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Home » Stats That Reshape Your World-View by Hans Rosling (Transcript)

Stats That Reshape Your World-View by Hans Rosling (Transcript)

Here is the transcript and summary of Hans Rosling’s talk titled “Stats That Reshape Your World-View” at TED conference.

Listen to the audio version here:

TRANSCRIPT:

Hans Rosling – Professor of Global Health, Karolinska Institute, Sweden

About 10 years ago, I took on the task to teach global development to Swedish undergraduate students. That was after having spent about 20 years together with African institutions studying hunger in Africa, so I was sort of expected to know a little about the world.

And I started in our medical university, Karolinska Institute, an undergraduate course called Global Health. But when you get that opportunity, you get a little nervous. I thought, these students coming to us actually have the highest grade you can get in Swedish college systems — so, I thought, maybe they know everything I’m going to teach them about.

So I did a pre-test when they came. And one of the questions from which I learned a lot was this one: “Which country has the highest child mortality of these five pairs?” And I put them together, so that in each pair of country, one has twice the child mortality of the other.

And this means that it’s much bigger a difference than the uncertainty of the data. I won’t put you at a test here, but it’s Turkey, which is highest there, Poland, Russia, Pakistan and South Africa. And these were the results of the Swedish students. I did it so I got the confidence interval, which is pretty narrow, and I got happy, of course: a 1.8 right answer out of five possible. That means that there was a place for a professor of international health — and for my course.

But one late night, when I was compiling the report I really realized my discovery. I have shown that Swedish top students know statistically significantly less about the world than the chimpanzees. Because the chimpanzee would score half right if I gave them two bananas with Sri Lanka and Turkey. They would be right half of the cases. But the students are not there. The problem for me was not ignorance; it was preconceived ideas.

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