Factfulness Book Review



We are living in surprising times. The world around us has changed drastically; both positively & in ways unimaginable few months back. It would have been interesting to see some people’s views on the new shift. Let us highlight one such book published few years ago. This book has probably attracted your attention on the bookshelves of many. It has held high grounds among Top 10 non-fiction books at leading bookstores. Have you read it yet? If your answers to the above are ‘No’, here’s why you should read a copy now.

We all have our perceptions, which are essential for survival. Sometimes, such biases make us judgemental too soon and hurdle our overall worldview without rationalising. This book is an amazing fact-based approach to first understand these biases, question them and apply Factfulness to think pragmatically (my favorite part).

I have been an ardent follower of Hans Rosling for more than 8 years now, thanks to Gapminder Foundation. For an economics enthusiastic like me, it was one of the best places to inhale complex data in the best graphs possible. If you haven’t yet, do give this book a chance and I bet you will find it very engaging and informative, and to some extent beautiful too.

Data has surrounded in overwhelming capacities. We do absorb it via several channels. But does that go on to prove that our perceptions about global trends is true by even 50% accuracy. You will be surprised that IT’S NOT. Do you think, for example, that life expectancy today is 50, 60 or 70 years? In the past 20 years, has the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty almost doubled, remained more or less the same, or almost halved? And in low-income countries, is the percentage of girls who finish primary school 20, 40 or 60 per cent?

These are just some of the 13 questions answered in the book in the most pragmatic way possible. This book will make you fall in love with data and how we should process it or even before that read into it.

The Main Premise of FACTFULNESS is to acquaint you first and then explain the huge discrepancies between what we think is going on in the world and what the actual reality is. Rosling uses hard data to prove this point – that world is better than what you think it is and to prove the point further he presents graphs to expose ignorance by nationalities.

He was quick to realize that we all have ‘overdramatic’ worldviews and we intuitively fall into this trap as we think, learn, guess or even perceive the world around us. Our brains are evolutionary creatures and evolutionary adaption only helps us in making prompt decisions to avoid danger – thus our tendency to misinterpret facts gets instinctive. It is quite logical if you think about it, even our fears and phobias are prey to this evolutionary adaption. A lot of us have fears of objects which would have been important for the survival of our ancestors and don’t impact us much like darkness, spiders or snakes. While at the same time none of us fears cars or guns, which are way more dangerous in the 21st century as we have a great deal of exposure to them. While these instincts are needed for our day to day functioning, they trip us quiet often than one would imagine.

Rosling, who was a Medical Doctor by profession, dedicated his life to data and acting reliably on data. His Gapminder Foundation and Ignorance Project for past decades made this book inevitable. But I would still want to whole-heartedly thank him for this precise book. It has not only enabled me to question my biases but has helped channelize them for a fulfilling life.

I wish Mr. Rosling were present among us today. His views on COVID-19 and how the world is handling it would have been quite insightful yet entertaining. But wherever he may rest, I’d want him to know, Sir, you were so right about the world. And, yes! you are a PROBAILISTIC and not an OPTIMISTIC. And that’s an equally good road to take too!

This article is written by Nayana Talwar who has been happily traveling since 1998 and writing about it. A long-time advocate of solo travel, she hopes that reading about her experiences will encourage other women to stop waiting for a travel partner and pursue their own travel dreams now.

What do you think?

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A section of thoughtful stories curated by wonderful women and handpicked by team WSL.

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