Monday, February 13, 2017

Hans Rosling, Storyteller of Facts Not Enough of Us Know

I can't believe I've barely mentioned the work of Hans Rosling on this blog, and now he's dead.

Just 68 years old, he died of pancreatic cancer on February 7. I don't believe he had let it be known he had been ill for about a year. He just kept going with his work in public health and what he called "edutainment." That term doesn't sound like a positive thing to my American ear (a bit too much like reality TV, a la The "Learning" Channel), but he really meant the "edu" part of it, combining data with appealing visuals to make it not just lively but also more understandable.

There are lots of videos to demonstrate this:

All of this information comes together in his work with Gapminder, which tries to educate all of us about the gaps in our knowledge of reality. For instance, is the number of people living in extreme poverty higher now or lower lower than it was 30 years ago? Or, what is the average life expectancy around the world? Almost everyone gets these questions wrong, and always in the more pessimistic direction. Take the Gapminder quiz here.

A few years ago, Rosling spent much of a year in Liberia, helping to fight the Ebola outbreak there. While many other Westerners were just talking, or even worse, making the situation worse with bans and unneeded quarantines, he was acting to help.

His work at Gapminder will be carried on by his son, Ola Rosling, and daughter-in-law, Anna Rosling Rönnlund.

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