127. Factfulness by The Roslings


Factfulness by Anna Rosling Ronnlund, Hans Rosling and Ola Rosling is the one non-fiction book that has actually challenged and updated my opinions about the world.

Before I begin with my actual thoughts about this book, something should be said about the authors. This book was the brain child of Hans Rosling who was a Swedish academic and famous public speaker.

He studied both medicine and stats, and the unique combination of both these subjects lead him to create Gapminder Foundation which basically collects, analyses and presents stats about the social, economical and environmental development across the world.

“I’m a very serious “possibilist”. That’s something I made up. It means someone who neither hopes without reason, nor fears without reason, someone who constantly resists the overdramatic worldview.”

But what he mainly accomplished through Gapminder and his amazing Tedtalks (which if you haven’t seen them, I suggest you do, because you’ll find this world a little less terrifying as it appears in digital and print media), was changing the way people held facts and opinion about the progress being made in the world.

“The world cannot be understood without numbers. But the world cannot be understood with numbers alone.”

Unfortunately, while writing this book he passed away, but Factfulness was co authored by his son and daughter in law, who completed it after his death.

If you look at Factfulness for what it holds in terms of analysis and statistics, it actually manages to debug and omit the various old opinions and facts we’ve held over the years through the books and curriculum we’ve studied at schools, colleges and universities.

“The macho values that are found today in many Asian and African countries, these are not Asian values, or African values. They are not Muslim values. They are not Eastern values. They are patriarchal values…”

The book begins with a quiz consisting of 13 questions, where you’re bound to get the majority wrong (if you haven’t read the book or looked up the answers before hand). Even I couldn’t get more than 3-4 right! Take it here.

Even though the world is progressing and innovating rapidly, our ideas about global trends aren’t updating as fast enough. This is why there is so much misinformation around the globe even with countries that are far more progressed or “developed”.

“We love to dichotomize. Good versus bad. Heroes versus villains. My country versus the rest. Dividing the world into two distinct sides is simple and intuitive, and also dramatic because it implies conflict, and we do it without thinking, all the time.”

For me, it was difficult to stomach that world is actually a better place than it used be, but when presented with the data about mortality rates, how media uses selective stories to present as news, and the general bias of assuming the world is divided into “Us VS Them” or “Rich VS Poor”, his arguments and data are concrete!

“here’s the paradox: the image of a dangerous world has never been broadcast more effectively than it is now, while the world has never been less violent and more safe.”

Sure, there were some aspects regarding racial targeting and religious propaganda that could have been taken into account while presenting his findings. I did feel he could’ve addressed a lot more issues that Muslims from Asia and the Middle East face.

“Look for systems, not heroes.”

But again, what this book goes on to accomplish is creating this habit of looking for the facts about a certain issue before forming an opinion or agreeing to the said misinformation.

“When things are getting better we often don’t hear about them. This gives us a systematically too-negative impression of the world around us, which is very stressful.”

Most of us get our news through social media, and the countless amounts of fake articles and videos that I have come across over the years are tremendous. It helps to look for the reality of such news before accepting it as the truth!

“The only proven method for curbing population growth is to eradicate extreme poverty”

And Factfulness makes you look away from the extremes, search for the majority, observe the trends and realize that the world “is getting better and bad” and “is bad but getting better”.

“The next generation is like the last runner in a very long relay race. The race to end extreme poverty has been a marathon, with the starter gun fired in 1800. This next generation has the unique opportunity to complete the job: to pick up the baton, cross the line, and raise its hands in triumph.”

Full of personal experiences with each myth he is trying to bust, I can see that the author has lived a life where he practiced what he preached, and was truly passionate about a world that is rightly informed.

The first step that is blocking us from being informed and keeping us in ignorance is fear. Ultimately, all the three Roslings try to convince us to overcome it and realize that data, when looked at from a different angle, can show you a new picture.

You can buy through Book Depository from this link.*

Onto the basics:

  1. Rating: 5.0/5.0
  1. Favorite quote: “Forming your worldview by relying on the media would be like forming your view about me by looking only at a picture of my foot.”
  2. Reader level: Fairly easy to understand. You’ll finally realise why math was so important after all these years.
  3. Should you read:  I cannot emphasise enough, how important this book is for everyone to peruse and absorb.
  4. Would I read it again:

Till next time,


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