Hans Rosling: Don’t panic

Leigh Turner
Leigh Turner

The Hans Rosling video “Don’t Panic” is a powerful lesson in why we all should examine the facts before we leap to conclusions – and why the world is far better than we think it is.  Watch the video!

How many children now – and in 2100?

How many children (defined as people aged 0-15) lived in the world in the year 2000? Answer: two billion.

How many are there now, in 2020?

And how many will there be, on present trends, by the year 2100?

Hans Rosling: Don’t Panic!

The answer, according to Swedish statistician Hans Rosling in this compulsive communications masterclass, is: there are two billion children now, and there will still be two billion in the year 2100.  We have passed “peak child”.

What about the world population?

By 2100, he forecasts, the world population will have increased from today’s seven billion to around eleven billion.

But, Rosling says, because rising living standards and better education are cutting fertility rates, population growth between now and 2100 will all be among older people; and by then, the world population will be tending towards stability.

What percentage of the world’s population are literate? 20%? 40%? 60%? 80%?

How many babies do women have on average in Bangladesh?  2.5? 3.5? 4.5? 5.5?

Rosling presents a slew of statistics using everything from graphs to building blocks to communicate an optimistic assessment of future growth trends, while noting that even on these figures, we risk destroying ourselves with climate change.

You may disagree.  But for a masterclass in communication you can’t do better than this.

For: informative, entertaining, and occasionally jaw-dropping.

Against: we all know the phrase “lies, damned lies and statistics”.

Hans Rosling: other resources

If you enjoyed this post you may wish to look at my post: Things are getting better.  Not worse. You might also like my post “Population Crash: why it’s coming and why it’s good“. This, interestingly, cites a study in the respected medical journal “The Lancet” from 2020 – five years after this post was first published – predicting that the world population will stabilise and decline faster than forecast by Rosling. In 2100, “The Lancet”, predicted, the world population would be 8.6 billion, rather than the 11 billion forecast by Rosling. 

PS the phrase “Don’t Panic” is of course central to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, although its most famous proponent (as noted by Richard in comments below) is possible Corporal Jones of Dad’s Army.

P.P.S. If you enjoy fresh, original writing, please subscribe to my weekly newsletter (you can unsubscribe anytime you wish).  Or I would be delighted if you would like have a look at my most recent books.

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2 Responses

  1. Surely “Don’t panic!’ Is best known as one of Corporal Jones’s catchphrases in ‘Dad’s Army’?

  2. Hans Rosling is indeed a master communicator. I particularly like one of his early TED talks which he concludes with a bit of sword swallowing…just the thing to liven up your next diplomatic dinner when the conversation flags….

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