Factfulness – by Hans Rosling

24 02 2020

There is a reason that on the front of this book is a recommendation from Barack Obama, and on the back, from Bill & Melinda Gates. It’s a very good, and very important book. I’d already heard of Hans from his TED talks, if you’re interested, some of his most viewed ones are at the bottom of the page.

We have a tendency to refer to the developed and developing world, but really the world is divided into more than these two categories, it’s more complicated. He gives us four levels, levels one and four are what we’d traditionally refer to as the first and third world, but this is the minority of the worlds population, he tells us that about five billion people actually live on levels two and three, maybe they have a camping stove to cook on rather than a fire, maybe a moped rather than getting everywhere on foot. He gives a thorough explanation of these levels, more than I can here, along with photos to help cement the idea. You can find a large selection of these on their Dollar Street website.

The subtitle is: “Ten reasons we’re wrong about the world – and why things are better than you think.” Hans takes us through ten instincts we all have about the world, which are outdated, or were never the case at all. For example, the gap instinct, that the world is divided into the rich and poor and that there is no one in the middle, which as explained above is not the case at all, in fact, the majority are in the middle. Or that just because things are bad, it doesn’t mean they’re not improving; things can be bad but better than they were.

The book is filled with these really interesting ideas, and each chapter ends with a helpful summary page, highlighting what the issue with the instinct is, and tips to avoid it, which I’m sure I’ll be referring back to!

I have folded down so many pages of this book that I won’t list all the quotes here, but along with that I already have a queue of people to borrow my copy! I normally really struggle with non fiction and would expect this to take a good few months, but it was only 2.5 weeks! While it’s a data-y book, it’s got graphs (his favourite is here, and a live animated version like those in the videos below, you can play with on their Gapminder website) and things to help understand, and is written in a conversational style, full of anecdotes, and is very easy to read.

I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in the state of our world, and facts to back that up, as well as those just wanting to be able to assess information they receive better.


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3 03 2020
Toni

He’s not someone I know of, but I find the idea of the world as consisting of rich and poor with nothing in between quite bizarre. Maybe this kind of duality, or perhaps the sense that the world is spinning to impending doom comes from those desperate to convince everyone that they must change or die.

Generally the world is a much better place in terms of human rights and poverty than it was 50 years ago. The scourge of communism has more or less died and extreme right wing ideology is much less respectable than it was, even if it’s resurging a bit. Generally China and Russia gives their citizens much more freedom and most people are being fed except for a few disaster hit countries. There are few malign dictatorships left outside of North Korea, parts of Africa and the middle east.

Sure we have the climate change issue that’s currently in fashion (sure it’s real, but it’s also a fashionable thing to protest about) but much of the world is gently descending into relatively well off mediocrity. Possibly the one thing we’ll have to watch out for is the backlash against some of the current protest trends, although in some areas that might be a healthy rebalancing.

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