Tired of the stuff coming out of Washington? The terrible crime news? The endless depression offered by the national media? If you’re a recent college grad, you can get a copy of Hans Rosling’s book, Factfulness, from Bill and Melinda Gates for free. Reading it will give you hope for humans and our world.
Here’s why the Gates are so excited to give it away to every senior in the country.
Hans Rosling was a Swedish physician who began his medical career in a public health practice in some of the sickest areas of the world. He morphed into a statistician because he discovered the power of facts. With facts and data, he assures us, we can be free of the wrong thinking most of us engage in every day. After years of research and teaching, he wrote, Factfulness. It’s a mind-changing book and I recommend it to you all—even if you’re not a recent college grad.
Rosling begins by offering us some simple test questions:
- In all low-income countries across the world today, how many girls finish primary school?
a. 20 %
2. 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
He gave these tests to audiences the world over and found that chimps scored better than all of his audiences! Why are people so wrong about basic facts in the world?
He offers ten reasons we misinterpret events around us, even when the contradictory data is available. Here are a few of them: the fear instinct which is our tendency to react most strongly to stories about things we fear most. Or the generalization instinct that causes us to think that if there are seven terrorists from Saudi Arabia, then all people from Saudi Arabia must be terrorists—even though facts would prove this wrong.
One of my favorite parts in Factfulness is four pages of simple charts. He demonstrates 16 bad things that are decreasing in the world: legal slavery, oil spills, children dying, plane crash deaths, small pox, etc. He also shows us 16 good things that are increasing: women’s right to vote, protected nature, girls in school, etc. At the same time, Rosling is no Pollyanna. He acknowledges that there are many significant problems still facing the world. His point is to remind us that, in spite of those problems, humans have made stunning progress in many areas. And if the statistical facts continue as they have, we should see even more progress in the future.
Pick-up Factfulness for a dose of positive thinking—based on factual data. By the way, the answers to the above questions are:
How did you score??? Watch Dr. Rosling give one of his TED talks: