Hans and Ola Rosling present an entertaining TED talk illustrating why many of our assumptions about the world tend to be wrong, and how to improve our chances of getting things right.
In the first half of the talk, Hans Rosling polls the audience on several questions about the world as a whole:
- On average, how many years of schooling have 30-year-old women had (given the statistic that 30-year-old men have had 8)?
- In the past 20 years, how has the percentage of people living in extreme poverty changed?
- Between 1900 and 2000, how have deaths from natural disasters changed on a per-year basis?
On every question, the audiences’ guesses are very pessimistic compared to the reality.
In the second half, Ola Rosling gives us four rules of thumb about how to make better guesses about the state of the world:
- Most things improve. If you’re unsure, guess that things are getting better.
- There is “one hump”. On any given scale, most people will be clustered in the middle.
- Social development tends to come before societies become wealthy, not after.
- Dangerous, scary things are much less common than we think. Fear makes us exaggerate threats.
This article from The Guardian gives more examples of how wildly inaccurate peoples’ assumptions about the world tend to be:
Of course, the news media itself is responsible for many of the misconceptions we have, since it is constantly focusing our attention on everything that’s wrong in the world.