The Power of Information (or we’re not all doomed)

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When I was young, I watched Basil Brush on Saturday tea time before Doctor Who. I remember once he said, you can always tell when the news is on, because it’s the bit where the bad guys win. In 2017, it feels that we’re watching the news 24/7, because with 24 hours rolling news, we actually are. And it’s all pretty depressing.

Ever since the economic downturn of 2008, our leaders and our media told us it’s bad but there is no alternative. It’s pretty much a rerun of the 1980s, when many people saw their communities ripped apart and we had riots on the streets and a dreadful destructive miners strike which tore the heart of areas like the North east of England and South Wales.

The unintended consequence of this is that it destroys people’s hope. It spreads hopelessness. The belief that we’re all doomed and there’s nothing we can do about it.

However, in 2013, BBC2 broadcast a programme which dared to suggest that actually we’re not all doomed and things are getting better. And best of all, it used the power of information to challenge many preconceived ideas. In Don’t panic the truth about population, Professor Hans Rosling challenged the commonly held views that:

  • Global population is rising inexorably to unsustainable levels
  • That poor countries remain poor
  • That factors such as religious faiths present insurmountable barriers to development and the emancipation and education of women

And he rather mischievously showed that a random group of chimpanzees had a better chance of getting answers right about these matters than a group of human beings drawn from graduates of elite British Universities.

He used information and its visualisation to show how development is spreading around the world. Information can challenge mistaken ideas that are based on incorrect preconceptions and what may surprise many, it can challenge the mistaken idea that the world is going to hell in a handcart.

Don’t let the gainsayers continue to propagate the view that global development isn’t working:

The best information showed that in 2013 from a global perspective:

  • Life expectancy was increasing
  • Maternal and child mortality was decreasing
  • The percentage of the global population in extreme poverty was falling
  • The gap between rich and poor was narrowing
  • Literacy and numeracy rates were improving

And in 2017, they still are! Non illegitimum carborundum!

Catch a flavour at http://youtu.be/QpdyCJi3Ib4 (link is external)

Test your own preconceptions at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24836917 (link is external)

 

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