Factfulness by Hans Rosling

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the Author:

Hans Rosling (27 July 1948 – 17 February 2017) was a Swedish physician, academic, statistician, and public speaker. He was the Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institute and co-founder and chairman of the Gapminder Foundation, which developed the Trendalyzer software system.

He held presentations around the world, including several TED Talks in which he promoted the use of data to explore development issues.

Publication Year: 2018


Factfulness is written by Hans Rosling with his son Ola Rosling and daughter-in-law Anna Rosling, both of whom were responsible for compiling the data. The data is presented in the form of bubble charts, graphs and it’s verified by international organizations.

The aim of the book is to fight ignorance and dramatic worldview with well-researched facts and global statistics. This book starts off with a quick 13 question quiz to test how you see the world in general. The author then proceeds to explain the world and banish misconceptions using the gathered data.

Key points :

When you use the GPS in your car, it is important that it is using the right information”.

The author explains in detail the ten human instincts that shape our opinion about the world that includes gap instinct, fear instinct, fear instinct etc., along with the reasoning behind them and their implications. He uses data to show the errors caused by those instincts and ways to tackle them.

It’s obsolete to divide the countries into developed and developing countries. The majority fit into developed countries. It’s proper to classify countries into 4 income levels starting from Level 1 that has poorest countries to Level 4 that has richest countries.

The majority of people live in the middle and the author explains how life looks like on all levels based on his interviews with people on all levels. This new way of classification helps to understand the world in a practical way without any prejudice and misconceptions by dividing the world into two categories. 

You can look at the lives of people on different levels by visiting Dollar Street, a project where lives of about 300 families in more than 50 countries have been photographed and documented.

“Warning: Objects in Your Memories Were Worse Than They Appear”.

The author dispels the negativity instinct i.e. ‘Things are getting worse’ by presenting the improvements that happened and those that are taking place actively. Some improvements are happening so gradually that they’re inconspicuous so it’s easier to dismiss them.

Small advances go unreported by the media but these changes add up in a long run. Also, people tend to glorify their pasts. I’m sure you’ve met people who start the sentence with ‘In those good old days’. This only strengthens the negativity bias.

There’s no room for facts when our minds are occupied by fear”.

The attention-grabbing news is the one that generates fear in our mind. The author explains why and how our fear instinct is invoked and urges us to understand the difference between what’s frightening and what’s dangerous as it causes us to shift our attention from something that’s risky to something that’s mildly harmful.

The world cannot be understood without numbers. And it cannot be understood with numbers alone”. 

It’s important to compare a lone number with another to get a clear image for eg. we should compare data from the present with the data from the past and understand what the numbers explain about the real world. Using the graphs, he pointed out bad things that are decreasing like child labor, death from disaster, hunger etc. and the good things that are improving like literacy, protected nature, women’s right etc.

If you really want to change the world you have to understand it”. 

Having a clear picture of the world can be really helpful for entrepreneurs looking to invest their money and sell their products that’ll benefit people and make their business grow. Also, it’ll be useful for politicians and activists to focus on the issues that need immediate attention.

Conclusion : 

Still I’m possibilistic. The next generation is like the last runner in a very long relay race”. 

The author is candid while putting forward facts and he has used experiences from his life to present his ideas. He also admits the mistakes he made in the past due to ignorance and his instincts which make reading the book an interesting experience. While reading, you can just feel how dedicated he is to his work.

I don’t mean to be dramatic (!) but reading this book has really been an eye-opening experience as I got to see the world from a fresh perspective. Journalists and documentarians prefer to tell stories that create conflict and hence, they should not be relied upon to show the unfiltered picture of the world.

Despite explaining how media is responsible for presenting the distorted view of the world, the author does not blame them; he blames the different instincts that guide people. In order to break away from those instincts, he urges us to constantly keep updating our knowledge and changing our views in accordance with the newly discovered facts.

The best solution is to read factual news from a verified source and not dwell on the negative news. The aim is not to dismiss the bad things that are happening; you can acknowledge it, feel sad about it, help people in times of need but what’s important is looking at the bigger picture.

This book does not try to make us see the world through rose-tinted glasses, far from it. The author admits that the world is still bad but there’s no denying that it has gotten better and it is getting better. This was a very insightful and informative book. I believe this book should be read by everyone.

Image courtesy: http://www.gapminder.org

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I'm an introvert, agnostic-atheist, insatiable reader, fitness enthusiast, daydreamer, music-lover, cat-adorer, eternal optimist with a touch of cynicism, curious soul, annoying preacher, OCD for cleanliness with a teeny affinity for messiness!

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