Looking At the World Through Stats: Hans Rosling

Assumptions are so easy make. I know I’m guilty of it.  And although I try very hard to see the world without pre-assumptions or generalizations, I am often plagued by what I perceive to be true, rather than what is actually statistically true.

Maybe that’s why I was so enamoured when I first learned about Hans Rosling. Hans Rosling was a Swedish academic who challenged the way people perceived development through the use of data. He had a knack for presenting data that was engaging, relatable and most importantly, ones that broke preconceptions. He recently died early this year in February from a battle with pancreatic cancer, and it saddens me that I only knew who he was with his passing.

A bit about Hans…

Hans was a professor of international health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute. In 2007, he decided to leave his position to dedicate his time to his not-for-profit organization, Gapminder. Gapminder is described as a “fact tank, not think tank” that “produces free teaching resources making the world understandable based on reliable statistics.”

Hans was an educator, or as he says “edutainer,” who used humour and often unlikely objects to liven up presentations on data on wealth, inequality and population. In 2006, he gave a TED talk on “the best stats you’ve never seen” in which he debunked several myths about world development. The video was viewed millions of times and from there, he became a Pop-star statistician around the world.

But not just a lecturer, as a physician Hans was often at the forefront of emergency situations. In 2014, when Liberia and Sierra Leone were declared states of emergency due to the outbreak of Ebola, Hans went out to Monrovia to work with the Liberian government on their emergency response, tracking cases and pinpointing missing data.

How not to be ignorant about the world

Just from watching his 20 minute videos, Hans has made me smarter by breaking a part my perceptions with grounded facts. Here are a few of Hans’s best lectures to hopefully break some of yours as well.

What role does religion play in babies?
And the video that started it all in 2006: The best statistics you’ve never seen.

The world lost an important human being this year – one who wanted to understand the world for what was actually happening, and not for the preconceptions that we were making. He believed in the possibility of possibility because the facts told him so. And because of Hans, I will too.

Feature Image belongs to: http://blogs.studyinsweden.se/2015/12/21/hans-rosling-the-man-whos-making-data-cool/



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