Hans Rosling

Hans Rosling, Founder of the Invaluable GapMinder, Has Died

'Facts don't come naturally. Drama and opinions do.'


Gapminder Media

Swedish physician and statistician Hans Rosling insisted that facts must be used to guide debates over public policy. This stance is surprisingly rare since most "serious" politicians and pundits make their livings by falsely peddling dystopia and by dispensing "alternative facts." In order to get the facts about population, living standards, food supplies, ecology, economic growth, life expectancy trends, and so forth to the public, Rosling established the fantastic Gapminder project. "Unveiling the beauty of statistics for a fact based world view" is Gapminder's motto. Gapminder makes brilliantly available in easily graspable graphics the best statistical information about the human and planetary prospect.

"We promote a new way of thinking about the world and the society which we call Factfulness. It is the relaxing habit of carrying opinions that are based on solid facts," states the website. Gapminder exists because…

…We humans are born with a craving for fat and sugar. But we are also born with a craving for drama. We pay attention to dramatic stories and we get bored if nothing happens.

Journalists and lobbyists tell dramatic stories. That's their job. They tell stories about extraordinary events and unusual people. The piles of dramatic stories pile up in peoples minds into an overdramatic worldview and strong negative stress feelings: "The world is getting worse!", "It's we vs. them!" , "Other people are strange!", "The population just keeps growing!" and "Nobody cares!"

For the first time in human history reliable statistics exist. There's data for almost every aspect of global development. The data shows a very different picture: a world where most things improve; a world that is not divided. People across cultures and religions make decisions based on universal human needs, which are easy to understand. The fast population growth will soon be over. The total number of children in the world has stopped growing. The remaining population growth is an inevitable consequence of large generations born decades back. We live in a globalized world, not only in terms of trade and migration. More people than ever care about global development! The world has never been less bad. Which doesn't mean it's perfect. The world is far from perfect.

The dramatic worldview has to be dismantled, because it is stressful and wrong. It leads to bad focus and bad decisions. We know this because we have measured the global ignorance among the world's top decision makers in public and private sector. Their global ignorance is high, just like the ignorance of journalists, activists, teachers and the general public. This has nothing to do with intelligence. It's a problem of factual knowledge. Facts don't come naturally. Drama and opinions do. Factual knowledge has to be learned. We need to teach global facts in schools and in corporate training. This is an exciting problem to work on and we invite all our users to join the Gapminder movement for global factfulness. The problem can be solved, because the data exists.

Earlier I cited a Nature article about Rosling which offered a 8 item quiz (scroll down a bit) that promises to change your mind about the world.

Rosling died of pancreatic cancer on Tuesday morning. Rosling did great good for the world and he will be sorely missed.

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  1. “Swedish physician and statistician Hans Rosling insisted that facts must be used to guide debates over public policy.”

    Stop right there, you right-winger, I’m onto your agenda and your so-called “facts.”

    Will facts get out in the streets to do the needed beatdowns of fascists?

    Will facts start viral Internet memes which TOTALLY DESTROY the right wing?

    Will facts give us safe spaces?

  2. Not Hans! Who will explain population growth with boxes now?

    1. -1 coffin

  3. I didn’t recognize his name, but I sure recognized his graphs and charts and general work. He had a real knack for cutting to the chase through thickets of emotional fake alternative newsiness.

  4. This is great – I need to show it to two of my friends.

    Young-earth creationists who insist that the human condition has done nothing except deteriorate over time. One made the claim that slavery is at an all-time historical high, using “factory slaves” in China as his main argument.

    When I asked the other why they were so invested in this, he point-blank told me that as a Christian, it is an article of faith that the world will only get worse and worse until Christ comes to redeem mankind. He point blank refuses to acknowledge any facts that might show the lot of the human race improving over time.

    I even tried asking him once if he thought we were better off in the Dark Ages after the fall of the Western Empire. His response? Families were closer and people had more honor and morality, and that current society is so debauched that yes, people were better off in Germany in the year 600 than they are now.

    And before any accusations come in, no, I do not ascribe this mode of thinking to most Christians. I happen to be friends with some extremely fundamentalist fellows (water vapor canopy gave people long lives when the earth was first created 6,000 years ago, etc.)

    1. Sorry, the point of that ramble was that I think this website is a real find, and I can’t wait to show the data to these two gentlemen.

    2. people were better off in Germany in the year 600 than they are now.

      That…that’s not even Christian bias! They were pagans until Charlemagne came and mass murdered them 200 years later. By his standards, they were beyond debauched (and it’s not like they didn’t know about Christianity, they’ve been dealing with Romans for centuries).

      1. Depends on the Germanics. Saxons, sure, a bunch of them were Arians, modern day Bavaria was fairly Christianized by then, etc.

      2. Look, you know that, and I know that, and deep down inside, he knows that.

        But he had to find some way to respond without shattering his absolute belief that the human condition has, on aggregate, only ever gotten progressively worse since the crucifixion. So that’s how he rationalizes it.

        I think it’s all crazy talk – I grew up in a mixed Baptist/Church of Christ family, and heard some weird stuff on occasion from the latter group, but I had honestly never met somebody like this until I moved to Texas. Now it’s like half of my friends.

    3. he point-blank told me that as a Christian, it is an article of faith that the world will only get worse and worse until Christ comes to redeem mankind

      I’m going to take a completely non-evidence guess (an anti-Rosling conclusion if you will) that your friends fit into the dispensational, pre-millennial category. Not only does the eschatology fit but their implication that anyone who doesn’t agree with that view is not a Christian is also consistent with that view.

      1. Well he’s 36 yrs old, so def. pre-millennial.

        1. Not sure if that’s an excellent joke on your part or if I didn’t provide context. In case it’s the latter: Premillennialism.

  5. Politicians can’t sell facts to constituents. Hans “Grueber” you’re an idiot. Market forces, Market forces, are what politicians “trade” in. They can’t sell what NO ONE is buying.

  6. Aw shit. I saw his name trending earlier and figured he had made another enlightening video. Fuckin’ cancer.

    Thanks and RIP.

  7. Damn, that sucks. He was one of the best antidotes to all the doom and gloom that I’ve run across.

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