The world is getting gradually better, according to the statistics and reasoning in Factfulness, and the argumentation is compelling. Child mortality is falling, electricity has reached farther than before, women are being educated, those living in level 1 (most impoverished societies) are shrinking, yet, most of us think the world is a horrible place and live in the mindset from past decades. That said Hans Rosling states that things are far from perfect, that there are real concerns and threats in the world, and there is a lot for humanity to do, but we should act based on facts and knowledge rather than misconceptions, biases, and without our dramatic sense and need for swift action.
At first, when I started to read this book, I was annoyed, and something bugged me. I felt as if the book was oversimplifying the world and forgetting that while things have improved from the fifties and seventies and eighties, they are far from perfect. But the more I read, the more I understood was that was me wanting to argue back and say that the world is a terrible place; that horrendous inequalities and cruelties are going on in the world, how can the book and the statistic ignore that. And yes, bad things are going on, but to combat the weary and gloomy picture of the world and to act rightly for the future, we also have to see that progress has been made and understand what has let to that more people are living better and longer.
The book is composed of ten biases that guide our thinking wrong, and Hans Rosling goes over them through statistics, examples, both general and personal. What makes this book a great read is those personal examples because any reasonable and well-knowledged person knows that personal stories are what sticks in people’s minds. If you want to grab their attention, then make them relate to you, make them see you as a flawed human being, and make them like you. Hans and his son and daughter-in-law did just that. It is challenging to recall all the proper labels to become better at factfulness without glancing the table of contents or the summary at the end, but I can remember his stories about the death of twenty women and children, the Russian pilot, bricks as collateral for the uncertain future, the broken leg of the student, and so on, and combine them with the lessons. And that is just the right method to do such a book where the writers’ mission is to make people understand biases, knowledge, the world, statistics, and the rest better. They have succeeded.
Of course, you can argue against the writers’ use of average when they warn against such things or oversimplifying the issues or even argue against if progress has been made, but I’m not sure who would argue against their list of harmful ways to view the world and make assessments of it. To those who shy away from statistics, and see them misrepresenting the world, I quote this bit from the book: “Just as I have urged you to look behind the statistics at the individual stories, I also urge you to look behind the individual stories at the statistics. The world cannot be understood without numbers. And it cannot be understood with numbers alone.”
So what did I think about the book? I loved it. It knocked me off my Western-centric world view and biased misconception of the world and improvements made. I still understand that more needs to be done; we are too far from perfect with things like women’s education and rights, income and medicine distribution, how we use and live on this planet, but I also understand that they are far from the image shared by so many. To add, Asian and African economics is where the growth is happening, and we shouldn’t keep ignoring such a massive part of the world. It is time to see the world in the correct light and seek more facts and not only stay in the statistics provided in this book; they change, you know.
Thank you for reading and have a lovely day!