Book Review: Factfulness by Hans Rosling

If you watch the news then you would probably think that the world is getting worse every day. There are terror attacks, natural disasters, Brexit, climate change… almost a never-ending stream of doom and gloom.

But it turns out things aren’t as bad as they might seem. The world is not completely going to shit. Believe it or not, if you look at the data it’s actually getting better.

I’ve just finished reading a book called “Factfulness: 10 Reasons Why We Are Wrong about the World by Hans Rosling. It’s a fascinating and uplifting book.

Hans Rosling

Hans Rosling was a professor of international health at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. He travelled all over the world giving lectures and presentations to all sorts of people from bankers to world leaders.

Rosling wanted to promote a fact-based view of the world and he did so through his lectures. He used data from the UN and special bubble graph software, developed by his Gapminder Foundation, to illustrate the true state of the world.

He would give audiences 13 questions to test their knowledge about the state of the world.

You can take these questions yourself by clicking here.

The interesting thing is that almost everyone gets these questions wrong. And not just randomly wrong. Worse than random, worse than if chimps had randomly chosen answers written on bananas.

Even people who were working at the United Nations (who really should have known better) got these questions hopelessly wrong. It’s amazing.

The reason that so many people got the questions wrong is because we all have an outdated worldview. We all have instinctual ways of thinking and biases that cloud our judgement.

We think that the world is worse than it actually is largely because that’s what the media tell us.

The media shows bad things because they are what most people will react to. Our minds naturally tend to focus on negative things. The media doesn’t tell you about the millions of planes that took off and landed safely. They will tell you about the one that crashed.

So we get a warped view of the world because we only see the bad things.

The purpose of Rosling’s book is to try and rectify this by helping people to view the world in a more fact-based way.

It provides a framework to help people to process the information that they are hearing and reading. To help cut through the fog and see the world more clearly.

Each chapter talks about a different human instinct that causes us to view the world in a distorted way. Rosling uses personal anecdotes from his life to illustrate his points and writes in an extremely engaging manner.

Roslin’s casual writing style makes the book very easy and enjoyable to read. In fact, I will probably read it again sometime in the future to refresh myself.

Don’t just take my word for it though. Here’s what Bill Gates had to say about the book:

One of the most important books I’ve ever read – an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world.”

Barack Obama said:

“A hopeful book about the potential for human progress when we work off facts rather than our inherent biases.”

If you want to understand the wold more clearly and feel more hopeful about the future then I strongly urge you to read this book.



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