For several years now, HumanProgress has been an excellent source of data and scholarship on major demographic trends around the word. As longtime fans know, over the long term and in most places, human quality of life has been increasingly steadily on every measure, from poverty to literacy to longevity to leisure time. And in the places in which the opposite appears to be happening, we often have clear evidence that oppressive and economically illiterate government policies are to blame.
The data work that HumanProgress does is similar in some ways to the information available from the Gapminder Foundation, the Swedish “fact tank” founded by the late and much-beloved physician and statistician Hans Rosling. Both projects use the latest data about global living conditions to give both casual readers and serious researchers the best information available about how human beings are living in the present day, and how they got to be living in the ways they are.
There are many reasons why even intelligent people get the wrong impressions of—and come to the wrong conclusions about—living conditions around the world. Some say that human beings have a cognitive bias toward worrying about disasters and problems rather than focusing on good news. Others claim that news media outlets intentionally sensationalize negative stories in order to attract viewers. But, as the Gapminder website states, we don’t have to agree on the cause in order to make the situation better:
Instead of wasting our time blaming the media or condemning the human brain, we develop free teaching material to dismantle misconceptions and promote a fact-based worldview.