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Watch 200 Years of Global Growth In 4 Minutes 270

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the statistics-are-fun dept.
kkleiner writes "A professor of international health in Sweden, Hans Rosling has a long history of exploring the facts and figures that surround our changing world. In the a segment of the BBC series, Rosling gives one of his most famous lectures with a new twist. Using 120,000+ bits of data and augmented reality, the exuberant professor takes us through the last 200 years of global history and its uneven growth of wealth and health." This is really worth watching. Seriously.

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Watch 200 Years of Global Growth In 4 Minutes

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  • And... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by copponex (13876) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @02:59PM (#34549948) Homepage

    ...our growth is almost entirely based on the use of oil for transportation, new materials, pesticides, fertilizers, construction equipment, etc, etc, etc. It's going to be messy when it starts to run dry.

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @03:16PM (#34550248) Journal

      ...our growth is almost entirely based on the use of oil for transportation, new materials, pesticides, fertilizers, construction equipment, etc, etc, etc. It's going to be messy when it starts to run dry.

      Huh, well, from my point of view, the growth is based more so on just pure unadulterated knowledge. Knowledge of how to make all the above work for us despite its evils. As we increase knowledge this only gets better. As time progresses, we get better at exchanging and persisting knowledge (we're doing it right now on glowing squares in front of us but we could be across the world). It will only get messy if we stop promoting science, medicine, learning, education, research, understanding, translation, tolerance, etc.

      Just another optimistic spin to put back on the already staggering performance we've exhibited relatively recently.

      • by Chonnawonga (1025364) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @03:21PM (#34550332)

        You both have a point, but sharing and using knowledge takes energy. Without the cheap energy of oil (or an alternative which has yet to take over) all that knowledge won't go very far or even last very long.

        • by lgw (121541)

          When the cheap energy of the Sun runs out, we'll have bigger issues. In the meantime, it seems oil will last us through the transition. The knowledge of efficient solar power (not necessarily photoelectric), plus energy-dense batteries will chage the world to the point that hippies will have to find some entirely new dooom-and-gloom scenario to get all worked up about. It just won't happen at internet speed, sorry.

    • Re:And... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by eln (21727) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @03:17PM (#34550284) Homepage
      I was also struck by how basically every country left in the "sick and poor" category is in Africa. A sixth of the world's population lives on the African continent, and it has, aside from being exploited virtually continuously by wealthier nations, been largely left behind.
      • Re:And... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @04:07PM (#34551096) Homepage

        On the other hand, Asia has been no less exploited and has managed to start catching up with the West despite of that.

        • Re:And... (Score:4, Informative)

          by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @05:49PM (#34552894) Homepage

          That's definitely not true. For the most part, Asian nations forced out European invaders, whereas Africans didn't do as well, and the American Indians completely failed at defending their territory.

          China pushed the British and other Europeans back to Hong Kong through sheer numbers as much as anything else. Japan adopted a different strategy, and basically submitted to the trade agreements the western powers wanted in exchange for advisors who gave Japan the technology and skills needed to kick the western powers out. India was in pretty bad shape before Gandhi convinced the Brits to leave using nonviolent resistance. Afghanistan has also resisted repeated invasion militarily, but the constant takeover attempts are a large part of why they're in such bad shape.

          Compare that to Africa, where there were definite attempts at resistance (notably the Zulu War), and some limited success (independent Ethiopia lasted until WWI), but in general the African nations had spears and bows against muskets and cannons, and any Civ player can tell you that that isn't a winnable fight.

          And of course, compare that to the Americas, where not only were the locals outmatched technologically, but much of the population was wiped out by disease.

      • Re:And... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @04:16PM (#34551244)

        Africa needs to stop acting like children.

        For the most part in America and Europe, race isn't as big of a factor. I'm not saying that racism is gone. But unlike ages ago there isn't "Irish" vs "Italian", they're all 'white'. In Africa entire cultures are brutally raped, mangled and murdered because of a small genetic variation of nose or ear size. The world maybe learned something from Hitler.

        You have health care information such as "Rape a virgin and cure your HIV." Warlords and Presidents accumulating wealth that makes our overpaid CEOs look like chump change.

        Then you have warlords taking over working farms from "white" farmers. Kicking them out of the country, scrapping all of the irrigation for a cheap buck and wondering why people are now starving.

    • Yes, there will be disruptions and "hiccups" regarding supply/demand of energy. But by and large, market forces usually takes care of these issues. But at least here in the US, our government needs to seriously review our nuclear policy and transmission line infrastructure. Nobody said dropping the crack habit (oil) was easy. Withdrawal is to be expected during a transition period.

    • ...our growth is almost entirely based on the use of oil for transportation, new materials, pesticides, fertilizers, construction equipment, etc, etc, etc. It's going to be messy when it starts to run dry.

      For the first half of that period it would have been coal rather than oil.

    • by mdsolar (1045926)
      Oil is becoming a smaller part of our energy use. Perhaps it is already starting to run out. Nice little article on Chine running out of coal here: http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/14/does-china-face-a-peak-coal-threat/ [nytimes.com]
    • No it's not. There is for all piratical purposes unlimited amounts of oil in the planet. We're getting to the lower ores, the tars and sluge, basically. Once we're below that, we've got air and water. That's why many, many people are looking to that unlimited oil resource (sky and water and sun), so that won't happen. There has never been a non-localized shortage on earth in history.

      Here's some of the best links in this regard:
      1. The synthesis of gasoline and diesel with nuclear energy (PDF) [aaenvironment.com].
      2. The San [sandia.gov]
    • She wants her theme sound back.

      Waaah wuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh.

  • Is the lone red dot remaining in the Sick & Poor quadrant North Korea by chance?

    • Is the lone red dot remaining in the Sick & Poor quadrant North Korea by chance?

      Actually no [wikipedia.org], it isn't [tripod.com]

      Given that North Korea has an average life expectancy of 63.8 and a per-capita income of $1,700, that would put it solidly above the 50 year line. The North Korea dot is most likely the one slightly above and to the left of India.

      • by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @03:22PM (#34550350) Journal
        P.S. here's a great map of life expectancy by country [wikipedia.org]

        It's pretty clear the lowest life expectancy in Asia is Afghanistan.
      • by jfengel (409917)

        Astute analysis. Just want to add that the numbers for North Korea are estimates. The life expectancy of nearly 64 sounds a bit dubious to me, given their perpetual food crises, but I suppose they're getting enough aid to bring it up to India-style poverty.

        • While that may be true, do you think this graph was made off of a census specifically sanctioned within the borders of North Korea by Hans Rosling himself, or do you think he's going by existing census and income information?!

          I'm not saying the data is correct, I'm saying that dot in the lower left quadrant of the graph is Afghanistan and not North Korea.
          • by jfengel (409917)

            You're almost certainly correct about that; I should have been clearer. Rosling wasn't gathering the data, just presenting it.

            I was just surprised to hear North Korea's life expectancy estimated so high.

            • You're almost certainly correct about that; I should have been clearer. Rosling wasn't gathering the data, just presenting it.

              I was just surprised to hear North Korea's life expectancy estimated so high.

              Ahh - cheers mate, I was also quite surprised.

              Thought that was the argumentative standpoint, but after a re-read and the above comment it's clearly not.

              I actually wouldn't be terribly surprised if both the income and life expectancy are off. Most countries have an average income that's 2/3rds of their per-capita GDP (which can more accurately be measured by exports) considering South Korea's Per-capita GDP is $1,900, the actual average income is more likely to be closer to $1,250 (not that it is guara

    • by Robotbeat (461248) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @03:16PM (#34550254) Journal

      Is the lone red dot remaining in the Sick & Poor quadrant North Korea by chance?

      Nope, it's Afghanistan. (I know because I replicated this graph using their website gapminder.org)... Just so you know, GapMinder World will color Afghanistan turquoise, not red.

    • by JustOK (667959) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @03:17PM (#34550280) Journal

      or, perhaps, "Works for Rackspace"

  • by magarity (164372) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @03:09PM (#34550110)

    He slows the presentation to show World War 1 and the Spanish Flu epidemic but he didn't mention the Cultural Revolution in China during the 60's when the large circle representing China takes a HUGE dive. Some analysis relating political/economic systems to this graph is needed. When Smith wrote An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Wealth of Nations, it was because the UK was the outlier in the top right of this graph. Now that a lot of countries are in that quadrant, it is worth noting the outliers are now the few remaining in the lower left. These are the countries whose political systems most interfere with market forces and prevent their citizens from being productive.

    • I noticed that, too. Makes you sick to see the biggest circle drop like that. What a tragic waste, not to mention crime against humanity.
    • by gambino21 (809810) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @06:58PM (#34553902)

      He slows the presentation to show World War 1 and the Spanish Flu epidemic but he didn't mention the Cultural Revolution in China during the 60's when the large circle representing China takes a HUGE dive.

      The Culteral Revolution in China didn't begin until 1966, after China was on it's way back up. It was actually the Great Leap Forward [wikipedia.org] that put many Chinese on the verge of starvation. Then during 1958-1961 several natural disasters occurred which, when combined with the existing problems, resulted in the Great Chinese Famine [wikipedia.org].

    • I see you failed to comment or notice the fact that a great many of the countries with the highest income and longest life expectancy are in fact European countries with heavy market regulation (social-democracies). Some of the richest and most productive nations happen to be the Northern European countries which are very "socialist" [in American terms]. In Scandinavia we tend to see ourselves as the "third way", a balanced mix of both systems.

      I'm not advocating any ideology or economic system but I think y

  • in between the life expectancy and wealth. some countries have achieved similar life expectancy with the rich west, despite being on the left hand side of the graph.
    • by halivar (535827) <bfelger@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @03:22PM (#34550360) Homepage

      They don't have to invent their own medicine from scratch. The technology, once created, is easy to export. If one country finds a breakthrough in the field of medicine, agriculture, or communications, the world at large is enriched by it.

    • What are you talking about?

      While the world's life expectancy has obviously increased, there is a very clear best-fit line that can be drawn at any time with quite obviously a very strong statistical significance.
    • by pz (113803)

      in between the life expectancy and wealth. some countries have achieved similar life expectancy with the rich west, despite being on the left hand side of the graph.

      Which graph were you looking at? There is a very strong correlation since the Industrial revolution, that's why the dots all tend to line up along a curve following the diagonal. If there was no correlation, then the dots would be distributed in one or more purely horizontal bands. They are not. They are, instead, lined up along a very nice curve.

      The correlation was lower before the Industrial Revolution, and has lessened in recent years as health care in general, including nutrition and reduction of in

  • Amazing. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anarchduke (1551707) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @03:14PM (#34550210)
    People always complain about how great the good old days were. I guess this is a pretty solid evidence that they sucked.
    • Re:Amazing. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @04:17PM (#34551266)

      Hans Rosling is great at that. His amazing visualizations (he's done variations of this talk at a number of TED conferences and for the State department and so on) really do put things in perspective that in fact things have gotten MUCH better over all, they continue to get better, and with effort and creativity (as is always required) we can look forward to an even better future.

      People like him and Saul Griffith and David Desutch are people I think that really need more media attention, that people need to listen to. People who actually analyze the data, who do extremely complex and in-depth analysis, and who can then help show that no, we aren't all fucked, life isn't horrible and we aren't all going to die just because there are problems. There are challenges yes, but things are getting better, and we can overcome those challenges and make things better still. For that matter, those challenges are also opportunities for new jobs and so on.

      Hopefully the BBC's new version of his presentation will help more people become aware of it and understand: Thing were not better in the past, they are better now. We need to look towards a better and brighter future, not back to some imaginary perfect past.

  • by Caerdwyn (829058) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @03:15PM (#34550230) Journal

    I'd be interested in similar graphs charting family size vs. wealth, and family size vs. education. The wealth-gap is, in my opinion, a direct result of larger families (less money available for education and health care per child) vs. small families (the inverse). The question then becomes "why large families in the face of poverty" (cultural factors, education of women or lack thereof, children seen as support for people when they are old, child survival rate greater now than in the past but family behavior lagging behind)... and what can be done about it.

    • Re:Family size (Score:4, Informative)

      by Beorytis (1014777) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @03:58PM (#34550972)
      To a certain extent, you can create your own graphs with Hans Rosling's software from http://www.gapminder.org/ [gapminder.org]
    • Re:Family size (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @06:00PM (#34553104) Homepage

      I think you've reversed cause and effect in your analysis.

      One important counterargument to this: Historically, American families in the 19th century were frequently large, and women (even more so than men) were often poorly educated or not educated at all. As various immigrant groups moved in, they started out with pretty large families, and have gradually gotten smaller and smaller families as families became wealthier.

      When you're a subsistence farmer or factory worker where child labor is legal, extra children mean more productive capacity available to the family, so large families are in fact economically rational choices. When you're in an environment where a child costs you $250,000 over 18 years (plus another $150,000 for college), fewer children are an economically rational choice.

  • by SeattleGameboy (641456) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @03:16PM (#34550240) Journal
    It is amazing to see how much improvement you see in life expectancy around the world in mid 1900's. I believe that is due to wider availability of vaccines. Just goes to show how big of a difference vaccines have made around the world.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by onepoint (301486)

      the improvements to medical services to the general public shows right across the board from the turn of the 20th century, we can watch the rise of life expectancy. I bet the delta on that is huge in comparison to income

      • Most of the rise in life expectancy has come from a reduction in infant mortality. That big jump occurred, like you said, right around 1900 (its actually just after).
  • by swell (195815) <jabberwock@poUUU ... inus threevowels> on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @03:17PM (#34550270)

    He presented a very similar presentation in his podcast for TEDtalks.
    www.TED.com

  • by Mab_Mass (903149)

    I applaud what he is trying to do. Seriously. At the same time, this guy needs to read a bit more about data presentation.

    First of all, the background setting for this talk is a terrible choice. The windows make it difficult to see the individual plots, and what's up with the large ball of lights off to the right? Ugh.

    His y-axis is also distorting the truth. With the y-axis beginning at 25 and going to 75, he is conveying a huge lie factor [infovis-wiki.net] in the progress.

    He needs to read Tufte [wikipedia.org].

    • I'd be willing to bet that he knows plenty about graphics presentation. It is just a (successful) attempt to make it visually interesting to non-stats geeks. I certainly enjoyed it.
      • by Mab_Mass (903149)

        I'd be willing to bet that he knows plenty about graphics presentation. It is just a (successful) attempt to make it visually interesting to non-stats geeks. I certainly enjoyed it.

        It was certainly enjoyable, but I actually doubt that he knows plenty about presentation. In my experience (as a scientist), many, many more people understand statistics and data analysis than understand the power of presentation.

        Statistics is an analytical skill. Data presentation is much more of a design/aesthetic skill, which is woefully undervalued. (in my opinion)

        • by Z8 (1602647)

          In my experience (as a scientist), many, many more people understand statistics and data analysis than understand the power of presentation.

          In my experience in industry it's the opposite. People spend a lot of time on the formatting and presentation, but any actual statistics used is elementary. And of course our salesman basically don't know anything about statistics.

          • by Mab_Mass (903149)

            In my experience in industry it's the opposite. People spend a lot of time on the formatting and presentation, but any actual statistics used is elementary. And of course our salesman basically don't know anything about statistics.

            Don't get me wrong. I think a lot of people spend a lot of time on formatting and presentation, but they do a horrible job. I've seen people take a perfectly readable, clearly presented graphic, then spend 5 minutes adding shadows, 3D effects, etc. The result looks all shiny and pretty, but as a way of presenting data, it is a failure.

            Good data presentation should be appealing to the eye AND easy to read. In my experience these kinds of presentations are very few and far between.

            • by lgw (121541)

              Ahh, you believe the point of the presentation is to honestly convey data? Good thing you're not trying to make a living as a salesman. The only data some of these guys want to convey is "look at us, we make cool charts", or at best "our product rocks!" - you say "lie-factor" like it was a bad thing.

    • by BeanThere (28381) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @05:25PM (#34552450)

      At the same time, this guy needs to read a bit more about data presentation.

      Hans Rosling needs to "read a bit more about data presentation"!? Lol ---- that's like looking at some of John Carmack's work and saying "yeah it's OK but this guy, whoever he is, needs to learn a bit more about 3D programming". I'm not sure you realize who you are talking about; Hans Rosling has been one of the 'pioneers' of modern data visualization since probably before you were born. Your post is a classic example of the instinctive need of so many /. posters to try prove how smart they are by being "contrarian" and immediately criticizing something. The graphics isn't even horrible at all, it's pretty damn cool, and everything was very clear to me when I watched it, so perhaps you frankly if you struggled to see it I suggest you see an optometrist.

    • by david.given (6740) <dg.cowlark@com> on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @05:27PM (#34552480) Homepage Journal
      I am also curious to know as to whether the values on the money axis are normalised for spending power --- I suspect not, judging by the initial spread of figures. Simply put, $100 in Africa in 1880 is worth a hell of a lot more than $100 in New York in 2010, and so displaying them in the same place on the graph is misleading.

      It would also be kinda nice if whenever he said 'look at this!' they didn't zoom in on his face, so making it impossible to see what we were supposed to be looking at.

  • I saw this a couple weeks ago, and while the evidence appears to damn the west for hoarding wealth, the presentation does not measure income distribution across individual countries. While America may appear to have lots of cash, the growing reality is that the "lots of cash" belongs to a scant percentage of the population.

    It would be interesting to see a similar presentation that takes this important marker into account.

    • The wealth scale is logarithmic. Even "poor" Americans ($20,000) would be very near the top.
    • Perhaps so, but people living in "poverty" in America (as defined by the government anyway) are still better off, on average, than most of the rest of the world.

    • The point is still valid though. Almost all of the poorest Americans are way better off than the average in many other countries at the bottom of the scale. Income disparity does not mean that the average (median) is not also relatively well off.
  • Sigh... graphs.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jwiegley (520444) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @03:28PM (#34550446)

    How about we look at this again but eliminate several typical graphing mistakes....

    First, let's have all axes start at zero, not at, say, 33% of the range. This would immediately show that there is less disparity between average lifetime then the presenter attempts to make you perceive.

    second let's have a non-logarithm axes for a typical unit that is thought of as linear... money.

    Third, if we are going to compare wealth then we should be comparing amount of money held vs what it can buy, not just raw money per person. Sure people in the Congo have far less dollars per person than Japan. But a loaf of bread and the supplies they want to buy are far, far cheaper. In other words, it is possible for a smaller amount of currency from economy A to buy more goods and services in economy B. You need to account for this in determining "wealth". You can't just exchange currency rates to determine who is better off.

    Lastly, You also have to dollar adjust for inflation even for specific countries over time. A typical mid-range american car in 2010 costs around US$25000; in 1977... US$5000. So, yes we might have more dollars per person in the US today but you're going to need 5 times as many dollars as you had 33 years ago in order to just break even.

    And, while we are at it. I would get rid of the enthusiastic and "compelling" presentation acting. This is always a sign of attempting to market more than is really there. It is science through how the presenter can make you "feel" and it leads to poor knee-jerk decisions.

    • by Galvatron (115029) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @03:56PM (#34550954)

      Why would you start the axes at zero? First off, as you note, the income axis is logarithmic, and so cannot go to zero anyway. As for life expectancy, zero would be a meaningless label. It's impossible for a country to have a life expectancy of zero. It is entirely appropriate to set the minimum value for an axis at the minimum value which has ever been recorded. The difference between a life expectancy of 40 and 75 is enormous, and I do not find the presentation to be in any way misleading.

      Your second issue, the logarithmic axis for money, is debatable either way. Given that incomes have generally risen exponentially (in the US, an increase of about 2% per year for the last 200 years), a linear scale would show accelerating income growth for wealthier countries. It strikes me that this would be more misleading than use of a logarithmic axis. If you usually think of income growth as linear, maybe it's your thinking, rather than his graph, which is mistaken.

      For the third issue, there is something called "Purchase Power Parity" which corrects for the effect you're talking about. The presentation doesn't discuss whether his income figures are adjusted for PPP or not. Contrary to your assumption, the figures clearly are at least adjusted for inflation (given that his $400 minimum would have been a princely sum in 1810, far above any country's per capita average), and if he's adjusted for inflation, I see no reason not to believe that he's adjusted for PPP as well. If he hasn't adjusted for PPP, then I agree that's something that should have been done, but it in no way alters his fundamental point. PPP reduces income inequality, but in no way eliminates it.

      For the fourth issue, without his enthusiastic presentation, it's just a graph. There's a time and a place for cold, sober, "just the facts" presentations, and that is textbooks. In less academic settings, it's entirely appropriate to use enthusiastic explanations to show people why something matters.

      • And guess what? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @05:09PM (#34552180)

        All that data is available. Turns out he's not some asshole saying "Trust me on this, you don't need to see anything." He's got a site where you can play with his data in his amazing graphing software, http://www.gapminder.org/ [gapminder.org]. You can toy with the graph and run it backwards and forwards, and break out the information, you can download the raw data in excel format or view it on the web. All Creative Commons licensed.

        It is quite open and available, and not hard to find to anyone willing to do even a cursory amount of research. Just key his name in to Google.

        To me it seems like the GP isn't actually interested, just being a pedant whiner. "Oh his methods are flawed and it is too simple!" Of COURSE it is simple, it is a 4 minute spot for the BBC. It is not a dour academic presentation. That doesn't mean there isn't good data behind it, or that it isn't available. If you actually care, well then I'd say you should do research. After all that is what we are talking about. In this case, literally all you'd need to do is key "Hans Rosling" in to Google and the first site is his, with all the data and so on.

        To the parent: Good analysis of why the GP is incorrect about his complaints.

        To the grand parent: STFU and spend 30 seconds doing some research before being a pedantic whiner. If you care about facts and accuracy the least you could do is get them yourself.

    • by adonoman (624929)

      First, let's have all axes start at zero

      Why? The point of the graph is not to show absolute disparity, but to show the correlation between two things. Focusing on the relevant sections makes it easier to see that relation.

      second let's have a non-logarithm axes for a typical unit that is thought of as linear... money.

      Money is by no means linear. If I was making $1000 / year, and got a $1000 / year raise, then that's a very significant event for me. At $100,000 / year, making an extra $1000 is just a little something extra. In raises, taxes, and pretty much anything related to income, people talk in percentages - and when things change b

    • by ctid (449118)

      I don't understand why you're not embarrassed to post that. Surely if you think that your approach would be better, why don't you create the graphs in the way that you think they should be presented? If you want to change the style of presentation, why don't you use your graphs in a more "appropriate" video and post it up to youtube? It's not as if this person was doing something that the average person couldn't do - if you don't like the way he has done it, do something better.

    • by pz (113803)

      Starting the axis a non-zero values is entire reasonable when you are looking at relative changes, rather than absolute. In this presentation, the primary concern was the relative values between countries, not the absolute value. Starting at a non-zero axis is entirely defensible. Moreover, the axes are explicitly stated.

      Why are you supposing that all of your suggested corrections to income were not done? There is no direct evidence either way.

      Logarithmic axes should be used when the data dictate they a

  • This is really worth watching. Seriously.

    Yeah, we all saw it weeks ago when it was number one on Google Reader and every blog on Earth featured it. Quick work there, Taco.

  • Terminal Terminology (Score:4, Interesting)

    by XiaoMing (1574363) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @03:39PM (#34550644)

    Great video and argument for the need for well-made methods for present data, but there are a couple of issues I think need to be addressed with this video:

    -One is that I'm seeing quite a few misinterpretations on life expectancy in various comments, and though not expressly stated, even in the implications suggested by the professor himself.
    It is important to keep in mind that life expectancy is almost always calculated as the full blown all-inclusive average of "age-when-people-died". While this may seem like a very standard indicator for the overall health of a nation, it is actually highly influenced by natal and infant mortality rates.

    Of-course, that's not to say that being able to keep a baby alive shouldn't be a measure of a nation's overall healthiness, however the misinterpretation comes in when there are comments relating this life-expectancy to vaccines and whatnot. It is a common urge (one that seems implicitly shared by the professor in the video) to associate mankind's technological achievements with a longer fuller life, but to discount all of the carcinogens, obesity, diabetes, and other newfound sources of death that have come hand-in-hand with technology is a very hasty move.
    And for those that counter-argue about the elimination of disease, yes, do note the huge dips in life-expectancy in the plot as time progresses; but also observe that these dips, representing epidemics, only last for 2-5 years, and the population rebounds. My point is regarding the baseline equilibrium "life expectancy".

    As far as I know, studies have shown that it doesn't matter whether you were born as a healthy baby back then versus now, as a person's life expectancy when controlled for infant mortality, has remained basically steady, with improvements in healthcare cancelling out all the crap we try to kill ourselves with. It's just that we manage to keep more babies alive til they get cancer.

    -Secondly, I wanted to comment on the professor's utopian endgame of every country landing in the happy zone that is wealthy and healthy. It was common knowledge among the political big boys towards the end of Chinese communism (the economic form, not the social one. You can argue whatever you want if you feel like being ignorant, but a person driving an important Porsche Cayenne next to someone pulling a rickshaw isn't quite the equality communism originally set out for) that if China had the same proportion of its population become middle class as America, there wouldn't be enough natural resources (steel, fuel, etc.) on the entire planet to give every family an automobile.
    My point there is that overall wealth, while better for a country and its individuals, is definitely not better for the planet. And given it's subjective nature, it doesn't necessarily mean everyone would actually be "wealthy". If a rich nation could buy something now that a poor one cannot afford, but in the future both countries could afford it, it would just make that item in question cost more due to increased demand. Effectively, every country being "wealthy" is exactly the same as every country being "poor". We could just make America and most of Europe as poor as a developing nation, and technically every country would be "wealthy". The quality of life wouldn't necessarily improve in that case.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expectancy#Interpretation_of_life_expectancy [wikipedia.org]

    • by lgw (121541)

      Many of these "newfound sources of death" are not newfound at all, it's just that we now live long enough for different causes of death to predominate. Technology has brought a huge increase in the standard of living, and of health throughout life, and it's bizarre that people whine about it. If your biggest problem at 35 is obesity and the possible on set of Type Fat Diabetes, you've got it great compared to the 35-year-old wizened, toothless, gray-haired grandfather on the edge of starvation of ages pas

    • by Comboman (895500) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @04:54PM (#34551892)

      As far as I know, studies have shown that it doesn't matter whether you were born as a healthy baby back then versus now, as a person's life expectancy when controlled for infant mortality, has remained basically steady, with improvements in healthcare cancelling out all the crap we try to kill ourselves with. It's just that we manage to keep more babies alive til they get cancer.

      That's not entirely true. While the increase in average life span is not as dramatic if you remove the effect of infant mortality, there is still a huge increase in the last 150 years. For example, if you look at the life expectancy for a 10-year-old white male [infoplease.com], in 1850 it was 58 years, in 1900 it was 60.59 years, in 1950 it was 68.98 years and in 2004 it was 76.3 years. There are lots of factors other than infant mortality that have improved over that time: safer working conditions, access to health care, even refrigeration (an astonishing number of people died of food poisoning in the "the good old days" speaking of "crap we try to kill ourselves with").

    • I do generally agree with most of your points, but I feel that you slightly misunderstand the true meaning of 'wealth'. Wealth is as much about the subjective usefulness of things as their raw amounts. For example, a car consists of more 'wealth' than the raw materials, capital and labour used to make it; that increase is what gives a profit to the car makers.

      A very extreme example would be silicon based electronics. A very small amount of a very cheap substance can be made into a very valuable microprocess

  • Man, anyone else notice China drop like a rock circa 1960 and say, "Holy hell!"?

    • by TheSync (5291)

      Man, anyone else notice China drop like a rock circa 1960 and say, "Holy hell!"?

      For a country that killed 20 to 40 million of its people through starvation (due to farm collectivization combined with insane internal politics) within living memory of many people still alive there, we should consider it a complete miracle that China has been able to morph into a 10%+ per year GDP growth country.

    • That wasn't the only one, just the biggest. One small red dot went significantly below the "25 years" line at one point. I need to watch it again because I don't recall what year it was, but I wonder if it was Cambodia in the mid 70s.

  • by smitty777 (1612557) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @03:47PM (#34550804) Journal

    You can play with the data used to create this graph on his website [gapminder.org]. Very highly configurable...Warning: serious prodictivity killer.

  • I would be curious to know if/how he took into account two items that could seriously skew the data. When you observe the initial dataset in the 1800s, all childhood deaths were reported including stillborn babies and so forth. With abortion, many of the poorer or unhealthy children are more likely to not enter the world. How much of an impact does this have on these figures? How much lower would the American lifespan be if we included the 1.5 million abortions we have every year?

    Also, he calculates the

  • He claims that all countries could end up "wealthy and healthy", but doesn't say how. He seems to be oblivious to the various factors at work that are specifically invested in preventing that from happening. While $40k/year isn't a ton of money by US standards, there are a lot more people (even in the US) who are below that mark than are above it, and it is in the best interests of those above it to keep it that way.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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