Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

Factfulness: The stress-reducing habit of only carrying opinions for which you have strong supporting facts.When asked simple questions about global trends—what percentage of the world’s population live in poverty; why the world’s population is increasing; how many girls finish school—we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at r...

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Title:Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
Author:Hans Rosling
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think Reviews

  • Shalini Sinha

    Everyone has a list of 5, 10 or xx books which come along every once in a while and completely change your perspectives on some of the convictions you've held for long. Factfulness is one such book; it has the prospective to challenge the orthodox views we have had since forever.

    In my opinion, "Factfulness" is one of the most influential books published in 2018. The greatest deal about it is not the facts or fancy numbers & graphs (I still love them) it has, but that how

    Everyone has a list of 5, 10 or xx books which come along every once in a while and completely change your perspectives on some of the convictions you've held for long. Factfulness is one such book; it has the prospective to challenge the orthodox views we have had since forever.

    In my opinion, "Factfulness" is one of the most influential books published in 2018. The greatest deal about it is not the facts or fancy numbers & graphs (I still love them) it has, but that how

    .

    Hans Rosling wrote this book when he was on his deathbed, diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer. The only thing that made this drastic change in his personal life bearable was the book. He didn't live long enough to read the final draft, to get the book published, to see it become a massive success or to bliss over people reading it generations after generations. Being a doctor, Rosling spent his whole life working for the underprivileged and the unfortunate ones in different countries of the world. He was a visionary who saw the world different from us; and this is a chronicle of the success stories, experiences as well the failures that he shared with the world.

    for everyone who exists.

    If you want to understand the world or improve your rational thinking, this could be one of the books to start with.

  • Andy

    Rosling writes about the most important things in the world and does so in an accessible and entertaining style. He busts myths using facts. This is what non-fiction is supposed to be.

    Much of what "everybody knows" and that we read in the news every day is wrong, because hardly anyone bothers to do reality-checking. This is a recurring problem in non-fiction books, including ones about science. So, when finally someone is exposing ignorance, clarifying truth, and exploring logical implications,

    Rosling writes about the most important things in the world and does so in an accessible and entertaining style. He busts myths using facts. This is what non-fiction is supposed to be.

    Much of what "everybody knows" and that we read in the news every day is wrong, because hardly anyone bothers to do reality-checking. This is a recurring problem in non-fiction books, including ones about science. So, when finally someone is exposing ignorance, clarifying truth, and exploring logical implications, I am going to give him 5 stars.

    Gapminder and this book are great gifts to the world. Rosling will be missed. Viva facts!

  • Bill Gates

    I talk about the developed and developing world all the time, but I shouldn’t.

    My late friend Hans Rosling

    “outdated” and “meaningless.” Any categorization that lumps together China and the Democratic Republic of Congo is too broad to be useful. But I’ve continued to use “developed” and “developing” in public (and on this blog) because there wasn’t a more accurate, easily understandable alternative—until now.

    I recently read Hans’ new book

    I talk about the developed and developing world all the time, but I shouldn’t.

    My late friend Hans Rosling

    “outdated” and “meaningless.” Any categorization that lumps together China and the Democratic Republic of Congo is too broad to be useful. But I’ve continued to use “developed” and “developing” in public (and on this blog) because there wasn’t a more accurate, easily understandable alternative—until now.

    I recently read Hans’ new book

    . In it, he offers a new framework for how to think about the world. Hans proposes

    (with the largest number of people living on level 2).

    This was a breakthrough to me. The framework Hans enunciates is one that took me decades of working in global development to create for myself, and I could have never expressed it in such a clear way. I’m going to try to use this model moving forward.

    Why does it matter? It’s hard to pick up on progress if you divide the world into rich countries and poor countries. When those are the only two options, you’re more likely to think anyone who doesn’t have a certain quality of life is “poor.”

    Hans compares this instinct to standing on top of a skyscraper and looking down at a city. All of the other buildings will look short to you whether they’re ten stories or 50 stories high. It’s the same with income. Life is significantly better for those on level 2 than level 1, but it’s hard to see that from level 4 unless you know to look for it.

    The four levels are just one of many insights in

    that will help you better understand the world. I’m excited that Hans’ publisher Flatiron Books plans to donate 5,000 copies to Books for Africa and Reader to Reader—two organizations that encourage reading in underserved communities. Hans worked on the book until his last days (even bringing several chapters with him in the ambulance to the hospital), and his son Ola and daughter-in-law Anna helped finish it after he passed.

    The bulk of the book is devoted to ten instincts that keep us from seeing the world factfully. These range from the fear instinct (we pay more attention to scary things) to the size instinct (standalone numbers often look more impressive than they really are) to the gap instinct (most people fall between two extremes). With each one, he offers practical advice about how to overcome our innate biases. Gates Notes Insiders can

    of the gap instinct chapter.

    Hans argues that these instincts make it difficult to put events in perspective. Imagine news coverage about a natural disaster—say, a tornado that kills 10 people in a small town. If you look at only the headlines, you’ll view the event as an unbearable tragedy (which it is). But if you put it in the context of history, you’ll also know that tornadoes today are a lot less deadly than they used to be, thanks to advanced warning systems. That’s no consolation to the loved ones of those who died, but it matters a great deal to everyone who survived the tornado.

    That idea drives the work Melinda and I do every day, and Hans articulates it beautifully in

    . It’s a great companion to Steven Pinker’s

    (although Hans is a little less academic than Pinker is). With rare exceptions, most of the miracles of humankind are long-term, constructed things. Progress comes bit by bit. We’ve cut the number of people living in extreme poverty by half over the last twenty years, but there was never a morning when “POVERTY RATES DROP INCREMENTALLY” dominated newspaper headlines.

    Another remarkable thing about

    —and about Hans himself—is that he refuses to judge anyone for their misconceptions. Most writers would beat people up for their ignorance, but he doesn’t. Hans even resists going after the media. Instead, he tells you about the history of his own ignorance. He explains that these instincts make us human, and that overcoming them isn’t easy.

    That’s classic Hans. He was always kind, often patient, and never judgmental. He

    not only understanding how global health was improving but sharing what he learned in a fun, clear way with a broad set of people. If you never met Hans or watched one of his many TED talks,

    will help you get a sense of why he was so special. I wish I could tell Hans how much I liked it.

    is a fantastic book, and I hope a lot of people read it.

  • Tanja Berg

    The first time I saw Rosling, he was explaining on television that most of the Syrian refugees are displaced in their own country, and not on their way to Europe. He had so many bright ideas. I was deeply saddened to hear of his death and I immediately shied from the postmortem released books. I did not want to be reminded. Eventually I realized my foolishness and this week I've been reading "Factfulness" while at the same time listening to Rosling's memoir on audio.

    We need to learn to hold two

    The first time I saw Rosling, he was explaining on television that most of the Syrian refugees are displaced in their own country, and not on their way to Europe. He had so many bright ideas. I was deeply saddened to hear of his death and I immediately shied from the postmortem released books. I did not want to be reminded. Eventually I realized my foolishness and this week I've been reading "Factfulness" while at the same time listening to Rosling's memoir on audio.

    We need to learn to hold two thoughts in our head at the same time: the world has gotten a lot better, and some things are still really bad.

    At the start of the book is a quiz with 13 questions, on which most people across the world score worse than if they had guessed at random. As an example, question 2: where do the majority of people live? A. Low-income countries B. Middle-income countries C. High income countries.

    Although I managed a high score, much because I grew up in a poverty level 2 country and saw it move to 3 within the span of a decade, this was still an incredibly insightful and useful book. It is one that everyone should read. It presents facts and anecdotes, and most of all, tools to better understand the world.

    Tools for factfulness:

    1. Gap - check for the majority

    2. Deterioration - expect bad news

    3. Linearity - not all lines are straight

    4. Fear - evaluate risks

    5. Size - put things in the right perspective

    6. Generalization - question your categories

    7. Fate - observe slow changes

    8. One-sidedness - get more tools

    9. Blame - avoid pointing fingers

    10. Emergency - take small steps

    The world is no longer divided into rich and poor. This category is no longer meaningful. Rosling identifies four categories depending on income. The people in the different categories live in a similar way regardless if it's China or Nigeria, Egypt or USA.

    Don't stress. Check your facts. The world is better than it's ever been. This does not mean there are no things to combat, it simply means that fewer people die from preventable disease than before. Mortality and births are down. Read this book, your life will be better for having done so.

    If you only read one book this year, or in a decade, or your life, let it be this one.

  • Daniel Clausen

    This is probably one of the most important books available today. Why? Because our world is desperately in need of a shared sense of reality, and it's very important that this reality has a solid grounding in science and reason. The book is not without its controversy. The charts and graphs mostly come from UN and World Bank statistics. Many people will argue about the "factfulness" of the various datasets presented in this book-- after all, your faith in the science and facts of these books als

    This is probably one of the most important books available today. Why? Because our world is desperately in need of a shared sense of reality, and it's very important that this reality has a solid grounding in science and reason. The book is not without its controversy. The charts and graphs mostly come from UN and World Bank statistics. Many people will argue about the "factfulness" of the various datasets presented in this book-- after all, your faith in the science and facts of these books also assumes your faith in the institutions collecting data (over and above other institutions like your local church).

    But if you do have faith in these institutions, then you'll see that just because the institutions and the data aren't perfect (just like many other things in modern life) they are improving. The relentless pursuit of progress also extends to our statistical understanding of the things around us. For my part, one of the most striking things about the book is how uncontroversial its assertions are...and how simple the statistical facts of the world can be rendered.

    At one point in the book, the author asks harder epistemological questions. For those who have a more mystical understanding of vaccinations, chemicals, and even modern science, the author asks "What evidence would make you change your mind?". Regrettably, for most of the world, the answer is this: "If the answer benefits my tribe and its particular world-view, then yes, easily accepted....oh, and by the way, I'll use the open-mindedness of non-tribal people against themselves by sewing the seeds of skepticism while continuing to build walls to protect my tribe's worldview."

    Will you ever be able to convince a climate change skeptic to accept climate change? My own very controversial answer is this: Only if you can co-opt their tribe. That is very different than getting a tribe to buy into the shared world of factfulness.

    My best guess is that this method of argument works within a worldview of competing tribes: Your tribe will have beneficial treatment, jobs, and prestige within this world and protection from other tribes. (Notice how the language of shared humanism is absent and the language hierarchy of tribes is emphasized).

    A true understanding of science requires that we always regard truths as provisional and that we look for falsifying evidence. My fear is that eventually the world will become so polluted by tribal world-views that all forms of shared factfulness will become polluted by tribalism. Zero-sum competition will lay waste to the public utility that is a shared fact-based world.

    There is one very controversial assertion in this book that I would like to reflect on. At several points, the author asserts that our current methods of pursuing progress are working. Child mortality rates are falling, crime is falling, battle deaths are falling, and national economies are rising out of poverty. I don't doubt the assertion within the framework of the book, but I do wonder about our current moment in history. A time when:

    1- populism

    2- social media enhanced sectarianism

    3- the displacement of localisms by globalization

    4- and discontent with the vast changes in technology

    are leading to the most difficult problem of our time: tribalism.

    As tribalism increases, our modern scientific tools for tackling climate change, political violence, disaster relief, and the fragility of the global economy deteriorate. As they deteriorate, zero-sum competition between tribes looks more logical. The tools of tribalism are becoming more visible: demonization and humiliation of enemies, the hoarding of resources, and the use of conflict over cooperation.

    This is not a problem I'm ready to answer right now, but Rosling's thesis that public education may restore our confidence in these tools and roll back tribalism does provide some hope if not a sufficient political answer to our current moment in history.

  • ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣

    This is either a very cruel book or a very fair one, and I'm not sure which one.

    On the one hand, the author is extremely sharp in that he realizes that bisection of the world is severely crippling to rational thinking process. When it becomes 'us' and 'them', most of our thinking processes will be black and white colored, or rather discolored. What we keep missing is that this world is complex and multifaceted enough to fit into no nice and tidy boxes. So, understanding that there are more than

    This is either a very cruel book or a very fair one, and I'm not sure which one.

    On the one hand, the author is extremely sharp in that he realizes that bisection of the world is severely crippling to rational thinking process. When it becomes 'us' and 'them', most of our thinking processes will be black and white colored, or rather discolored. What we keep missing is that this world is complex and multifaceted enough to fit into no nice and tidy boxes. So, understanding that there are more than 2 ways to live and more than 2 types of countries and more than 2 political parties and more than 2 ways to have a prospering state governance and ... and ... and ... is precious. And it's hindered by the tribal 'us'/'them' classification.

    He's also very right about our usage of outdated statistics and our lack of understanding of how data works.

    He's very wrong about diminishing the role of mass media in development of generations of people who

    - know next to nothing on the scientific way of thought, cannot think for themselves, cannot see neither the big picture nor the small one;

    - are gullible (i.e. my 'friend' writes anything on Facebook and I go on to believe it...);

    - cannot distinguish between horrible, questionable and reliable sources of info (feel free to use your own classification here), i.e.: Facebooks posts, World Bank data, blog entries, articles from around the web, research of different types and other stuff - everything gets lumped in these modern heads and become a congealed mass of truth, lies, wishful thinking, misrepresented info, incomprehensible blabber...

    Basically, people don't know how to use healthy skepticism for the info they are being spoon-fed. The don't even realize they have this option. Some guy or gal with PHD and a bunch of publications supposedly said this and that to some blogger or journalist and this becomes the new evidence of anything:

    - hackers, Russian or otherwise,

    - chemical weapons of varied countries,

    - health benefits of anything,

    - freethinking and progressive nature of [place your religion/persuasion/political inclinations here],

    - bloodthirsty and dated and inhuman nature of [place your religion/persuasion/political inclinations here]...

    ... and this becomes the new truth, right until the new information fad comes in vogue.

    I don't get the reason why the author suggests chucking the 'developing'/'developed' countries significators in favor of 'Levels' 1 to 4. Probably I should read way less trash but I immediately had a flashback to Districts in Hunger Games. Anyway, why 4 groups? Why not 5? Maybe 3 would have been less confusing? Or could it be that 10 might have allowed us to explore the shades of human misery and else in more relief? Why 4?

    Also, the author is making a big deal out of the fact that most world's population seems to be living in the middle class... To me, the author's description of the 'middle class (Lvls 2 and 3) sounded like something not exactly from Dante's Hell but very close to it. Basically, he proves that 6 bln out of our current 7 live in various shades of misery, from abject to hopeful, which is not as ground-shaking realization as he might be thinking. The difference is that when we think of middle class, we almost never think of it in terms of his Lvls 2 and 3... Our perception is strongly rooted in what he puts in the Lvl 4 bucket. So, we are not really always thinking of the middle class, when we are thinking of it, and our perception should be more humble and terminology more precise.

  • Marilla

    I got this as an ARC from Goodreads Giveaways (do you know happy that made me? It is true I had a 20% chance of getting it, as opposed to the 0.0118% chance most of these giveaways have, but still. My first ARC! All the imperfections and missing dates and awkward formatting was very endearing).

    Anyway, I'm not usually a reader of nonfiction, but this seemed interesting, and I obtained it, so obviously I read it. It was actually really good. Rosling was a very interesting narrator, which I decided

    I got this as an ARC from Goodreads Giveaways (do you know happy that made me? It is true I had a 20% chance of getting it, as opposed to the 0.0118% chance most of these giveaways have, but still. My first ARC! All the imperfections and missing dates and awkward formatting was very endearing).

    Anyway, I'm not usually a reader of nonfiction, but this seemed interesting, and I obtained it, so obviously I read it. It was actually really good. Rosling was a very interesting narrator, which I decided pretty early on (as in, page three), because he starts out with talking about sword swallowing and then goes on to tell us about how he occasionally does it at the end of his lectures. That immediately was very endearing, considering the last nonfiction book I read was

    by the esteemed but irritatingly condescending Malcom Gladwell, and Rosling did nothing to take away my respect throughout the book. He is very passionate about his subject, and he brings in tons of experiences he's had as examples, which adds both interesting details and credibility.

    I just like his voice, okay?

    This may be because I did agree with him on a lot of topics. (Okay, that probably plays a rather prominent role.) I'm big into looking at all the facts and evidence available first before jumping to conclusions, and one of the things that irritates me the most is when people are presented with absolute evidence and still go on pretending it doesn't exist. The facts are

    (To quote Tamora Pierce (in a review for a nonfiction book (shh)): "You can smack some people in the face with a haddock and they’ll still call it a mouse if a mouse is what they want to see.")

    I'm also very interested in the environment and consumer trends and could connect this book a lot to one of my classes, in which we learn about such things, so it was interesting to get a perspective on the same topics we were studying that was a lot more in-depth and a lot more interesting than my textbook.

    (The Gapminder website is pretty cool too.)

    One of my favorite concepts from

    was "possibilist".

    Also, another favorite quote:

    I would highly recommend this book. I already have, actually: "Oh, you should read this book! In April. When it comes out. Or you can borrow my copy if you simply cannot wait that long!"

    I had lots of feelings with this book - not the fiction pull-the-heartstrings feelings and more the this-is-good-and-logical-and-makes-me-happy feelings. Why is logic so hard for some people to understand?

    The most helpful view presented, actually, was the view that things can be "both bad and better". The world can be improving, but that's not to say there is nothing negative in the world and that there are not terrible things and people are not struggling. Things can be bad. But they can also be getting better. I feel like that kinda sums up the book itself.

  • Radiantflux

    78th book for 2018.

    I hate TED talks. This book is mostly like an extended TED Talk. Ipso facto I mostly hated this book.

    Rosling's central thesis is that in most measures of human development the World is much better than we'd think. That part of the book I enjoyed, though the data backing this up could have been presented in a far shorter book.

    Rosling spends a lot of time talking about the important people (e.g., bankers, Davos, bankers at Davos, TED talks) that he's presented this findings too

    78th book for 2018.

    I hate TED talks. This book is mostly like an extended TED Talk. Ipso facto I mostly hated this book.

    Rosling's central thesis is that in most measures of human development the World is much better than we'd think. That part of the book I enjoyed, though the data backing this up could have been presented in a far shorter book.

    Rosling spends a lot of time talking about the important people (e.g., bankers, Davos, bankers at Davos, TED talks) that he's presented this findings too. And he repeats and repeats and repeats his horror that people are so so ignorant not to know "basic" facts about the World (like probable demographic shifts over the next 100 years). This is all tedious and doesn't really help. He also gives a series of annoying tips about how to read statistics.

    The central problem with his optimistic World view is that it ignores all the declining global environmental indicators. This is not a side issue. Environmental indicators are declining precisely because the World is developing and consuming more and more (which is not to say that most of the damage is done by the most developed). It is an impossibility that most people in the World can reach Rosling's Stage 3, let alone Stage 4, with current technologies. The World couldn't even survive the World population eating meat at the same rate as people in Europe, the US or Japan, let alone adopting the rest of their lifestyle.

    I agree entirely with Rosling's point that people will want to reach Stage 4 (and have a right to do so), but his sort of glib analysis of how everything is getting better, allows decision makers in the West to continue to ignore this issue and live in the vague hope that a techno-fix will arrive just in time. I have no doubt this was why Rosling was so popular at Davos.

    2-stars.

  • Mats Mehrstedt

    In the last decades of his life Hans Rosling (1948 – 2017) made a world-wide career lecturing to large corporations, Wall Street bankers, hedge fund managers and gatherings of Nobel laureates and heads of states such as in Davos, about the statistics of the world. Roslings son invented a software so that you could present statistics with moving, shrinking and growing bubbles in different colors, which made an otherwise boring subject highly entertaining. The program could even be sold to Google.

    In the last decades of his life Hans Rosling (1948 – 2017) made a world-wide career lecturing to large corporations, Wall Street bankers, hedge fund managers and gatherings of Nobel laureates and heads of states such as in Davos, about the statistics of the world. Rosling´s son invented a software so that you could present statistics with moving, shrinking and growing bubbles in different colors, which made an otherwise boring subject highly entertaining. The program could even be sold to Google.

    Now, if you want to make a lot of money with people like this, you better tell them what they want to hear, or the invitations may dry up. Rosling´s message is that everything is getting better. Did you know that the number of extremely poor people have halved in the last 20 years? Did you know that the majority of the world´s population do not live in poor countries but in middle-income countries? Did you know that 80% of the world´s 1-year-olds have been vaccinated (against “some” disease)? Everything is getting better. At a slow pace, but it is getting there, so there´s no need to worry. Unless there is an outbreak of Ebola or some such thing.

    Rosling is not lying. Everybody can check these statistics themselves on the internet. But, as it is with statistics, you pick some and leave others out. And then there are those less-than-scientific value judgments. What is a “middle-income country”? If you look closely, if you make more than 2 dollars a day you are already there, according to Rosling. Now, if you are lucky, you might even be able to buy a bicycle and go into town and maybe even get a job in one of the garment factories! Imagine that! Progress is there! That progress is so slow that your generation and the next few ones may not live to see it should be of no concern.

    Why do the Africans risk their lives as refugees in the middle of all this progress? Because the EU won´t allow them to come by plane. Yes, that is a small part of the answer, but just a very small part and it does not explain why people leave their countries in the first place when there is no war.

    In the middle of the book Rosling has two honest pages about an African woman who talked to him after one of his lectures. She said Rosling was a good talker but he had no vision, which he found unfair. Then she said “Do you think Africans will settle with getting rid of extreme poverty and be happy living in only ordinary poverty?”

    She said his attitude was the same old European attitude Africans had lived with for centuries. Now, it honors Rosling that he mentions this, but he did not learn anything from it, obviously. On the very next page, as on all the others, he keeps going on as before.

    The over 1000-year-old nordic Edda says “One thing I know that never dies – the judgment over a dead man”.

    Hans Rosling was born in a working class family. He did many great things as a doctor in Africa and India. But he should have closed his ears to the siren call of fame and Big Money. He became a tranquilizer for the ruling class.

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