Marcel Proust once said, "The voyage of discovery lies not in seeing new lands, but in having new eyes." In the 21st century there's a common misconception that there is nothing left for us to discover on our planet, that we have explored all that earth has to offer. That could not be further from the truth. While it may be true that space is the final frontier, we have not expanded our knowledge to encompass everything on our home world yet. The natural world aside, understanding the human condition and our social existence is an adventure in its own right.
Though many people believe they know about other countries, many people still mistake Africa for one! How poor are people in tiny island nations? What does happiness look like? Perhaps our lack of curiosity is not so much an effect of a lack of concern, but that it is a cause for our general lack of concern. The spark of curiosity can ignite a flame that engulfs your appetite to learn more about the world and to shatter the misconceptions that plague many of us. Curiosity can defeat ignorance. Enter Gapminder.org.
The site provides a series of innovative tools that allow you to explore the world like never before. The first option is to take the Gapminder test, a series of 13 multiple choice questions about the status of international development in various parts of the world. Even United Nations officials have taken the test and found themselves surprised with the disparity between their actual knowledge and what they thought they knew. It goes to show that all across the spectrum there are misconceptions worth challenging, and that no one is immune to them. This is why the test is a great place to start on the site, so that you can explore the rest of it with a blank slate and open mind.
The DollarStreet tool gives a fascinating glimpse into the real lives of people from all over the world. The DollarStreet team visited 264 families in over 50 countries, then publishing over 30,000 photos alongside information about the family. The photos are organized in a grid like view, and you can select the category: from households and furniture selections, to topics such as Next Big Thing We Plan To Buy, or Most Loved Items. There's even an alcoholic drinks category in case you're interested. . .
Why does gap minder work so hard to reveal the truth in the world around us? Because misconceptions can be dangerous. Most of us are aware that overpopulation threatens social, economic, and ecological stability, and knowing that, it would be justifiable to conclude that saving poor children (the ones with the highest risk of mortality) would lead to further overpopulation - but in fact, when you examine the facts, the opposite is true! Gapminder's data tools help bring to life these understandings with interactive charts and displays that let you explore the data yourself.
A series of videos explain this, and many other paradoxical phenomena, so that you can delve deeper into the world of data that they have accumulated for your exploration. Explore Income, Maps, Trends, Rankings, and Ages and see what factors affect and are impacted by this information with time-tracked chrono-displays and colorful charts.
The brainchild of Hans and Ola Rosling helps people the world over fight ignorance, and prepares them to be more aware of the artifacts of cultural stories and misconceptions that drastically pervert the world outside their borders. Hear the TED Talks that explain it all here and here.