Hans Rosling, 1948-2017

Posted in data, Uncategorized by thenextwavefutures on 9 February, 2017

Hans Rosling, the Swedish statistician who transformed the way we think about development and data, died this week of pancreatic cancer, at the relatively young age of 68. I haven’t got the time to do a proper tribute to him, but Gap Minder, the research group to which he devoted the last ten years of his life, has assembled a formidable collection of resources which show how wealth and life expectancy have been transformed over the short and the long run.

The youtube video at the top of this post, filmed by the BBC, shows Rosling in action, with his 200 year history of the world, which is worth five minutes of anyone’s time.

The chart he’s using there is on the Gap Minder site, and lets you explore the trajectories of different countries or groups of countries. There’s a host of valuable resources on the site, such as the ethnographic work of Dollar Street, going into the homes of people across the world to see what different incomes mean in different places in terms of everyday living standards.

I’ll also miss Rosling’s Twitter contributions, which often were a reminder of how fast fertility rates were falling across the middle-income and lower-income nations of the world. Typically this is far faster than the comparable rate of change at a similar stage in most European countries, and his tweets were a reminder that the rate of global population growth was slowing down rapidly.



The changing shape of surveillance

Posted in civil liberties, data, digital, emerging issues, social by thenextwavefutures on 10 April, 2009

It may not seem completely appropriate to make the link, but there’s a connection which runs from the McLaren fiasco in the Australian Grand Prix, through the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, to the death last week during the G20 demonstration of Ian Tomlinson. The connection is about information, how much of it there is, how it flows, and who has access to it under what circumstances.


The limits of the UK population predictions

Posted in data, reports, social, trends by thenextwavefutures on 1 December, 2007

Futurists tend to love demographic projections. They are as close as they ever get to predicting the future, because there’s simply so much population trends data out there, not to mention actuarial data, that once people have been born, the future shape of the population can be estimated pretty reliably. At least in theory. But with fertility levels changing decade by decade, an ageing population, and migration statistics – and assumptions – fairly unreliable, population projections are becoming as uncertain as other trends. In particular the arguments about migration seem to me to be embedded in a post-war discourse dominated by our particular post-colonial experience.


Women – promoted faster, paid less

Posted in business, data, equality, gender, organisational, research, trends, work by thenextwavefutures on 6 September, 2007

The latest annual management survey from the Chartered Management Institute (summarised here) puts some hard data behind the current state of UK gender inequality at work. It’s not good and it seems to be getting worse.


Spotting data on “illegal” agency workers

Posted in business, data, economics, work by thenextwavefutures on 25 May, 2007

One of the purposes of this blog is catch potentially useful data points, and Polly Toynbee provides one in a Guardian article today about the number of agency workers in the UK. Agency workers are among the most vulnerable in the workforce, with the most limited rights, typically working in the worst parts of the service sector.


The future of technology: from blogs to lifelogs

Posted in data, digital, emerging issues, social, technology, web 2.0 by thenextwavefutures on 14 May, 2007

Hunting in technorati for something I’d mislaid, I find instead an ambitious and sweeping talk given by SF writer Charlie Stross on the long term impact of technology change. In a paper that’s (almost) impossible to summarise, he argues that the big change in the 20th century was that – somewhere between 1950 and 1970 – people redefined progress so that it was no longer described in terms of the distance that people could travel, and started being described in terms of how much information could be managed and processed.

Now extrapolate that in line with most technology trends. Tomorrow’s future is one in which we may be able to store and retrieve everything that everyone on the planet does in their entire lifetime: a planet’s worth of ‘lifelogs’.


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Buffett on insight versus data

Posted in data, quotes, trends by thenextwavefutures on 7 May, 2007

A side bar on the Warren Buffett story blogged in the post below has a quote from Buffett on the limits to data:

“If you see someone walking through the door and you don’t know whether they’re 300 or 325 pounds, you still know they’re fat.”