On February 7th, the Swedish statistician Hans Rosling died, at the too young age of 68 years. He inspired me a lot with his TED talks, in which he passionately presented beautiful statistical graphs that show the great progress that all corners of the world have seen in the past century. Health, income, babies per woman, life expectancy etc have improved much more than many people think, and in just a few decades many countries have leaped from a medieval state to a 20th centuries condition. If you like to see some of these wonderful graphs, please visit his organization Gapminder. Or watch Hans Rosling on TED. Some people called him one of the worlds’ best teachers. He will be missed.
After I received the sad news, I watched his famous second TED talk of ten years ago again (please watch it all the way till the end). I was touched by the core message of this talk and I realized that it definitely was “an idea worth spreading”. So herewith I do. Rosling presented “The dimensions of development”. This time not in a graph, but in a table. It looks like this:
All these topics are important for development, but some are more important than others, depending on your perspective. Rosling did something very smart: he rated all topics both as a means and as a goal. And it turns out that these two aspects have an inverse rating. Economic growth is a very important means for development. 80% of development is driven by economic growth. But economic growth is not a goal. It is not what people live for. The important goals in people’s lives are human rights and culture. Rosling said: “Culture is the most important goal. That is what brings joy to life. It is the value of living.”
It reminded me of Schopenhauer, who said that art is the only way to liberate us from the prison of will and reason (see my first blog). Unfortunately most politicians only focus on the means of development and not on the goals. But we should not lose heart because of that. Hans Rosling stressed that “the seemingly impossible is possible”. So let’s celebrate music and life and spread his word.