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Book Review: Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund
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Book Review: Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund - Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund

Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund

“The good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems,” sang Billy Joel in his 1984 single “Keeping the Faith.” It was an interesting take in the mid-Eighties, when we were still deeply in the Cold War but only a few years away from the Wall coming down in Berlin. Was there reason for hope, even as seemingly half the world was boycotting the summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and TV programs like The Day After dominated our Monday morning conversations?

It’s beginning to feel that way again, isn’t it? Try as many of us might to remain optimistic, reasons for hope appear to dwindle in numbers as we long for better days. Are they ahead of us, or are they all behind? The authors of Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think (Macmillan, 2018) insist that not only are things getting better, but they’ve got the data to prove it. Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, and Anna Rosling Rönnlund offer hard stats indicating dramatic (and convincing) decreases in bad stuff such as disease, environmental catastrophe, and accidents, and increases in good stuff such as literacy, access to clean water, environmental protection, and health.

More than that, the authors categorize types of misconceptions, ten of them, which they call “instincts,” such as “the Gap instinct,” “the Size instinct,” and “the Urgency instinct.” Each examines our common misconceptions and attempts to identify where they come from.

Further, it’s clear that the writers have a greater agenda in mind, one absent politics: whatever opinions we have about policy, action, or prevention, we need to base them on facts, and if we want to be better people and to make the best differences in our world, we need to raise our children to practice “Factfulness” as well. After the ten chapters on instincts of misconception, they offer a chapter called “Factfulness in Practice,” in education, in journalism, activism, and politics, and in organizations.

“I have found fighting ignorance and spreading a fact-based worldview to be a sometimes frustrating but ultimately inspiring and joyful way to spend my life,” they write (the book is written in Hans Rosling’s voice and from his point of view). “I have found it useful and meanigful to learn about the world as it really is. I have found it deeply rewarding to try to spread that knowledge to other people. And I have found it so exciting to finally start to understand why spreading that knowledge and changing people’s worldviews have been so damn hard … When we have a fact-based worldview, we can see that the world is not as bad as it seems—and we can see what we have to do to keep making it better.”

Recently, it’s been difficult to know whom to believe about very important topics in all reaches of our lives. Information has been democratized to the point where anyone can find an audience about anything, however true or false the messages are. It’s a two-edged sword. One edge keeps powers and authorities in check, but the other means the easy and ready spread of misinformation, some of which can influence others to take dramatic and hurtful action. A book like this by itself probably cannot convince the majority of us to approach everything with reasonable skepticism and caution while keeping open minds about facts, but perhaps the authors’ argument will convince enough of us that we can make the difference the authors suggest: what we have to do to keep making the world better.

For these reasons, we give this book our highest recommendation. Buy it, read it, and pass it around!

 

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Book Review: Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund - Executive Leadership Articles

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