Gloomy out­look makes quiz tak­ers as dumb as an ape

Peo­ple so con­vinced world is worse than it is their an­swers may as well be ran­dom, book claims

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Sarah Knap­ton SCI­ENCE ED­I­TOR a) 50 years b) 60 years c) 70 years old nt chool, ge. rs f ? a) 9 years b) 6 years c) 3 years he g s ny ecreased V hs, pox

ED­U­CATED peo­ple have such a dis­torted view of the world that even chim­panzees pick­ing at ran­dom scored bet­ter if ques­tioned about crit­i­cal is­sues like poverty, ed­u­ca­tion and pop­u­la­tion growth, a new book sug­gests.

Swedish pro­fes­sor Hans Rosling, along with Ola and Anna, his son and daugh­ter-in-law, wrote the book Fact­ful­ness to show just how mis­aligned cur­rent opin­ions are when com­pared with the real data.

Most peo­ple’s views are still based on how things stood when they left school – for many peo­ple decades ago – when dev­as­tat­ing wars, vi­o­lence, cor­rup­tion and ex­treme poverty were rife.

In the in­terim, huge global changes have com­pletely al­tered al­most ev­ery so­ci­ety on Earth. And largely for the bet­ter. In Fact­ful­ness the Roslings ar­gue that hu­mans have never lived in a safer era, or what that is more pros­per­ous and healthy.

How­ever when asked 12 mul­ti­ple­choice ques­tions about is­sues such as global poverty, life ex­pectancy, wealth or fe­male ed­u­ca­tion, the av­er­age per­son scores just two points (16 per cent), a fig­ure far lower than a group of chim­panzees se­lect­ing an­swers at ran­dom (33 per cent).

“Peo­ple have an over­dra­matic world view that makes them score worse than ran­dom,” said Anna Rosling.

“And high IQ, ex­per­tise in the field or a high de­gree of ed­u­ca­tion does not seem to help peo­ple score bet­ter.”

The au­thors claim that most Western­ers are hood­winked by a “global il­lu­sion” which sug­gests things are bad and get­ting worse with the rich get­ting richer, and the poor get poorer, and the world soon run­ning out of re­sources.

Hans Rosling, who died last year be­fore the book was pub­lished, writes in the in­tro­duc­tion to Fact­ful­ness: “Ev­ery group of peo­ple I ask thinks the world 1. In all low-in­come coun­tries across the world to­day, how many girls fin­ish pri­mary school? a) 20 per cent b) 40 per cent c) 60 per cent

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

3. What is the av­er­age life ex­pectancy in the world to­day? 4. The UN pre­dicts that by 2100 the world pop­u­la­tion will have in­creased by another 4 bil­lion peo­ple. What is the main rea­son? a) There will be more chil­dren (aged be­low 5) b) There will be more adults (aged 15 to 74) c) There will be more very old peo­ple (aged 75 and older)

5. How did the num­ber of deaths per year from nat­u­ral dis­as­ters change over the last hun­dred years? a) More than dou­bled b) Re­mained about the same c) De­creased to less than half 6. How many of the world’s one-year-old chil­dren have been vac­ci­nated against some dis­ease? a) 20 per cent b) 50 per cent c) 80 per cent

7. World­wide, 30-year-old men have spent 10 years in school, on av­er­age. How many years have women of the same age spent in school? 8. How many peo­ple in the world have some ac­cess to elec­tric­ity? a) 20 per cent b) 50 per cent c) 80 per cent An­swers: Page 17

is more fright­en­ing, more vi­o­lent ent and more hope­less than it re­ally is.”

That stance – in­flu­enced by the rise in 24-hour rolling news in­form­ing peo­ple of ever more global dis­as­ters – is stress­ful and mis­lead­ing, ar­gue the Roslings. In fact, the vast ma­jor­ity of the world’s pop­u­la­tion lives some­where in the mid­dle of the in­come scale.

They have ac­cess to elec­tric­ity, city, and their chil­dren go to school and are in­oc­u­lated against dis­ease.

The book shows that many “bad things” which have rad­i­cally de­creased in­clude slav­ery, oil spills, HIV in­fec­tions, child deaths, war deaths, child labour, nu­clear arms, small­pox and global hunger.

Fact­ful­ness is pub­lished by Scep­tre Books and is avail­able now.

‘Peo­ple have an over­dra­matic world view that makes them score worse than ran­dom’


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