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Well, it seems to me he's right about the shape that humans want... one pile where everybody is rich.

Of course, on a finite planet whose natural systems and resources are already brutally overtaxed, there is exactly zero chance of that happening. That world will never exist. The world, according to his blocks, will likely look very similar to what it does now, perhaps even worse. There will probably be a single block of the uber-wealthy (the haves) and there will be some number of of blocks representing the poor (the have-nots). There will be little in between. It has been that way for most of human history, probably all of human history, including the fossil fuel era, with only relatively local or short exceptions. It will likely be that way again.

And that's probably the optimistic end of the realism spectrum. In reality, given human nature and our inability to be proactive to long-term, slow-moving problems that have unquantifiable economic impact today, it is entirely likely that we will make a series of "decisions" that will continue (if not exacerbate) our problems until such time as a crisis emerges that cannot be ignored. The question is, at that time, will there be anything that can be done to improve the outlook or minimize the pain? Or will the necessary correction be the same for humans as it is for yeast (and pretty much all other life forms when they exceed the carrying capacity of their ecosystem)?

By the end of this century, Hans might have to have fewer blocks (or smaller blocks that represent millions (?) rather than billions). If you're betting on the likelihood of all those poor people becoming rich by the end of this century, I'll take the over. Big.

Dave Cohen


I can't help but think that you've missed the point here.

Hans Rosling is insane, and there are literally billions of other people just like him.

For DOTE to have a bigger audience and more influence, I would have to talk sense to insane people.

A daunting task.

-- Dave


Holy crap! Thanks, Dave! Poor Hans takes a huge jump--no, a rocket to the moon leap of logic--at 2:45 in that video. Him and Bill Gates, and Bill McKibben, and 6.99 billion other people, as you say. I had to watch it twice, because if you blink, you miss the magical thinking that goes on there, transitioning in about 2 seconds with those Legos.

The idea that we can focus on carbon and ignore energy basis is what's missing. Focus on the tailpipe and completely ignore the gas tank is the most obtuse and deadly blind spot in the history of man.


Yeah, it's horrifying. It's even more horrifying that Rosling is a hero to many intellectuals and greenies. I've seen his Ted talks on Youtube. He strikes me as very accurate when it comes to current and historical data, and a complete idiot about future projections (largely because his assumptions of why certain trends occur are wrong). He sees that economic prosperity creates low infant mortality yet lower overall birth rates coupled with much higher carbon emissions. He doesn't understand energy and its vitality to economic prosperity, and like any good 'optimist' (http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2111975_2111976_2112170,00.html) he just assumes we can snap our fingers and replace all our energy needs with renewables. (He also discounts or ignores the fact that most economic prosperity requires heavy environmental degradation in other areas, too). He takes his analysis of past trends to say the entire world can become the 1%, and not only can, but will. It is insane.

Someone made a comment on your blog a while back about how the people that ARE lionized by the media and society are the ones you have to treat with high levels of caution - it's very true.


Liberalism is such a neat religion. With just a mustard seed of faith, you can industrialize the entire world, eradicate poverty, and *decrease* carbon emissions all in one fell swoop. The messianic westerners will save the world through compassion and well-wishes.


I would rather watch someone high on crack play with lego blocks than watch that video again. This endless population and endless human ingenuity bullshit is everywhere. As you note, humans want to consume bullshit stories, if you provided reality but than just gave techno-optimism rants on all your articles the MSM would likely start linking to your articles. I pretty much gave up talking to people about anything of significance about the world in general--because everyone I know is a techno optimist. As someone noted, true believers and snake handlers and "optimists" aren't that much different--the snake just may bite you now, whereas the trends will bite a bit later.

Sometimes I think back to that scene in the Big Lebowski of the guy floating around the swimming pool passed out with a JD bottle floating next to him. The lady says, don't worry about him he's a nihilist. Maybe that guy was the realist :)

Dave Cohen

Re: I would rather watch someone high on crack play with lego blocks than watch that video again

Laugh out loud! Great.

Thank you.

-- Dave

Alexander Ač


This makes B Bernanke uber-pesimist. I almost fell down from my chair! Somebody consider this to be serious? Wait... the rest of 99,9 % of population...



Watched it last week and had to reach down to pick my chin off the floor. Gives new meaning to "dumbing down" & "lowest common denominator".

"Hans Rosling is insane"...galen or tokig in Swedish.

Please also see his high tech 2010 BBC video...


In the Freak Show the map IS the territory.


Diogenes, yes I love that BBC 2010 video, especially the great big arrow pointing to wealth and health for the entire human population some time this century!


Ha! Is he actually serious? Aside from everything else (that is wrong), all you have to do is get the rich to share! Why, that's ingenious!

Alexander Ač

Atnorton - I propose to share by NOT getting rich, but that is not popular, for some reason...


Frank Furcsa

Dream on or Do the math ! This guy is clueless there is not going to be 10 billion folks burning more fossil fuel . Way before that could happen all the other converging crises have wrecked the whole system (water food etc)on top of it you can only burn 1/5th of the remaining reserves without the atmosphere blowing up this guy looks smart but he is an idiot and the recording is crappy also you can`t see his little buttons he tries to depict the problems with it is out of the frame this is crap all the way


Slightly off topic but just thought I'd share this fairly interesting article entitled "Unburnable fuel" from The Economist: http://www.economist.com/news/business/21577097-either-governments-are-not-serious-about-climate-change-or-fossil-fuel-firms-are


Dave and Mitch - you mean Look-No-Hans isn't high on crack in that video???!! Well, blow me!

Ken Barrows

Hans Rosling and Ben S. Bernanke ought to have lunch. I only hope the server doesn't go crazy.

Ryan Brooks

Hey Mitch, it's funny you mention techno optimism I had experience with this train of thought over some drinks the other night with my brother and some friends.

I'm 25 and my brother is 24 and our friends are around the same age. We got to talking at the end of the night about "the future" - so to speak - and I quickly learned that my brother had just recently read a few laymen books on physics: particularly time travel and space. I had the unfortunate displeasure of listening to him talk about the possibility of time travel in the forseeable future and how we could have made it to other earthlike planets in the future if the NASA had not shut down it's shuttle program.

All this time listening to him talk about such oddities endlessly had me asking who the hell writes these things? Needless to say I came to the conclusion that it's just some physics professor trying to make a buck (my poor brother).

Problem is, I couldn't find the words to tell him to shut up and ask if he's even been listening to anything I've been telling and showing him over the past few years. I knew that even if I did attempt to "enlighten" him one more time that it would not have made a difference.

These are the problems we face. This shit has got to stop!

Ryan Brooks

Now we just have to figure out how to move the ice to a secure location to keep it from melting this summer:



That was friggin' hilarious! Another 3 billion people, all with Western living standards. Never mind about peak oil, arctic melt, ocean acidification, aquifer depletion, deforestation, peak phosphorous. Those thinks are but a flesh wound on the Black Knight of civilization who will bite your kneecaps off and achieve victory!

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