Thursday, February 4, 2021

Factfulness - Hans Rosling

A good thing about the current pandemic is that I’ve had plenty of time to read. I'm currently updating a list of the best books I’ve come across so far. Please see my home page for the previous entries.
The seventh item on this list is an eye opener, and very encouraging at that.
Hans Rosling spent the last decades of his life asking people a set of very simple questions about the state of the world. For example: in all low-income countries across the world today, how many girls finish primary school? What share of the world’s population don't have enough food to meet their daily needs? How did the number of deaths per year from natural disasters change over the last hundred years? In 1996, tigers, giant pandas, and black rhinos were all listed as endangered. How many of these three species are more critically endangered today? How many people in the world have some access to electricity?The correct answers are based on the most reliable and updated sets of official data, and this is very important. The results are astonishing for various reasons. First of all the great majority of the targets scores very badly. Second, we're talking about students, academics, scientists, journalists, Nobel prize laureates, politicians, business executives! Third, if they just picked random answers they would do much better (a chimp choosing tagged bananas would beat them, as the author cunningly points out). Fourth, they systematically tend to pick the most negative answer, as if this were reflecting their pessimist worldview.
Why do they do that? They are probably influenced by cherry picked media coverage, politicians' hidden agenda and biased activist propaganda. These reasons don't seem to be telling the whole story though. There probably is something else, a natural human tendency to dramatize, to prefer catastrophic explanations over reasonable ones.
Read this book to learn how to get a more accurate worldview.
And remember, the situation can be both BAD AND BETTER. The fact that it's not always good doesn't mean that it's getting worse.

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