December 11, 2018

It’s time for some New Year’s Resolutions. First, let’s clear up some obsolete language – like developing vs. developed nations. According to a new book, “Factfulness,” by Hans Rosling, the number of nations called “developing” (poor) is now down to only 13 countries, representing only 6% of global population.

Rosling has been urging this change of language to the World Bank since 1999. After 14 talks there in 17 years, the World Bank finally changed its language in 2016. The United Nations still retains its binary “us” vs. “them” paradigm because it suits their class-warfare model, but the idea is so 20th Century.

Next, let’s clear up some false impressions of the world around us – that “everything is getting worse.” If you don’t think this belief is widespread, let me give you the results of a quiz designed by Mr. Rosling.

Although he died in 2017, Rosling’s son Ola and Ola’s wife Anna are carrying on his work. The Roslings crafted a 13-part quiz, each question with a 3-part multiple choice answer. That means chimpanzees can score 33% right, but experience has shown that far fewer than 33% of humans can find the right answers.

Here are about half of the 13 questions – the odd-numbered ones (due to space constraints). See how well you do. See if you can beat the world (which scores about 10%) or the chimps (33%). The answers follow.

Question #1: In all low-income countries across the world today, how many girls finish primary school?

  1. 20 percent
  2. 40 percent
  3. 60 percent.

(Please note: I’m only asking the odd-numbered questions, due to space constraints)

Question #3: In the last 20 years, the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty has…

  1. Almost doubled
  2. Remained more or less the same.
  3. Almost halved.

Question #5: 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 UN?

  1. 4 billion
  2. 3 billion
  3. 2 billion

Question #7: How did the number of deaths per year from natural disasters change over the last 100 years?

  1. More than doubled
  2. Remained about the same
  3. Decreased to less than half

Question #9: How many of the world’s 1-year-old children today have been vaccinated against some disease?

  1. 20 percent
  2. 50 percent
  3. 80 percent

Question #11: In 1996, tigers, giant pandas and black rhinos were all listed as endangered. How many of these species are more critically endangered now?

  1. Two of them
  2. One of them
  3. None of them

Question #13: Global climate experts believe that, over the next 100 years, the average temperature will…

  1. Get warmer
  2. Remain the same.
  3. Get colder.

The Correct Answers: See How You Scored

In 2017, the Roslings asked 12,000 people in 14 nations all 13 questions. Over 85% got the Question #13 right. Ignoring that one, the respondents averaged only two correct answers to the first 12 questions (the chimpanzees would have gotten four right). Nobody got all 13 right. Only one person got 11 out of the first 12 right. A stunning 15% got zero out of 12 right. Only 10% performed better than the chimpanzees.

Here are the answers to the seven questions I listed. See if you can beat the world – or the chimps.

Question #1: The correct answer is C: 60% of girls (now 63.2%) finish primary school. Almost 90% of girls of primary school age attend school vs. 92% of boys – almost no difference: Only 10% in the U.S. answered this right, and an average of just 7% in 14 countries got it right.

Question #3: The correct answer is C: Global poverty in the last 20 years has fallen from 34% in 1993 to 10% in 2013. Longer-term, the global population living on an inflation-adjusted $2 a day or less is down from 50% in 1966 to 9% in 2017. Only 5% in the U.S. and an average 9% in 14 countries got this right.

Question #5: The correct answer is C: two billion children: This is already a proven trend. As societies get richer, women have fewer children. Only 10% in U.S. and an average 14% in 14 countries got it right.

Question #7: The correct answer is once again C: Decreased to less than half (actually down 75%). The world’s population is five billion higher than 100 years ago, so the per capita death rate from all natural disasters (including floods, earthquakes, storms, droughts, wildfires, plus displacements and pandemics) is only 6% of what it was then. Only 11% in the U.S. and an average 10% in 14 countries got the right. The chimpanzees – who don’t watch the news – did three times better.

Question #9: The correct answer is (broken record) C: 80%, and now closer to 90%. Only 17% in the U.S. and an average 13% in 14 nations got it right.

Question #11: The correct answer is (surprise) C: none of them, but it is sadly in the best interest of fund-raisers to scare us into thinking that more species are going extinct. Only 12% in the U.S. and an average 9% in 14 nations got this right.

Question #13: The correct answer is obviously A: Get warmer: 81% of Americans and an average 87% in 14 nations got this right, so seven of eight global citizens know that the world is getting warming but fewer than one in seven thinks the world is getting wealthier and healthier (and smarter and safer).

Graphs are for illustrative and discussion purposes only. Please read important disclosures at the end of this commentary.

Conclusion: The world is in not in climate denial. The world is in wealth and health denial.

How did you do? From the title of this column, maybe you cleverly guessed the most positive answers. Maybe you did better than the chimps since you’re been reading my columns, so you expected the good news (mostly “C”) to be the right answer, but the general public, the media and the experts got it wrong.

Yes, the media are just as bad. Rosling addressed a group of film documentary journalists from several leading producers – BBC, PBS, National Geographic, the Discovery Channel and others – asking three of the questions listed above. For questions #1 (women’s education), #5 (future children) and #9 (child vaccination), only 15% of these journalists and documentary film-makers got the right answers.

Highly-intelligent people did just as badly on these tests. There is a super-brainy group of Mensa-type skeptics who are proud of their critical thinking skills. They call their group “The Amazing Meeting,” an annual gathering of people who love scientific reasoning. They scored just as badly on the Roslings’ 13 questions as everyone else. Readers of the highly-respected science journal, Nature, scored just as badly.

Amazingly enough, Nobel laureates and Nobel hopefuls scored even worse! Hans Rosling writes:

“I had the honor of attending the 64th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, addressing a large group of talented young scientists and Nobel laureates in physiology and medicine. They were the acknowledged intellectual elite of their field, and yet on the question about child vaccination they scored worse than any public polls: 8 percent got the answer right. (After this I never take it for granted that brilliant experts will know anything about closely-related fields outside their specialty.)”

In the field of women’s rights, Rosling asked 292 “brave young feminists” who traveled to Stockholm from across the world to coordinate their struggle to improve women’s access to education about women’s rights, but “only 8% knew that 30-year-old women have spent on average only one year less in school than 30-year-old men.” And that was in a multiple-choice quiz with a 33% chance of success.

As you can see, there is far more “global prosperity denial” and “global health denial” than there is “global warming denial,” and in this case we are talking about established facts, not models or guesses about the future. If 87% are sure about the future of the weather but the same 87% are wrong about vital facts from the recent past, what does that tell you about the quality of our schools and our news media?

About The Author

Gary Alexander

Gary Alexander has been Senior Writer at Navellier since 2009.  He edits Navellier’s weekly Marketmail and writes a weekly Growth Mail column, in which he uses market history to support the case for growth stocks.  For the previous 20 years before joining Navellier, he was Senior Executive Editor at InvestorPlace Media (formerly Phillips Publishing), where he worked with several leading investment analysts, including Louis Navellier (since 1997), helping launch Louis Navellier’s Blue Chip Growth and Global Growth newsletters.

Prior to that, Gary edited Wealth Magazine and Gold Newsletter and wrote various investment research reports for Jefferson Financial in New Orleans in the 1980s.  He began his financial newsletter career with KCI Communications in 1980, where he served as consulting editor for Personal Finance newsletter while serving as general manager of KCI’s Alexandria House book division.  Before that, he covered the economics beat for news magazines. *All content of “Growth Mail” represents the opinion of Gary Alexander*


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