Graphs and maps from Max Roser’s Our World in Data have become a fixture on social media and in thoughtful conversations around the world. They provide deep historical and global context on centuries of progress about issues such as life expectancy, poverty, education, health, and income inequality. Much as Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report is eagerly studied by entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, Our World in Data is scrutinized for signs of where we are headed and what matters. One of the things I love about Max’s work is that it illustrates that, despite setbacks, society has progressed enormously over the past five centuries. The history he unveils is fundamentally hopeful.
— Tim O’Reilly
It is becoming a more equal world. This is something that should make us optimistic for the future. We have more people that can contribute to the innovations [that] increase incomes and more people that can demand these technologies and ideas. . . .The optimists of the 1970s were actually the realists.
The perception and discussion of development is focused on a single, narrow aspect of development: economic growth. The growth of incomes is important, yet it is a means to an end, and certainly it is no guarantee that we achieve the ends of development that we care about (health, education, human freedom, sustainable relationship with nature, and more).
Having a good idea of how the world is changing is fundamental to understand why the world is changing. And understanding why the world is changing—for example why the world is getting more peaceful—is fundamental to knowing how to further the development that we want and make the world a richer, sustainable, healthier, and more peaceful place.
The empirical view of our world shows how the Enlightenment continues to make our world a better place. It chronicles how human societies became less violent and increasingly more democratic. The empirical evidence shows how new ideas continue to improve living standards, allowing us to live a healthier, richer, and happier life. It is the story of declining poverty and better food provision in a world we care about.
Max Roser is an economist at the University of Oxford, where he is a research fellow at the Oxford Martin School. His empirical research studies the growth and distribution of living standards. Max publishes research on inequality, poverty, health, and growth; he also presents empirical research on how our world is changing on his web publication, Our World in Data.
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