Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Ann Rosling Rönnlund (New York: Flatiron Books, 2018)
The paradigm-shifting ideas in Hans Rosling’s Factfulness emerge rarely in one’s lifetime. It’s one of the books you might borrow from the library because of the great things you’ve heard about it, then renew the loan since you want to reread the author’s well-reasoned conclusions from irrefutable data, and ultimately decide it’s worth owning as you’ll find the sage’s arguments useful whenever you might find yourself in a squabble over issues of healthcare advancements, global education, social inequality, or human progress.
Rosling fans familiar with his legendary TED talks know how passionate he was about his subject matter before his untimely death, which preceded the publication of this book. Factfulness works on multiple levels. It can be read as a self-test of one’s comprehension of the general welfare of our planet; as a clearinghouse for worldwide social, economic, educational, and medical trends; as a guide to research on historical human progress; as an applied means of understanding where people and nations fit in income levels (mixed), improvements (high), and world knowledge (abysmally low); and as an autobiography of Rosling’s illustrious career as a physician, researcher, and teacher in places as remote as the African outback and hallowed as the Karolinska Institutet, as well as an engaging presenter on the most prestigious stages in international affairs.
Rosling was neither liberal nor conservative, but he surely was practical. Factfulness cogently explains why nearly everyone distorts the facts. Nuclear power activists espouse hypocritical and short-sighted agendas. International relief organizations misrepresent statistics on poverty. Journalists report an exaggerated story of the world we live in. Politicians cherry pick to drive self-serving legislation. And we—the guiltiest party—hold on to ten undeniable illusions that paint for us an outdated, unrealistic picture of how things really are. No one knows this better than Rosling himself, who on at least three occasions in the book admits that even he blindly clutched romanticized ideas of the human condition. His delusions triggered wrongheaded decisions that caused a loss of human life.
The ten collective and destructive instincts we share, Rosling argues, make us see the world not as it is but as it was. By pointing out these misjudgments and offering commonsense antidotes to them, Rosling delivers in his magnum opus a veritable manual for perceiving the planet we share, and an indispensable resource in changing only those parts of the world that need changing—starting with our own ignorance.