The world sucks – vote for me

“The world sucks – vote for me.” That’s the vote-getting narrative that has worked wonderfully well for our politicians. And, the media has complied as well. That’s not because they want to, but because their business model requires them to sell negativity and fear. As humans, we’re drawn to that stuff.

The folks at “The World in Data” from the University of Oxford have created a public good to help counter this. They are a team of 3 who’ve gathered evidence on data around indicators of progress such as extreme poverty, education, and child mortality. And, to make it easy to consume, they’ve helped us visualize this in “The World as 100 People.”

the world in data

Of course, the world doesn’t suck. In fact, things are better than they’ve ever been. Does this mean things are better for everyone? No, it doesn’t. There is and always will be plenty to do. But, it also means a lot of the current narrative around the state of the world is nonsense.

What is the probability of “The World in Data” actually making the difference they seek? Very low. They don’t have the megaphones that our politicians have. And, there aren’t that many folk who are interested in looking at empirical data if it doesn’t show up as a sensational article on their Facebook feed.

But, maybe we could help improve the odds? Perhaps we could share their findings, one person at a time? Maybe we could better educate ourselves, our families and our communities? And, maybe, just maybe, we could use all this data to make better decisions.

Thank you, “The World in Data” team, for giving us the opportunity to make a difference. Now, it is on us to spread the word.

PS: Their blog has only 58 followers on Feedly. That’s a travesty. Let’s fix that.


It is tempting to sit back and take everything around us for granted. There’s so much we don’t control and, if we believe the news, all of it seems to be going downhill – the politics suck, the environment is doomed, corporations are evil, terrorists seem to be unrelenting. But, that sort of view is just one that has forgotten just how malleable the world is. It is also one that takes no responsibility for the future.

It is easy to forget that most things we see, hear, touch and use has been created by human beings just like us. And, what we take for granted wasn’t a given during 99+% of human history. In the last 100 years (a rounding error in the history of human beings), the world has outdone itself in demonstrating how malleable it is. Pokemon Go would have been consigned to the craziest corner of science fiction.

There’s a lot right in the world. It is without a doubt the safest it has ever been in all of human history. It is also the healthiest, the most affluent. There’s also a lot wrong. The wealth is growing more concentrated and this is causing all sorts of political problems. We’ve been messing with the environment too much for our own good. And, our leaders seem to be trading talking about real issues for transitory personal power. But, this tension between right and wrong will always exist. It is up to us to tilt the scales to continue making things better, making more progress and making our lives count.

And, to do that, we must remember that, despite how easy it is to think otherwise, our world is malleable. Big problems are waiting to be tackled. And, the onus to make things better is on us.

malleable, world(Thanks to the for the image)

Finding cousins – The DNA journey

Danish travel site “Momondo” teamed up with a DNA testing service “AncestryDNA” focusing on a group of 67 diverse people who all were very patriotic and had strong views about their heritage and of other countries and cultures.

The video is 5:16 long. I will still be here once you are done watching it.

(Thanks Adweek)

There is a beautiful moment at the end when one of the participants is told that she actually has a cousin in the audience.

cousins, dna, momondo, world

There are a couple of messages that make the video powerful. First, it seeks to make a point that there would no such thing as extremism if people really knew their heritage. After all, every one of us has more cousins than we know. It then drives home the idea that an open world begins with an open mind. It beautifully illustrates that you have more in common with others in the world than you think. That is so true.

I have been away from home for 10 years now. I have found family in most of these places who share similar values and aspirations. We just have to make the effort. Humans in the hunter gatherer era needed to form groups in “we’re better than you” contests for survival. We are still stuck with that natural reaction (why else do we like following sports teams as much?) – even though we will be better served collaborating rather than competing for resources. There’s plenty out here for all of us. And, if it isn’t out here yet, there’s plenty among us who can invent ways for us to get will be necessary. The nature of politics, however, is to divide and conquer. And, we are at a time when there is a massive amount of hate and xenophobia.

As this video shows, we are more similar than we think. It is up to us to accept it and act like it.

Making the world better

Atrocities happen every day of the week on this planet. This was one of those that had me swearing out loud. A man felt it went against his family’s honor for his pregnant daughter to marry someone against his wishes but felt it was perfectly okay to murder her with his son and a few goons.

There is a lot wrong with the world. There is no doubt about that. There is a lot right too that goes unmentioned. It feels, as a result, that we have two principal duties to help make the world better. Focus on the right in our lives and do more of it. This is the only way to keep our spirits up without getting bogged down by everything that is wrong with the world.

At the same time, we must work hard on changing what is wrong. A lot of what is wrong with our attitude towards other races and women can be made much better. It starts within. We have to pledge to be open to differences ourselves and hopefully change the culture of our families and friends to reflect that. Change occurs in ripples. It begins with changing ourselves or, at the very least, teaching ourselves to think. There is a real dearth of people who can do that. Atrocities like the one above are typically committed by men (yes, it is always men) who are unthinkingly following some norm or order.

The world will never be perfect but it can become better, much better. In making ourselves better, we make it a bit better and I think that’s as worthwhile a cause as any.