Infographic Video: Who Is the World's Most Typical Person?

Answer, according to National Geographic: a 28-year-old, right-handed, cell-phone-owning Han Chinese man.

National Geographic's special series on global population, "7 Billion," was going to be fascinating no matter what. But the animated teaser-trailers they've produced for the series are almost the best thing about it. The latest one uses clever infographics and an unpredictable narrative to answer the question: Out of those 7 billion people on earth, who is the most typical?

The video is jam-packed with surprising statistics, all neatly designed within the constraints of National Geographic's beloved, instantly recognizable, black-and-gold brand language. For instance:

typical

typical

Also, most people on earth have cell phones, but only 25% have bank accounts. And while the average woman in Japan lives to be 86, in Afghanistan, she only makes it to her mid-40s. And the piece de resistance of the video, the "portrait" of the world's most typical person, is quite the showstopper: National Geographic gathered 190,000 photographs of 28-year-old Han Chinese men and composited them together into this image, which you can zoom in on to see the individual portraits:

typical

So there are a lot of people on earth. So what? Well, National Geographic's point is that with 7 billion of us running around, every little personal choice we make can be amplified to a literally planet-altering magnitude. (That "typical" 28 year old Chinese man? There are nine fricking million of him!) That makes us — not the sun, the tides, or the weather — the most significant force acting on the immensely complex system we call Planet Earth.

So while young Mr. Han is the mathematically average ambassador of humanity for now, that doesn't mean that your choices — or mine, or a middle-aged lady in Afghanistan's — don't make a big difference in the big picture, too. Pretty deep stuff for a viral video, no?

[Read more at National Geographic]

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3 Comments

  • Bill Addison

    I don't understand how choosing the largest cultural group of people who only make up approximately 0.12% of the world's population, i.e. Han Chinese men, then to only use a 2% sample of this group – i.e. 0.0024% of the entire planet's population – negating the rest of the world entirely, how this could result in what one would realistically assume, as the title of this article states "...the world's most typical person".

  • Garrett Campagna

    That was incredibly interesting, both in subject matter and visually. I was quite impressed.

  • Chris Berger

    This is mindblowing. One minor correction, the composited image of the Han Chinese Man is actually composited of little 3D illustrations of identityless men from above, not photographs. The poster from the print version has a mesmerizing collection of mini info graphics on the back, too. Chris.