Factfulness by Hans Rosling Book Summary – Review

If we would live on an ideal planet, what exactly happened would be presented in the news by journalists, and relevant backgrounds to make them even more powerful would be provided. However, in our world, grabbing the attention of readers is the job of journalists, and readers want things that are both basic and enthusiastic. Therefore, we face a distorted view of the world – a weak projection of the real world.

In the center of our distorted worldview lies the belief that humans in the world live in a world worse than it was before. However, this might not be beyond the truth. In reality, indigence is less seen than any time before, the lifespan of people increased, and sexist and cruel patriarchies run a smaller portion of the world.

The global economy that saves people from indigence by increasing their income levels is the reason why favorable alterations happen. In reality, when combined, 91 percent of people in the world are from middle- and high-income countries. When we consider the fact that 85 percent of the people were in indigence just 200 years ago, this is a miracle.

From this brief, we can figure out the extent of the advancement that has occurred, and learn the way we can handle the negations to view the world more brightly.

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

Chapter 1 – Mega Misconceptions, such as discrimination of East and West, blocks our bright view of the world.

If you would be faced with a question that asks what occurred to the degree of excessive indigence in our planet in the last 20 years, what would be your answer? Would you say it has been doubled, it remained as it is, or it has decreased by 50 percent? Would you say that it probably decreased by half? Then, you are a rare person in getting the right answer.

Only five percent in the US and only nine percent in the UK selected the correct choice – even some of the smartest professionals of today selected the wrong choice. The mega misconceptions and our instincts cause only these few people to have a correct insight into the world.

According to the extent of the distortion of our worldview, some misconceptions can be “mega”. Western people’s mentality of “us against them” (the belief that the Western people and the Eastern people are completely different and opposite of each other) is one of the big mega misconceptions. This can also be called the old idea of discrimination between the already “advanced world” and the still in the phase of “advancing world”.

In the lectures of the author, he observed that some of his students were still thinking that the Eastern countries include countries with extreme birth rates and the construction of a contemporary, “Western” society is impossible because of religion and culture. One of the students of Rosling thought “They would never be similar to us.”.

What constitutes “they”, ”East”, “advancing world” is unclear. Are Mexico or Japan included in “the East”? Is having modern cities still thought to be impossible for India or China?

If we observe the children death rate worldwide in 1965 – a great measurement of a country’s well being in the areas of schooling, economy, and health care – 125 nations would be considered as “developing” because more than one kid out of 20 kids was dying before the age of five in these countries. Currently, only 13 countries fall into this category. 

To put it another way, we cannot talk about a difference between the “West” and “others” anymore.

Chapter 2 – Our instinct of negativity serves as a cause in other mega misconceptions.

Now, think of the following question: What percent of the girls in low- income countries all around the world graduate from public school? 20 percent? 40 percent? 60 percent? Do you start to guess that the answer is the most positive one?

Yes, 60 percent of the girls in low- income countries worldwide graduate from public school. The truth is, the average time spent in school is nine years among all 30- year- old women – only one year less than average that of 30- year- old men worldwide.

Through these examples, we can see just a part of the excellent improvement has been accomplished – an improvement that a low number of people are conscious of. What is the reason for these plusses to be unnoticed? The instinct of negativity of us that causes another mega misconception: a gradually deteriorating world.

In reality, the world has become a better place according to numbers and facts such as life expectancy, prosperity. However, there is a tendency for us to think of negatives rather than positives.

When compared to 1800 in which the indigence rate was 85 percent, currently this rate is 9 percent! This is an excellent improvement, however, the news would not tell about these. News tends more to show topics like catastrophes, murders, or anything depressing that deviates from the else great route of the planet.

There was a lower amount of news people could read in the 1980s, and all the world could be destroyed with no news printed. Today, news from all around the world could be reached with a touch and this causes an unprecedented subjection to more negative news for you and any person in the world. This excessive subjection makes people think that the world became more unpleasant compared to twenty years ago.

It should be noted that, when there is dead because of a natural disaster, there is also survived the catastrophe that is not written about in the news. In reality, low- income people are more secure than at any time before with the help of new inexpensive building supplies. There is a 25 percent improvement in the percent of deaths because of catastrophes today compared to 100 years ago.

Chapter 3 – In addition to straight-line instinct, fear and size instincts are other causes that distort our worldview.

When you see a graph with a continuously increasing trend, you tend to believe that this increasing trend will continue forever. Yet, most of the trends do not continue steadily. For example, we grow steadily in our childhood for some time, the trend of our height would be steady at this time, however, our height reaches a top point, and it stops.

Thoughts on the world population are also in the same way: The third mega misconception we have is that this number will always increase, although we are near to the top point.

UN predictors who work on population increase report that the number of people in the world will remain the same between 2060 and 2100. The main reason among lots of others is that as prosperity increases, the birth rates will decrease.

Because of the high number of children’s death, women were giving birth to approximately six children a hundred years ago since children were required in the farms and factories. Today, on average 2.5 children are given birth by women with the help of education, wealth, and birth control. In the year 2060, today’s children will have had their children and the number of people in the world will remain at approximately 11 billion according to the predictions.

There is no need to be anxious about an ever-increasing number of people. However, we are anxious. The fear and size instincts cause this anxiety.

The motive behind the fear instinct clarifies itself – being scared can save us from dangers. This intuition has evolved in our predecessors in perilous times that people were under the threat of competitor clans and wild animals. In today’s world, since we do not face such dangers, we are likely to mislay our fear and be anxious about the dangers that are not present.

On to that, the size instinct of us causes an exaggeration of the threats that are made up of our fear instinct. Think about the fear of severity. More news that contains severity are shown to us than at any time before, and we think there should be further. In reality, the statistics show that violence decreased. Although there were 14.5 million murders recorded in the United States in 1990, in 2016, this number decreased to 9.5 million.

Chapter 4 – Humans are inclined to overgeneralize and incorrectly consider some consequences are inevitable.  

To overcome our most evil instincts, one of the most useful ways is to gather the correct data and understand it in its circumstances. The size of a number may mislead you to think that the world is awful when you see news about the death of 4 million babies in the past year. If you compare it with the number in 1950, you can see that it was 14.4 million, and get a better insight of today.

On the perfect planet, babies would not die – however, we need to understand the situation of the disaster to sense the advancement. Decreasing annual baby mortality by more than 10 million in approximately 70 years is an excellent advancement, and it is necessary to be acknowledged.

Besides, stopping unsupportive generalizations is necessary.

Although some generalizations such as Japanese cuisine being dissimilar from English cuisine are correct, lots of them, specifically those related to race and gender, prevent our clear view of the world.

The next question: What is the percentage of children at age of one that inoculated against an illness worldwide? The choices are 20, 50, or 80 percent. You guessed it correctly, almost all one- year- old children worldwide (80 percent) have a reach to fundamental health care.

This fact is overwhelmingly impressive when we think about lots of people who did not believe that this could be possible just several ages ago. A common generalization also challenged with this fact is that people in some countries like the Middle East and Africa cannot have the necessary conditions for having these vaccines for kids and will always live in misery.

Instead of focusing on the clans, traditions, or faiths of the people, considering income levels would enable a brighter view of the world. This is useful because a country with whatever faith or tradition that has fled from the lowest income level is close to the advancements in many things including schooling, medicine, and simple groundwork.

Chapter 5 – For a clear worldview, humans should look at situations from different windows rather than accusing others.

Traveling and observing by oneself is an excellent way to overcome overgeneralizations. This also benefits in viewing the world more clearly since it helps you to see the world from different windows, which opens up your mind and changes your thoughts.

If now we travel to Afghanistan – a country that still tries to get rid of excessive poorness and the lowest income level – we can observe teenagers getting ready for contemporary living.

In a similar vein, if we would go to South Korea in 1970, we would observe a country turning from a base- income country into a middle- income country that had a military autocracy, which defies our misconception that only pure democratic countries can achieve a wealthy financial state.

In reality, nine out of ten rapidly improving countries in terms of wealth in 2016, were not ruled by pure democracy. We should not think that only pure democratic countries can achieve wealth; there is evidence for other possibilities as well.

The truth is that our planet is very complex, so it is wise to learn to look at it from as many windows as we can. This is the reason why representing a clan or a person as the origin of an issue, as often done, is completely myopic. 

Pharmaceutical companies do not choose to discover remedies for the poorest countries that have unique problems such as malaria and sleeping sickness. Who is responsible for this? The CEO? Is it not the job of the CEO to apply the rules of the Board of Directors? The Board of Directors? Do they not just do whatever the shareholders of the pharmaceutical company desire?

Now, think about the refugee crisis. When the slipshod boats that are done by Europeans break the pieces and cause corpses to fill up the shores, the accusation was on the smugglers. 

When we research the root cause, we can observe the primary reason for refugees to be put on worn-out boats. The European law states that refugees coming without a visa should be acknowledged as a valid refugee by the personnel of the vehicle (ship, train, bus, plane, etc.) they are trying to get on. However, this challenging task is never done. European laws also let the authority to seize the boats for refugees so that smugglers will not want to use a decent boat.

Chapter 6 – Do not make hasty judgments and overstatements; adhere to the reality in education, business, and journalism.

Our urgency instinct is the last concerning instinct that makes us reach hasty conclusions that bring errors or evil.

The most crucial problems, for example not trying to find medical solutions for poor countries or giving refugees shabby boats, are complicated problems and all potential consequences should be thought of very well. We can understand that a problem never has a certain, straight remedy.

Thinking of all potential consequences before judging something is crucial. Always seeing the world based on the truth is important, although even people with the biggest heart consider that overstatements are beneficial.

Climate change is certainly a significant problem however, people are willing to disseminate what can be in the worst outcome and do not talk about the best case or a more likely outcome. They think that, only when people are afraid of something, they will work for change. However, they forget that overstatement may lead to a feeling of cheating in the future, and a loss of reliability of the action for the changing climate, which should have been invaluable.

The reality and truth need always be respected in any field like education, business, and journalism. The people who teach to others need to be sure that they are disseminating the most recent knowledge. Much of resuming “the West and the others” thought of us is caused by rotten and ancient views. 

Companies and capitalists may also use the correct view of the world for their benefit. The reality that Africa is improving in terms of business shows them the opportunity to make money. They can both support the growth of the area, and be the first to seize opportunities.

Although we can expect journalists to show what exactly happens on our planet while consuming news, we should not trust all of what is reported; after all, journalists are just humans with the same instincts and misconceptions we have. What is essential in getting a bright worldview is to view everything through different windows. 

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

Factfulness is rare today because of several simple but large misconceptions and the reality that our instincts as mankind can occasionally operate in contrast to our wants. Although lots of people believe that the planet is becoming a more distorted place, in reality, the world has advanced a lot in a considerably fast way. In all the quantifiable measures, the planet has advanced when compared to the times in two centuries, a century, and even five decades ago. People can expect to live more, schooling and health services can be reached more, and prosperity increased. News channels do not tell these, to see these seeing them further, using data, and evaluating them in their situation are necessary. 

Educate your children in a great way.

Teaching the past of our planet, including the negative parts, is essential if you want your kids to regard factfulness. They should also learn recognition of unnecessary generalizations and having two opposite thoughts at the same time, like, as there are negatives, there are also things that are becoming more positive. In addition to these, the way to approach the news, how to understand if the news is extremely exaggerated, and how to keep calm and hopeful should be taught to kids. 

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

Download Pdf


Download Epub



Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

Recent Posts