Review of “Factfulness” by Hans Rosling

Title: Factfulness
Author: Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund
Series: –
Genre: Nonfiction
Length: 10 hours 18 minutes
Published: 2018, Natur & Kultur
My Grade: 5 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Factfulness: The stress-reducing habit of only carrying opinions for which you have strong supporting facts.

When asked simple questions about global trends – why the world’s population is increasing; how many young women go to school; how many of us live in poverty – we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers.

In Factfulness, Professor of International Health and a man who can make data sing, Hans Rosling, together with his two long-time collaborators Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens, and reveals the ten instincts that distort our perspective.

It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most.

Inspiring and revelatory, filled with lively anecdotes and moving stories, Factfulness is an urgent and essential book that will change the way you see the world.

 

MY REVIEW

Wow. Just read it already! And don’t forget to take the test in the beginning of the book. I wish I had, but I have a general feeling that I wouldn’t have done especially well. Which means that this book was an eye-opener for me.

I stopped watching the news a while ago, I got sick and tired of all the bad things they were reporting. Never anything positive and some of the news I knew for a fact were untrue just to create a dramatic headline that would lure readers into reading. It made me angry, but also made me take distance from the overdramatized media. But I never bothered to find out about the good things, or about the things that slowly are getting better. So I have to admit that I am one of those who thought the world was getting worse. For example, I was sure that the answer to question 11 (Tigers, Giant Pandas and Black Rhinos were listed as threatened species in 1996. Since then, have any of these species become more critically endangered?) was that two of them had become more critically endangered since then. Apparently they all have increased in numbers. Who knew?

But after listening to this book and the way he lays out the evidence and data, it all makes sense. And I feel calmer now. It was worse before. We are going in the right direction.

It was not just the facts that were presented that made this book so good. The way it was presented with humor and enthusiasm as well. But also the reader, Andreas T. Olsson, did such a good job. It was easy to hear the author through his reading.

In summary (some spoilers even?), here are the ten tricks of factfulness that each chapter describes (I wish I understood from the beginning that that was how the book was outlined):

  1. The Gap Instinct – Look for the majority, the world is not divided into poor and rich most countries are in the middle.
  2. The Negativity Instinct – Expecting bad news, we take in bad news more easily than good news which fuels our misconception that the world is deteriorating when in fact it is improving.
  3. The Straight Line Instinct – Not all lines are straight, even if it looks like the world’s population is increasing but the rate of the increase is slowing down.
  4. The Fear Instinct – Calculate risks, we automatically focus on dangers and risks but it fuels the misconception that the world is more frightening than it actually is.
  5. The Size Instinct – Put things in right proportions, big numbers look big and without the right proportion and comparison, they are very misleading.
  6. The Generalization Instinct – Question your categories, we have a tendency to create categories and compare groups of things (people or countries e.g) that are in fact very different from each other.
  7. The Destiny Instinct – Observe slow changes, we often mistake slow change for no change because we assume that qualities determines the fate of people and countries.
  8. The Single Perspective Instinct – Get different tools, we like simple explanations and solutions and that makes us blind when new information is given to us that does not fit into our perspective.
  9. The Blame Instinct – Resist pointing finger, we always search for someone to blame or someone to praise for things that happen instead of searching for the cause or alternative explanations.
  10. The Urgency Instinct – Take small steps, it is rarely “now or never” and we can’t forget to think about the long-term risks that our rash actions for complex problems can cause.

Rosling ends the book by describing the six actual global threats that we face:

  1. Global pandemic
  2. Financial crisis
  3. World War III
  4. Climate Change
  5. Extreme poverty

Number one is happening right now. I definitely do not think that enough people in higher places read this book before the corona-pandemic broke lose.

These five listed threats are self-explanatory. The sixth is the unforseen event that we couldn’t even predict but still have to be prepared for.

To summarize, it was an eye-opener, and according to Rosling’s statistics, it will be for most of us. So I highly recommend it! Five out of five.