Factfulness by HANS ROSLING, OLA ROSLING, ANNA ROSLING RÖNNLUND
Hachette ( 2018) RRP $ 26.99
THERE’S ONE AT every party. While the rest of us are bemoaning Trump, Brexit and global instability, someone points out that there are actually fewer of us dying from wars, disease and childbirth, and that actually, things have never been better.
A Swedish doctor, his son and his daughter-inlaw – encouraged by research from the institute they founded – wanted to give such an outlook empirical weight, and Factfulness is the result. It’s partly a clinical wake-up call about the state of the world. The numbers of people who really live in poverty, die in terrorist attacks or have girls who are missing out on basic education might well shock you.
But it’s also about the reasons why we’re usually so wrong about the way things are headed. As it poses questions about health, populations and politics it assumes you’ll get wrong, the book outlines the fallible attributes of the human character that explain why we’re such pessimists.
A lot of it can be explained by the reason that tabloid human interest shows are so popular – the same love of drama that primes the human mind to respond to any story.
Wanting to help you defend against incorrect assumptions is certainly noble, but Factfulness isn’t a self-help book, and you might get more value from the truth about population growth or shrinking real incomes than you do about learning how to reset your worldview.
The book draws a couple of niggling long bows, but there are still some very insightful concepts. Did you know, for instance, so many people across the so-called Third World now live on comfortable incomes that the old distinction between ‘western’ and ‘developing’ worlds no longer applies? The charts and graphs from sources as authoritative as the UN and the World Bank speak for themselves.