The Power of Information (or we're not all doomed)

When I was young, I watched Basil Brush on Saturday tea time before Doctor Who. I remember once he said, you can always tell when the news is on, because it's the bit where the bad guys win.

Ever since the economic downturn of 2008, our leaders and our media told us it's bad but there is no alternative. It's pretty much a rerun of the 1980s, when many people saw their communities ripped apart and we had riots on the streets and a dreadful destructive miners strike which tore the heart of areas like the North east of England and South Wales.

The unintended consequence of this is that it destroys people's hope. It spreads hopelessness. The belief that we're all doomed and there's nothing we can do about it.

Shockingly, tonight BBC2 broadcast a programme which dared to suggest that actually we're not all doomed and things are getting better. And best of all, it used the power of information to challenge many preconceived ideas. In Don't panic the truth about population, Professor Hans Rosling challenged the commonly held views that:

Global population is rising inexorably to unsustainable levels
That poor countries remain poor
That factors such as religious faiths present insurmountable barriers to development and the emancipation and education of women

And he rather mischievously showed that a random group of chimpanzees had a better chance of getting answers right about these matters than a group of human beings drawn from graduates of elite British Universities.

He used information and its visualisation to show how development is spreading around the world. Information can challenge mistaken ideas that are based on incorrect preconceptions and what may surprise many, it can challenge the mistaken idea that the world is going to hell in a handcart.

Don't let the gainsayers continue to propagate the view that global development isn't working:

The best information shows that:

Life expectancy is increasing
Maternal and child mortality is decreasing
The percentage of the global population in extreme poverty is falling
The gap between rich and poor is narrowing
Literacy and numeracy rates

Catch a flavour at http://youtu.be/QpdyCJi3Ib4

Test your own preconceptions at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24836917