Factfulness : Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think (2018) by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund is an absolutely outstanding book about the most important numbers in the world and how most people around the world, including researchers, do not know them.
Everyone should read this book. It is superb. This review will try and say why. The book combines an engaging narrative with insight and a plethora of facts about our world.
Hans Rosling was a Swedish doctor who worked extensively in the developing world and realised that even he did not know much about how the world has developed. He then started studying the big statistics on the plight of the world. He established the Gapminder Foundation ( http://www.gapminder.org ) that is dedicated to showing the true state of the world through the big numbers on health, population and wealth. Rosling died last year after a truly remarkable life. This book, written with his son and his son’s wife is his last act and completed by them is also a great credit to them as well.
The book starts with a quiz, the first few questions of which are here:
1: In all low-income countries across the world today, how many girls finish primary school? A: 20 percent B: 40 percent, C: 60 percent
2: Where does the majority of the world population live? A: Low-income countries B: Middle-income countries C: High-income countries
3. In the last 20 years, the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty has … A: almost doubled B: remained more or less the same C: almost halved
4. What is the life expectancy of the world today? A: 50 years B: 60 years C: 70 years
The answers are at the end of this review.
Rosling posed 13 such questions to various experts and laypeople around the world and found that people usually do worse than guessing at random. This is a truly terrible result. The book is another attempt by Rosling to get us to understand more about the way the world really is and why we have such a poor grasp of the big, basic statistics of our world.
Rosling looks at his own life in Sweden, growing up with a mother who was delighted to have a washing machine that freed up so much of her time that in turn allowed her to read to her son who became a doctor. Rosling then intertwines his own life, and extensive experiences in the third world to show how the world has changed and how it really is. He uses his experience as teacher to doctors in Sweden who want to work in the developing world but know little about the reality of it.
The book looks at why people are generally far too negative, how they see trends as straight lines rather than as things that change, how we fear things irrationally, how we generalize poorly, how we rarely think about how the past really was, how we don’t get enough perspectives, how we then seek to blame and how people exaggerate negatives and proposes Factfulness rules of thumb so we can better understand our world and the fate of people on it.
Factfulness is a deep, moving and fantastic book that really helps to educate people as to what the real state of the world is. It should be read by as many people as possible. Hans Rosling lived a remarkable life working to better humanity. The least the rest of us can do is read this entertaining book to educate ourselves better.
( 1: C, 2: B, 3: C, 4: C )