WASHINGTON, D.C. -- "To my grandmother, the washing machine was a miracle," said data analyst Hans Rosling is opening his short talk at the TEDWomen conference. Rosling, professor of International Health at Sweden's Karolinska Institute, told a story of how he was four years old on the day that his mother first loaded a washing machine as an entry point into a larger discussion of economic development. His parents had saved for years to purchase that machine, Rosling said. That day, like a holiday or birthday, was so important that even grandma was invited over to watch -- and she insisted on pushing the button to get the machine going.
Known as a TED rock star because his past presentations have been watched so many millions of times that he holds a record for the conference, Rosling did not disappoint.
His slides kicked into action as Rosling laid out the facts: Two billion of the world's seven billion people live on less than $2 a day, below the poverty line, Rosling said. And only one billion live about the "Air line," the term Rosling uses for those who spend more than $80 a day and whose lives are filled with gadgets, including airplanes. But how many live above the "Wash line?" Rosling asked. How many of the world's seven billion have access to a washing machine? Only two billion. These people live on $40 a day or more. Everyone else -- about five billion people around the world -- still washes their clothes by hand.