Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hans Rosling

I was listening to the BBC's Start The Week podcast with Jonathan Franzen and during a lively and interesting discussion of Franzen's new novel, Freedom, Andrew Marr asked Franzen about over population. Franzen and everyone on the panel agreed that this was one of those issues that "no one ever talks about" because basically its insoluble. This idea goes back a long way. "Let's help these two beggars," one of Jesus's disciples said. "Nah, forget it," Jesus told them, "the poor are always with us," - which is one of the most famous category mistakes in the history of philosophy. The Start The Week guests agreed that third world poverty and overpopulation was an issue politicians ignored because "nothing could be done".

The conversation amazed me because no one on the panel mentioned Hans Rosling. I thought everyone knew about Hans Rosling by now. Over the last three years at a series of TED conferences Rosling has been busting myths about overpopulation and third world poverty using the hard science of statistical analysis. Doom and gloom might sell books, but this is not the true story at all.