Factfullness: Why You Should Read This Bill Gates Recommend!
Updated: Dec 29, 2019
I recently got the chance to read “Factfulness” by Hans Rosling, and I must say, I have never felt my ignorant self, this strong before.
This book is a wakeup call to every human out there who bases the reality of this world on presumptions, intuitions, cognitive biases, and the worst of all, stereotypes.
The book begins with the readers taking a quiz on worldly knowledge of the population, life expectancy, poverty, climate change, etc.
With just 13 such questions, Mr. Rosling’s book reminded me:
Of how little effort I have made, since my formal education got over, to keep myself updated with the “real” figures of the world.
Of how easily I had let social media, journalists, and peer-perceptions shape my belief of what the world is today.
Of how casually (and wrongly), I am allowed myself to predict what the future might turn out to be.
We are biased. We are flawed. We are only human.
Mr. Rosling proves just that!
And at the same time, Mr. Rosling places a lot of importance on humans, being humble to correct these misconceptions of the world.
That is why when I scored a 5/13 on the same test, most of you would say that I failed miserably.
But I consider this a success, for I humbly then allowed myself to be corrected by the frameworks beautifully elucidated in this book, one fact at a time.
FACTFUL: Over the past 20 years, the proportion of global populations living in extreme poverty has halved!
For a moment, I couldn’t believe that this was the reality of this modern world. A positive one, indeed!
By watching those terrorizing news updates on the ‘idiot box,’ we have entered ourselves into this habit of arming ourselves with old knowledge. Most of the time, this outdated knowledge is incorrect.
1. We thrive in an outdated bubble
Our strong sense of ethnocentrism makes it difficult for us to keep distinctions such as East v/s West and Rich v/s Poor away from us.
Some of us still believe:
That majority of the world is living in poverty and deprivation.
That Snake Charmers and Apu best represent India.
Is this is the truth, then why do we still believe in the false?
Because, inadvertently, the wrong information is what we’ve been feeding our brain. Couple that with our binary thinking of the world.
We’re heading for doom.
Why, do you ask?
Aah! Binary thinking!
Black OR White
1 OR 0
Hero OR Villain
Yes OR No
The list goes on.
One attempt at understanding the structure of the human brain, we quickly divide themselves into two different hemispheres — Right and Left.
What we forget is that there exists a permeable Corpus Callosum which connects them both — the “Gray” Matter, which lies between the Black and White.
Essential but always overlooked
Let’s talk about Thanos. Was he good, or was he bad?
Was he a hero, or was he a villain?
Well, it depends on your outlook.
Are you willing to jump into the hazy gray zone and believe that Thanos did all the wrong things to do the right?
Thanos just maybe the №1 Villainous Hero that some of us may never accept and believe to be.
But here’s what we need to understand, Thanos does define that porous state of our conflicting modern world.
What needs to change is our dichotomous view of the world
Right v/s Wrong;
Us v/s Them;
You v/s Me.
If there exists this “them” category in your head, welcome to the majority of humanity.
Oh! By the by, such categories don’t serve anyone, any good.
There needs to be a strong acceptance of the fluid state between two options, which every situation presents.
Which brings us to: Welcome to the 1st instinct, which Mr. Rosling calls the “The Gap Instinct.”
He suggests that as the permeability of this gap decreases, the gap instinct intensifies.
Then, there is Fear Instinct, which makes us take notice of the scary things, Size Instinct, where numbers determine how impressive they are.
Ten of such instincts wonderfully explained, which might make you question your ignorance and maybe even your reality.
2. It is all about what you feed your brain
The world isn’t divided into parts anymore.
Sure, we may belong to a particular country and define ourselves to be of a certain ethnic group, but that divide stands there.
When globalization became the ‘trend’, we gave rise to the concept of collective citizenship.
We are all global citizens of this modern world where businesses flourish between countries, and compassion thrives amongst all the sections of the society.
We are all one
But wait, we cannot just let go of the categories of the “developing” and “developed” world and exist as one.
It is just not feasible.
How do we then classify the economics of our demographics?
Well, Mr. Rosling did it by classifying the world population based on their income levels!
FactFul: Hans proves to the World Bank that labels such as “Developing” and “Developed” aren’t functional enough. Seventeen years and countless efforts later, World Bank now does NOT classify the countries as developing/ developed but on four levels of income.
FactWish: The UN is yet to adopt and announce these changes. Sigh.
3. The world isn’t evil, then why does it seem so?
We have been brought up with the stories our ancestors told us.
We have been told about the struggles of the graph as it was moving away from the negative side.
Our past has been hardwired into us so much that we cannot seem to let go of it.
This is why we are wrong.
Because we don’t realize that our ancestors’ struggles, all that strive have made us represent this other side of the graph.
It is we who ARE on the positive side.
Yet, we cannot believe that we are not a part of the negative side, anymore. We need to wire ourselves with the present reality.
Journalism is always out to make a difference, sure.
Logically, this ‘difference’ best has the intended effect on the viewers who can be affected by it.
I mean, think about it — Between the two, would a piece of positive news or negative news coverage have a more profound effect on you?
(Mis)information feeds off our “Pâro” (The Feeling That Everything You Do Is Somehow Wrong)
Fake news is another story altogether. (Quack. Quack.)
One scene does not make the whole script.
Similarly, one incident does not give justice to any hypothesis.
Individuals are not the population but they are PART of the population.
Pick up any stereotype that you want; the above sentence will prove it wrong.
“Always focus on how far you’ve come, not how far you have to go.”
— Momentum Dash Quote for the day
Get to know the real stats. Let go of the overdramatic worldview.
Instead, have a global view that is constructive — Foster future success with a positive sense of urgency.
As Mr. Rosling puts it, be a “possibilist.”
Keep yourselves updated with the current official stats check yourselves from time to time to make sure that you are not a part of the ‘majority’ of humanity.
Growth always appears slowly, but it is growth nevertheless. Be it the growth of an individual, community, county, or a country; it will always add up for the better.
Get to know the statistics covered in this book, and you can rest assured that the future does look for the best.
This book reminded me not to remember the details but to understand how things work, how the world works clearly, one bubble graph at a time, factfully.
Factfullness is not meant to be just marked “read” on GoodReads. Instead, this one book is to be savored, one bubble chart at a time. Go, grab your copy and let me know your thoughts — Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think.