Factfulness is a compendium of data points which prove that the world is actually getting better rather than worse. Drawing on extensive research, the book encourages use to question our thinking and only carry opinions for which we have strong supporting facts.
Hans Rosling is a doctor, TED speaker and international health expert who has spent a lifetime challenging long established assumptions about the state of the world. Drawing on huge bodies of publically available data, Hans shows that for all the imperfections in the world, things are largely getting better each decade.
Looking at income levels, public healthcare, life expectancy, internet access, crime rates, economic growth and societal attitudes, Hans invites us to challenge our western world view and adopt the spirit of factfulness to question outdated assumptions and see the true picture.
Below are some of the key insights from the book.
- The vast majority of people hold outdated 1960s opinions about global economic development – believing a narrative that is reenforced by media coverage.
- Things can be both better (when compared to the past) and bad (intuitively).
- Good news is never news. Gradual news is never news.
- More news coverage does not equal more suffering.
- The straight line assumption is nearly always incorrect but fulfils our inescapable desire for narrative fallacy.
- The world seems scarier then it is because media consistently filter the news to secure coverage rather than truthfulness.
- Proportions and contextual data always matters. Big numbers always seem big even when the context suggests they represent progress in outcomes.
- When looking at complex data, use the 80/20 rule to see what is moving the dial.
- Always question your categories when presented with compelling data. Look for differences within groups, between groups and across groups for more detailed information on what is causing a change.
- Beware of ‘the majority’ which can mean anything from 51 percent to 99%
- Just like a driving license, we should always be looking to update our knowledge as it goes out of date incredibly quickly.
- Remember that slow incremental changes compound into dramatic results over time.
- Beware of single perspective thinking (groupthink) and always seek to challenge your assumptions by testing your ideas in the field.
- Look at the numbers but also look beyond the numbers at the events on the ground to create a more complete picture of how good/bad something is.
- Beware that Cuba is both the “healthiest of the poor” and the “poorest of the healthy” depending on your choice of emphasis.
- Distrust action orientated opinions based on urgency or need. You must always take time to question in a calm fashion how, what, why, when and who.
- Adopting a fact based worldwide has multiple advantages in personal and professional settings. It operates as a more accurate GPS with which to navigate the modern world.
- Education could be improved with greater attention to real life data rather then schematic thinking (e.g. Sombrellos vs. GDP per capita)