Every one of the great revolutionists have been optimists. They have been indignant, not about the badness of existence, but about the slowness of men in realizing its goodness.
(G K Chesterton)
The scientists with reasons to be cheerful -THE GUARDIANWe’re hardwired to focus on bad news stories, but that is not the whole truth. Ed Cumming meets the optimistic statisticians and economists using facts to reveal why more people are healthier and happier than ever before -by Ed Cummings
OUR FIVE academics trying to tell a more positive story with data. We are hardwired to seek out bad news and focus on the things going wrong. We’re on the edge of our seats, secretly waiting for calamity. Usually the news provides.
1# De Fries
As you might guess from the subtitle of DeFries’s 2014 book The Great Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis, she is hopeful about our ability to avert disaster. She argues that history has progressed by “ratchets”, where things improve; “hatchets”, where unforeseen problems occur; and “pivots”, where new solutions are found.
2# Max Roser
Max Roser runs Our World in Data, which shows how standards of living have changed over the centuries. Begun in 2011 as a “massive procrastination exercise when I was trying to write a book”, as Roser says, the site now employs full-time researchers and is looking for new sources of funding. Using the best and most official data available, he shows how global poverty continues to fall while standards of living, health and education continue to rise.
3-4# Matt Ridley & Steve Pinker
In the UK, Matt Ridley has been beating his Rational Optimist drum for years, while Harvard professor Steven Pinker argued persuasively in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature that violence is on the decline.
5# Rosling - Hans -OlaPresiding over the field is Hans Rosling, the Swedish professor who is the closest thing statistics has ever had to a rock star. His TED talk The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen has been viewed more than 10m times.
The brand is manifested in Gapminder, a public-access site founded by Hans, Ola and Ola’s wife Anna in 1999. At the site’s core is a customisable graph, where you can plot different data trends against each other and break them down by country.