Factfulness

I am glad I read How to Understand the World by Hans Rosling, and then picked up Factfulness. I could more fully appreciate the journey and the person who became the man and found his purpose beyond being a doctor (in itself a marvelous profession). His young aspirations based on the world view in a developed country shifted and enhanced his life in so many ways. He knew when he was interacting with young doctors in Bangalore, India in the 1970’s that the society he had in mind was very different from the world. The world was changing, and yet our worldview had not

He was to see this trend in varying degrees across different countries, professions and even in erudite halls where world leaders came together, and should’ve known better such as the UN or the World Bank. 

It is still this way in varying degrees, although the internet and entertainment options have accelerated the understanding of different cultures in different ways. But Hans Rosling’s work along with his son and daughter-in-law, Ola Rosling & Anna Rosling Roddmund has helped the world understand the areas in which we are doing well as a species, and as a planet. This factfulness enables us to concentrate our powers of doing to the right causes and people.

 

Instead of Developed Vs Developing Countries, he instead splits societies into 4 levels on the development graph. (Source: Gapminder.org)

  • Level 1
  • Level 2
  • Level 3
  • Level 4

Perhaps the most telling graphs in gap minder are those showing how countries shifted from Level 1 towards Level 4 over 2-3 generations, and how this is what we can hope and work towards for those countries stuck in Level 1 and Level 2 today.  Please watch his bubble chart from the Late 1800’s to 2018 to see the world view progress and change.

Bubble Chart for Level 1- Level 4 countries over time

He writes, for instance, of a Sweden during his grandparents time – a view that closely resonates with Level 1 or early Level 2 countries of today.

  • Large families, patriarchal mindsets limiting progress, faulty drainage, lack of access to good hospitals and medicines etc.
  • Then, in his mother’s lifetime, she was able to get treated for tuberculosis in a hospital for free, have fewer children than her mother did, gain access to some automation such as a washing machine – thus freeing her up to take her children to the library, and spend more quality time with them.
  • In his own generation, he was able to get free healthcare, a state sponsored medical education, ability to raise his children in good schools, and so much more. 

The book talks about the most common ways in which our worldview are shaped, and how to work against each of these biases while understanding the world around us. But really, these tenets are useful for decision-making in general, not just for the world-view.

  • Negativity Instinct – we assume things are far worse than they really are, and this clouds our decision making process
  • Straight Line Instinct  – not all trends are linear even if they start out that way. Population growth for instance. It is estimated that by 2100, we would have leveled out around 11 billion – not a linear projection as predicted by doomsayers a few years ago. Largely due to education, family planning etc.
  • Fear Instinct – decisions made irrationally based on fear.
  • Size Instinct
  • Generalization Instinct
  • Destiny Instinct – Fighting against a predetermined fate helps us shape the decisions we’d like.
  • Single Perspective Instinct
  • Blame Instinct
  • Urgency Instinct – Anyone who has bought a car would know this one: Today, and today only deals – that we all know is

The book finishes with an excellent essay on Factfulness in practice. Progress is happening and it is heartening – 🌏

References:

  • How I Learned to Understand the World – Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling & Anna Rosling Rönnlund
  • Factfulness – Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling & Anna Rosling Rönnlund
  • Gapminder.org – Designed by Ola Rosling & Anna Rosling Rönnlund