How not to be ignorant about the world

In this TED Talk Hans Rosling presents the results of our public surveys that shows that people don’t know key aspects of global development. And Ola Rosling shows that this has nothing to do with intelligence. It’s a problem of factual knowledge. Facts don’t come naturally. Drama and opinions do. Factual knowledge has to be learned. So Ola teachers 4 rules of thumb for not being ignorant about the world.

Working with Enlightened Cognitive Dissonance

How the Global Ignorance Test  and the Gapminder Data System  works in the context of FuturisticManagement Consulting

Tristan & Matthias Horx


What do we think about the world? The answer to this question is not trivial. In a post-fact culture, where rationality seems to vanish in the storms of lies and conspiracy theories, beliefs about the future are crucial. If we believe that the world cant be rescued, we become either cynical or depressed. But facts are, as we know from cognition psychology, not facts for the brain – they are informations without meaning until they become framedby emotion and belief. 

We have been working in forecasting and trend research for more than 20 years, throughout the German-speaking countries and beyond. Never has the future seemed so bland, so negative, when a Zeitgeist of pessimism is tearing apart old models of past, present and future. We have been using the Global Ignorance test with small and big audiences, mostly managers and entrepreneurs. Our consultancy company ZUKUNFTSINSTITUT (40+ employees, Vienna and Frankfurt) does up to a hundred long-term consulting processes and hundreds of speeches a year. This means reaching approximately 10.000 people with power and responsibility each year. Our goal is to give them proper insight into the real changes in our world, the so-called Megatrends. The wider goal is to teach systemic thinking and multi-perspective management.



Using the Global Ignorance Test on these audiences has a wonderful cathartic effect. As the Rosling family have shown again and again, the more people think they are expertsin terms of trends and world knowledge, the less they tend to be. The higher the ranks of management, the worse the answers to the questions such as How much did the flow of worldwide emigrants increase in the last ten years?. Their reactions to their own wrongness are a brief silence, followed by astonishment. In this silence, new thinking occurs. We can feel their brains aching and scratching, and we turn this energy around into a new openness and understanding. This enables us to convey a new understanding of globalisation and the implications for management and responsibility. Communicating this is such an integral part of our work, that we have published a study on it in the Summer of 2017 – The New Global (Available in German here:

Sometimes we experience quite funny open denials. A manager of a telecommunication company recently stuttered in disbelief: This may be true, but I dont want to be convinced!And this is exactly where the test is so brilliant. Paired with the emotionality of the Dollar Street documentations, we can change peoples perceptions of the global world, and thus help them move in the right direction. 

Experience shows, the more you can shockthe audience with their own misconceptions, the more they listen to new ideas and points of views in what follows. This is why starting our presentations with the global ignorance test works so well – it confronts the brain with its own cognitive dissonance and biases. 

The cathartic effect is deepened when we show the Gapminder data and how to use it. Thanks to the tools of the Rosling family, we have managed to help hundreds, if not thousands of minds think differently about the world and the future. This we hope might have helped a bit to save the world, because only constructive minds can create constructive business. If the future has to be saved in the mind, the Gapminder Data System  is the best weaponwe have. Just as the aliens in the new science fiction film Arrivalcalled their sophisticated language a weaponin the sense of future knowledge, Gapminder is a key tool for mind-changing for a better future.



Help us spread a fact-based worldview

– Start with yourself!


Most people have severe misconceptions about the world they live in. Our ignorance surveys have shown that the general public is misguided about many basic global facts. Reliable global statistics exist for nearly every aspect of global  development, but these numbers are not transformed into popular understanding because using and teaching statistics is still too difficult. We want to change that!

A fact-based worldview is essential to be able to grasp the complexity of sustainable development. Our mission is to offer a fact-based worldview that anyone can understand.

Through our work with the ignorance surveys we have come across three mega misconceptions: 1) “The world is divided in two”, 2) “Everything is getting worse”, and 3) “The population just increases”. Gapminder’s core mission is to help people overcome these misconceptions. Making people aware of their overly dramatic worldview is the first step to build a worldview based on facts.

Gapminder increases knowledge of global facts by creating free, fun and easy-to-use courses and teaching tools for young people, educators and the public. See and

Gapminder Tools

By helping people of all ages develop a fact-based worldview, we will empower them to understand the realities of life for women, men and children living in different countries—and so make well-informed decisions.

The IKEA Foundation has been supporting us in spreading a fact-based worldview for many years. It has just renewed the funding to our core activities until 2019 because it believes that a better understanding of global facts will support sustainable development for children and families living in the world’s poorest communities. 

Take the Gapminder Test 2017 to see if you know these 12 basic facts about global development. If you answer all questions correctly, we’ll send you the Gapminder Facts Certificate 2017!



The Gapminder Effect has been measured!

It works!

Right now, the media attention around “fact resistance” makes it seem like it increases. But do we really know? To know such things we must measure it, and to our knowledge nobody has done that.

Six years ago we realized we didn’t know if our presentations had any effect. So we started measuring knowledge. After all Hans’ appearances in media and TED talks, he expected that people would know the facts that he had been repeating. In 2013 we asked a set of knowledge questions to the public in Sweden, only to find that their ignorance of basic global facts was huge.

Only 8% knew that the majority of children get basic vaccines.
Only 23% knew that the global poverty rate has been halved during the last two decades.
Those were multiple choice questions, A, B or C. And a chimpanzees would get 33% correct answers, just by picking randomly.
We were very disappointed.

This year in February, the same month Hans passed away, we asked a new battery of questions. The 2017 results were announced two weeks ago. And to our great relief, they were much better! The Swedish public had improved from 8% to 27% on the vaccination question.

On the poverty trend questions, they were even better than the chimpanzees! That has never happened in Sweden before! Congratulations.

Now we wondered: Was this really thanks to us? So during the last two weeks we have made a follow up study. If only Hans could have seen these results!

The people who picked the correct answer, got a follow up question. “Do you remember from where you got this knowledge?”

We gave them an open answer field to write whatever came to their mind. So we didn’t trick them. This word cloud shows word sizes by their frequency.

46% of the people who answered correctly, attributed their knowledge to “Rosling” or “Gapminder”. We call it the Gapminder effect!

Our conclusion is: It works! We should just continue doing what we have been doing for 18 years, and spread a fact-based worldview, the way we do it.

Please grab our slides, tools and exam questions, and help more people learn the basic global facts!

🙂 Ola Rosling

Results for the Swedish Public on the ‘Gapminder Test 2017’

We asked the Swedish public 12 questions about the the world: those are basic global facts you need to know to start building a fact-based worldview.

Check the questions and results below! You can also see the complete report here.

1. In the last 20 years the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, worldwide, has…?
A. Almost doubled
B. Remained more or less the same
C. Almost halved

Correct answer: Almost halved
Source: World Bank


2. How many of the world’s 1-year-old children today have been vaccinated against some disease?
A. 80%
B. 50%
C. 20%

Correct answer: 80%

Source: WHO & UNICEF



3. How did the number of deaths per year from natural disasters change over the last hundred years?
A. More than doubled
B. Remained more or less the same
C. Decreased to less than half

Correct answer: Decreased to less than half

Source: OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database


4. Of all people in the world today, the majority live in:
A. Low income countries
B. Middle income countries
C. High income countries

Correct answer: Middle income countries
Source: World Bank Population Data


5. Worldwide, 30 year old men have spent 10 years in school, on average. How many years have women of the same age spent in school?
A. 9 years
B. 6 years
C. 3 years

Correct answer: 9 years
Source: IHME Global Educational Attainment


6. There are roughly seven billion people in the world today. Which map shows where people live? (Each figure represents 1 billion people.)


Correct: A
Source: Based on 2015 Revision of World Population Prospects


7. The United Nations predicts that by 2100 the world population will have increased by another 4 billion people. What is the main reason?
A. There will be more children
B. There will be more adults
C. There will be more very old people


Correct answer: There will be more adults
Source: 2015 Revision of World Population Prospects


8. In all low income countries across the world today, how many girls finish primary school?
A. 20%
B. 40%
C. 60%

Correct answer: 60%
Source: UNESCO


9. There are two billion children in the world today, aged 0 to 15 years old. How many children will there be in the year 2100 according to the United Nations?
A. 4 billion
B. 3 billion
C. 2 billion

Correct answer: 2 billion
Source: 2015 Revision of World Population Prospects


10. The global climate experts believe that, over the next 100 years, the average temperature will:
A. Get warmer
B. Remain the same
C. Get colder

Correct answer: Get warmer
Source: IPCC


11. How many people in the world have some access to electricity?
A. 20%
B. 50%
C. 80%

Correct answer: 80%
Source: Global Electrification database


12. What is the life expectancy of the world population?
A. 50 years
B. 60 years
C. 70 years

Correct answer: 70 years
Source: WHO

Ignorance Survey in South Africa 2015

We asked 9 basics questions about development trends in the world to the South African public.

Here are the results: South African Ignorance 2015.

The survey was done with an online representative sample of the adult population, in collaboration with Novus Group International AB.


You can read more about our Ignorance Project here:

Ignorance Survey in Germany 2014

In August 2014 the Ignorance Survey was conducted in one more country!

We asked selected questions about global development trends to a representative sample of the German population and here are the results:

Results German Ignorance 2014

You can also read the full story (in German) here.

The Ignorance Survey was conducted in Germany in a collaboration between DER SPIEGEL and TNS Infratest GmbH, Berlin.

You can read more about our ignorance project here:

Swedish Ignorance 2013

In November 2013 Gapminder conducted an Ignorance Survey in Sweden.

This study was done in collaboration with Novus Group International AB.

We asked ten basic questions about the current world to a representative sample of adults in Sweden.

Here are the results: Swedish Ignorance Nov 2013 Swe_ENGLISH

(In Swedish: Ignorance Survey in Sweden 2013 )

You can read more about our Ignorance Project here:

Ignorance Survey in the USA 2013

In November 2013 Gapminder conducted an Ignorance Survey in the US for the first time.

This study was done in collaboration with Novus Group International AB and KnowledgePanel.

We asked ten basic questions about the today’s  world to a  web panel that was representative of adults in the US.

Here are the results:

Results from the Ignorance Survey in the US.