There are few books that could change someone’s world view. “Factfulness”, by Hans Rosling, is definitely one of them. What might, superficially, seem like a factual stats representation, ends up being a lot more. It helps understand our world better and provides a guide on how we consume, interpret and judge the storm of information, data and news we live in.
There are a lot of misconceptions about how we understand the current state of affairs, at a global scale. In reality, we have very strong perceptions based on our personal experiences. And they are not necessarily true.
How many people live in extreme poverty? What percentage of children have access to education. What is the growth rate of our planet’s population? Do you feel comfortable of answering these questions?
It might sound wrong, but an average chimpanzee has a better chance of success in a quiz about current world affairs compared not only to the average human, but even to senior world leaders. Don’t believe it? Rosling proves this by no other way than having chimpanzees and various people groups to take such a test. True story. Read the book.
I would summarise my outcomes in two main headlines:
- The world is a better place than we might believe
- Find the truth behind the numbers
Numbers are a very useful tool, when used correctly. They can provide insight and direction for positive action. But, without the required context and research, standalone numbers can lead to totally wrong outcomes.
Shu Usegi, a Silicon Valley software developer, has summarised a series of quotes from the book. I would strongly recommend to have a look. These support this argument a lot better than me trying to explain again here.