[ted id=1101]

Hans Rosling's little fable about "the air people, the wash people, the bulb people, and the fire people" addresses some pretty big questions about wealth, economic growth, and energy use. For Rosling, it all centers around the humble washing machine.

In the end, says Rosling, washing machines mean a more intellectual society — people use more electrical energy, but less human energy, which they can then put into reading. Is that worth the environmental tradeoff? What does it mean to make that choice? And if your grandma heard you disparaging washing machines just for using too much energy, would she whup you? Sounds like Rosling's would.

Got thoughts? Well, don't tell ME about it. There's an open conversation with Rosling on TED.com through March 28.