Cosmos - - Spectrum - — DREW TURNEY DREW TURNEY is a jour­nal­ist and film critic based in the US.

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.

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