Using Legos to Explain the World's Toughest Challenge, in the Next 50 Years

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Dr. Hans Rosling is a legendary TED presenter: He's appeared there a half-dozen times, using stats in ingenious ways to dispel common myths about the developing world. A professor at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, he's got a way of making complex forces intuitive, in stunningly short order, using infographics.

For example, check out this short video, where he uses a few Legos to illustrate the problems of population growth—and the central misconception about the so-called developing world:

The video is actually part of an impressive 20-part series sponsored by Ericsson, which includes videos by luminaries in developmental economics such as Jeffrey Sachs. Stay tuned for more videos.

In the meantime, if you want to get the straight dope from Rosling—an interactive versions of the graphs he uses in his presentations—check out his site, Gapminder. There, the breakthrough software that Rosling invented to create his infograhics is available for free.

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  • William L

    It is true that we are falling behind in development in almost every industry imaginable, and also true that we live in one of the most (if not the most) closed societies on earth.  Our interest for the rest of the world is minimal and our education, news and reporting is one of the worst in the world.
    We need to turn things around fast.

  • Michael Brown

    to David Rosen who wrote: " the West is not growing...while others are growing."

    Well, duhhh. Maybe that's because we did our growing several generations ago. It's called a plateau.

    These other nations are just catching up to the West. We don't 'need' to maintain the same pace of growth as a developing nation. We're already 10,000 yards ahead of the pack.

  • David Rosen

    I found Rosling's perspective to be plausible and realistic. The real challenge is can the world globalize, think globally and figure out how to balance the resources and production across countries without conflict?

    Can we think globally while still acting locally?

    My greatest concern is that the US is still not positioned to support the infrastructure and quality of life growth that is occuring outside of the US. And, the lego example provides a great demonstration of how the "West" is not growing over teh next 40 years while others are growing.

    I look forward to learning more from Dr. Rosling.
    David A. Rosen
    Acrelic Group

  • John King

    @BB: What a load of Nietzschean crock.

    I love the comment about Eastern Europe. Western Europe had the luck of being liberated by the Western Allies. Eastern Europe had the bad luck of being liberated by the Soviet Union. It had nothing to do with standing up to tyranny and if you think that you have no knowledge of modern history. If the Normandy landings had failed, France, Belgium, Norway, Denmark bla bla might have become part of the Soviet Empire.

    As far as Mexico is concerned, well Mexico had the disfortune of being conquered by conquistadors, not English/French as was the case with North America. The same factors that made England great made the US great (rule of law/enterprise) made the US great. Nothing to do with birth or race which is your implication.

    As far as Dubai or Kuwait are concerned, those countries appeared in the 20th century. 4 generations ago they were parts of the Ottoman Empire - as was Iraq. China (or Italy or England) has been at war with 'someone' for thousands of years with stable mostly governments & economies.

    As to belonging in the gutter - you should be grateful you were not born in Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, India etc. Then you would find how easy it would be pull yourself of the 'gutter' with 'willpower'.

    You should take up politics or commentary on Fox.

  • Jamie Christenson

    OK, so he sets up the problem, which I do agree with. The gap between the Western world and the "war torn countries like Somalia, Afghanistan, and [DR] Congo" is certainly getting wider.

    However, he then jumps to the wrong conclusion. According to him, the issue is the lack of global government. Sure, that would solve the problem; it would push the world down to the lowest common denominator. The rich countries would be taxed to pay for the poor countries, and the engine that drives our standard of living would grind to a halt.

    How about the other solution... fix the poor countries? In most of them, you'll find some sort of dictatorial government, corruption run rampant, and the elite government officials living like kings while their people starve to death. Get a democratic republic, where the government actually has to listen to the people, and you'll find they quickly join the rest of the world.

  • Byrne Berggren

    What a crock. Its bleeding hearts like this that are taking the world down a path it cannot recover from. "Globalization" and "world government" are keywords for putting 6 billion people on global welfare while 1/10 of 1% of the rest of us supports them.

    "Western Europe & North America" have no advantage... What kind of comment is this? Of course Western Europe & North America have an advantage... We have taken what we were born with and made the most of it. Case in point... The U.S. & Mexico. Both have been around exactly the same amount of time... What has the U.S. accomplished? What has Mexico Accomplished? (ask any of the 6 million illegal immigrants which country they prefer.)

    Another Case: Take any Western European country and compare it to nearly any former eastern block country. Western Europeans had the backbone to stand up to tyranny and made the most of what they had.

    Take a look at Dubai or Kuwait verses Iran or Iraq. The former have stable governments, economies, and peace... Iran and Iraq on the other hand have been at war with someone for thousands of years.... I'm sorry but their idiots.

    Everybody starts off equal at some point... people and countries. If an individual or a country is too weak-willed to pull themselves out of the gutter, so be it, that's where they belong. No amount of welfare, political correctness, or the west's money is ever going to make any difference.