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Friday, September 14, 2007

The Power of Data

I was using StumbleUpon's lovely 'stumble' feature again, and came across something that got me really thinking not only about our preconceived notions of the world as it sits today, but also about what the world might become in the future. The link is here. Don't watch it yet. Read on first. I want to do a little test at the end of the post.
The ending was especially interesting, showing all the countries as they popped up on the chart as the use of the Internet spread from place to place. So, according to statistical data we are all somewhat misguided in what we think about the third world. It's apparently not as bad as it's made out to be. Obviously that doesn't refer to places like Africa where AIDS is wreaking havoc, and this shows in the data, but a lot of countries that I thought were exceedingly poor and unhealthy are actually somewhat the opposite. What does this say about the way our media or even our educational system teaches us about the rest of the world? Are we really all that better off than a lot of places? The data suggests that we're not. Yes, of course we have a lot more things that most countries, but on average we're not that far off from a lot of countries that I and apparently a lot of Swedish undergrad students once thought were near the bottom of the barrel.
What does this say for the state of the world in the future? There seems to be a trend in countries moving up the ladder. Families get smaller, people live longer, income increases, and the gap between the rich and the poor adjusts significantly. In the future a lot of countries that we see as somewhat below us on an economic and health scale, may in fact match us in their productivity and survival rates. Many countries already have, according to the data. Obviously the U.S. brings in a lot more income than most nations, but it's not looking at how much the nation brings in as a whole, but at how that income branches out to the people.
So, let's do a little test here.
Which countries do you think have the highest infant mortality rate? Don't look it up. Just guess three and post it in a comment, along with the other answers.
Which countries do you think today have a shorter lifespan and large families?
Which countries are the opposite?
Which countries do you think currently match, or are at least near enough to us, economically (by percentage, not gross income) and medically?

Post your answers or write them down and then watch the video. Maybe you'll be surprised! Tell me what you thought on there. I'd like to know what choices you made!

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