“We start the world”
With his characteristic enthusiasm, Hans Rosling begins an animation showing how the world has progressed over time.
Rosling was a professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute. Together with his son and daughter in law, Rosling developed the software behind his dynamic visualizations and shared this through his nonprofit Gapminder.
Hans Rosling passed away in February 2017. His spirit continues to inspire the many people he touched with his passion, humor and commitment to making the world healthier, happier and better educated.
In 2018, his book “Factfulness,” was published. Hans cowrote this book with his son Ola and and daughter-in-law, Anna. Wow. This book is so full of facts AND passion AND fun AND hope.
Hans Rosling made facts fun. With playful enthusiasm, Hans Rosling showed us how far humanity has progressed. By showing how far human development has progressed, he offered us a realistic message of hope. He turned statistics into stories that riveted us with their insights. His data also offers guidance for where we need to focus our energies.
“In Hans Rosling’s hands, data sings. Global trends in health and economics come to vivid life. And the big picture of global development—with some surprisingly good news—snaps into sharp focus.” ~ TED Talks Bio
Data as Therapy
Hans saw numbers as more than numbers. He saw them representing people, their health, their happiness and their all around well-being. So although he was a statistician, it was always in service of people health and happiness.
“Factfulness: The stress-reducing habit of only carrying opinions for which you have strong supporting facts.” ~ Ola Rosling, Gapminder
“This is data as you have never known it: it is data a therapy. It is understanding as a source of mental peace. Because the world is not as dramatic as it seems.” ~ Hans Rosling
“Factfulness, like a healthy diet and regular exercise, can and should become part of your daily life. Start to practice it, and you will be able to replace your overdramatic worldview with a worldview based on facts.” ~Hans Rosling,
Hans finds that factfulness can ease embarrassment and defensiveness. When one is curious to know facts, mistakes are easier to handle:
“It means letting your mistakes trigger curiosity instead of embarrassment.”
“If your worldview is wrong, then you will systematically make wrong guesses.” ~ Hans Rosling
As a doctor passionate about saving lives, Rosling was dismayed to learn that so many people did not have accurate data about human health and wellbeing. Without accurate facts, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to make good decisions. “How could policy makers and politician solve global problems if they were operating on the wrong facts,” he asked.
“There’s no room for facts when our minds are occupied by fear.” ~Hans Rosling,
“This book [Factfulness] is my very last battle in my lifelong mission to fight devastating global ignorance. It is my last attempt to make an impact on the world: to change people’s ways of thinking, calm their irrational fears, and redirect their energies into constructive activities.”
“I’m a very serious “possibilist”. That’s something I made up. It means someone who neither hopes without reason, nor fears without reason, someone who constantly resists the overdramatic worldview. As a possibilist, I see all this progress, and it fills me with conviction and hope that further progress is possible. This is not optimistic. It is having a clear and reasonable idea about how things are. It is having a worldview that is constructive and useful.” ~ Hans Rosling,
I am personally, so grateful to Hans Rosling’s declaration that he is a possibilitist: not an pessimist, not an optimist, but a possibilitist. Seeing that one is not bound by two, or even three choices, I questioned myself. Am I a pessimist, an optimist, a possibilitist or something else. I realized that I think of myself as an optimizer. The future is not automatically better or worse. I agree with Hans that the future is a set of possibilities. But I see the future as requiring agency to make it better for humans. We humans have evolved the gift of foreseeing the future (if to plan tonight’s dinner, to plan a career or to plan landing on Mars). But that vision does not become reality until we take the steps to make it real. We humans have the unique ability to imagine and then optimize our future. No other creature has that power to the degree that humans do.
How do you describe yourself?
By understanding long term trends, he had perspective that offered us all hope. If I were to nominate the Evolutionary of the Decade, Hans Rosling would be the man. His worldview is an evolutionary worldview, not a “dramatic” worldview (as he called it). A dramtic worldview is based on fear and outdated assumptions. His worldview, like the Epic of Evolution, is based on facts.
“Debunking third-world myths with the best stats you’ve ever seen.”
“Forming your worldview by relying on the media would be like forming your view about me by looking only at a picture of my foot.” ~ Hans Rosling,
“As long as things are bad it’s heartless to say they are getting better.” ~ Hans Rosling,