‘superpowers’ all went through very similar growth processes, and now all of smaller or ‘developing’ countries are now going through very similar processes. But much like an older sibling, the ‘superpowers’ of today should take the initiative to share their data (advice) with the rest of the world in order for them to reach their status. An example of this free data is constantly found in the US, such as the measure of child mortality. Child mortality is an issue faced in all countries, but more so in others. The average amount of child mortality falls every year in the US, so it is up to them to share that with the rest of the world so the have a constant to compare to.

The topic of disease such as HIV/AIDS then came up. When referring to HIV/AIDS people have the initial thought of Africa Everyone has the mindset that there is a AIDS epidemic going on in Africa. But once Dr. Rosling split the data of each separate country in Africa the truth begins to surface. Many countries in Africa have low numbers of AIDS infected people, and in the countries with high numbers percentages aren’t necessarily higher among the poor, but are often higher in the wealthier areas. But the point Dr. Rosling was trying to get across is that AIDS is not a social statues issue, it is not a racial issue, or an Africa issue. AIDS is an issue faced everywhere, and as Ms. Elizabeth Pisani explained in her TED talk “Sex, drugs, and HIV — let’s get rational” HIV/AIDS is an issue that needs to be taken care of and prevented by the governments of each country facing it in their own personally designed way.

The new mindset of people is beginning to center around the concept of Convergence, but (as Dr. Rosling put it), that does not include the bottom billion countries…but that will not be sustainable, and will not work with only one ‘superpower’. But for the time being the US and the other ‘superpowers’ of the world will remain the most important and must eventually be crucial to the improvement of the world, along with TED.


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