“THINGS ARE BETTER THAN YOU THINK” – FACTFULNESS – Book Review


In Hans Rosling’s hands, data sings. Global trends in health and economics come to vivid life. And the big picture of global development — with some surprisingly good news — snaps into sharp focus.

Book Review:

Category: 
Non-fiction, General Knowledge
Rating: 5/5

Hans Rosling was a Swedish physician, academic, and public speaker. He was a Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institute and was the co-founder and chairman of the Gapminder Foundation.

For everything there are at-least two perspectives – one based on data, and the other based on folklore. In the age of data and algorithms, you cannot ignore data and spin stories based on prejudices and hunches. Data speaks. That is where this book shines all others in its genre. Together with his son Ola Rosling and his daughter-in-law Anna Rosling Ronnlund, Hans gives you a fact-based world view.

Often the world-view, as portrayed on social media, television and newspapers is one of gloom but through this book, Hans would like to convince you of the “TEN REASONS WE’RE WRONG ABOUT THE WORLD – AND WHY THINGS ARE BETTER THAN YOU THINK’. And he sure does that forcefully with data to back his claims.

The introductory chapter of this book tests our knowledge of the world by asking 13 fact-based questions. The results are surprising, chimpanzees would be proud! That is the motivation to continue reading the remaining 350 odd pages to realise what is happening in the world. In just about those 350 odd pages this book deals with poverty, economy, population growth, climate change, education, hunger, and war. The author points out that our massive ignorance of so many matters of importance is not “due to our stupidity but due to our lack of correct knowledge”. This applies to members of the public, world leaders, and also highly educated experts.

As an example, a common idea throughout the world is “The World Population Is Just Increasing and Increasing”. Is this true? Hans Rosling discusses this with charts and data. Read the book and the conclusions will surprise. Do you think democracy is necessary for economic growth and health improvements? The pandemic of 2020, extended in 2021 has shown that democracies are not immune to economic turbulence and major health issues. As he states in the book, “… its better to argue for democracy as a goal in itself instead of as a superior means to other goals we like”.

Hans Rosling also discusses the five global risks we should worry about. And the very first one is something that will send shivers since we have witnessed first hand at what happened globally, in 2020 and continues in 2021. The other risks are simply too real to be ignored. (Just so that the timeline is clear, this book was published in 2018).

A book that has 27 pages of references or ‘Sources’ may appear very academic, but this book is very readable. The purpose of so many references is obviously to give point the reader to more data. In that sense, this book can also be an essential read for researchers and students in the fields of education, poverty, economic, health etc. It will change your view of the world and of science, data and data science. Yet, this book leaves one with a sense of optimism. I highly recommend this book for that very reason – optimism based on data and facts. I like this book because it is based on science – books based on science help you understand the world as it is. Its a delight to read and I highly recommend this book.

Footnote:

  1. Gapminder.org is a site worth visiting because you are “probably wrong about – Female Bosses, Poor vs Poor, Global Warming, Global Hunger, Water at Home…” and many other things. The graphics and visualisation are breathtaking.
  2. YouTube has many videos based on these statistics and there are too many but I will state a few here:
    1) “The best stats you’ve ever seen” — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVimVzgtD6w
    2) Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes – The Joy of Stats – BBC Four — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbkSRLYSojo
    3) Hans Rosling: Global population growth, box by box — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTznEIZRkLg
  3. Various TedTalks by Hans Rosling.


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4 replies

  1. Very nice review Wonderful post

    Like

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