How many children (defined as people aged 0-15) lived in the world in the year 2000? Answer: two billion.
How many are there now, in 2015?
And how many will there be, on present trends, by the year 2100?
The answer, according to Swedish statistician Hans Rosling in this compulsive communications masterclass, is: there are two billion children now, and there will still be two billion in the year 2100. We have passed “peak child”.
By 2100, he forecasts, the world population will have increased from today’s seven billion to around eleven billion.
But, Rosling says, because rising living standards and better education are cutting fertility rates, population growth between now and 2100 will all be among older people; and by then, the world population will be tending towards stability.
What percentage of the world’s population are literate? 20%? 40%? 60%? 80%?
How many babies do women have on average in Bangladesh? 2.5? 3.5? 4.5? 5.5?
Rosling presents a slew of statistics using everything from graphs to building blocks to communicate an optimistic assessment of future growth trends, while noting that even on these figures, we risk destroying ourselves with climate change.
You may disagree. But for a masterclass in communication you can’t do better than this.
For: informative, entertaining, and occasionally jaw-dropping.
Against: we all know the phrase “lies, damned lies and statistics”.
PS the phrase “Don’t Panic” is of course central to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, although its most famous proponent (as noted by Richard in comments below) is possible Corporal Jones of Dad’s Army.
PPS if you enjoyed this review, you’re welcome to explore other writing on this site, starting with the sitemap and guide.