Ignorance Project

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Do you have 20 min to watch this video, well, 19 minutes to be exact?  What about 10 minutes?  You can start the video at roughly minute 9 to catch the point.  

Hans Rosling is the founder of the Gapminder Foundation and professor at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.  Among his students he encountered broad ignorances about health improvement in Asia.  And he began measuring the ignorance among students and professors.  Ola Rosling (Hans Rosling’s son) has grown these early findings into more than just a university wide study and now has given it a name, the Ignorance Project.  He compares people’s results to what he calls a “Chimpanzee Test” (spoiler alert: people do worse than the chimps, which is to say worse than random).  What makes us perform worse than random?  Han says it is our preconceived ideas.  

According to this video, we are ignorant for three reasons: personal bias, teachers teach outdated information, and news bias.  Ola Rosling believes that our skewed information with our intuition has resulted in our misinformed world view.  If you want to know why that is you can watch the video.  Fortunately, Rosling has given us 4 misconceptions that he turns into rules of thumb so we can use our intuition better:


Misconception #1: Everything is getting worse — Most Things Improve

Misconception #2: There are rich and poor and the gap is increasing — More in the middle (one hump)

Misconception #3: First rich, then social development — First social development, then rich

Misconception #4: Sharks are dangerous (Exaggerated situation) — Sharks kill few


This matters because, if you have a fact based worldview of today you might have a chance of predicting trends in the future.  Hans Rosling says in order to think about the future you have to know about the present.  How I understand it is, we cannot solve the problems we see in the world if we do not have correct information. Curing ignorance could be the first step to great world change.

Going back to the misconceptions for a moment.  I think misconception #1 is a really prevalent outlook and a really discouraging one.  It brings me a great deal of hope to know that the actual trend is moving towards improvement.  The big takeaway for me regarding these misconceptions is that I need to look big picture.  There are exceptions to the rule, this is just a general trend, but most of the world is trending in a positive direction and that gives me hope.   

Do you want to see how you stack up against the Chimpanzees? If you click here you can take a test like the one talked about in the video and see how you do.  They even send you a certificate if you pass.

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