The theater reverberated with laughter and applause as a Swedish physician put a humorous spin on a profound message. Paradoxically, he was capturing the crowd’s imagination and winning their affection by revealing their ignorance.

“In the last 20 years, how did the percentage of people in the world who live in extreme poverty change?” the late Hans Rosling asked the audience at one of his TED Talks. He added that “not having enough food for the day” was his definition.

His listeners entered their estimates on handheld devices offering three options. They could declare extreme poverty had doubled, stayed about the same or was reduced by half.

While their choices were being tabulated, Rosling announced that only 5% of Americans...

Subscribe or sign in to view the rest of this content

All digital content on this site is FREE!

Sign In