Review of Factfulness

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The phrase “reality check” usually implies an effort to splash cold water over hopefulness, but this book’s reality check says things are better than you think. The writing team of the late physician and professor Hans Rosling, a co-founder of Doctors Without Borders, and his son and daughter-in-law, Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund – who co-wrote the book with him and completed it – demonstrate that the world is a safer and more hopeful place than most people believe. They show that people generally remain in thrall to misconceptions about global issues such as poverty and population growth. They envision a world of extreme violence, deprivation and misery that only grows steadily worse. The Roslings reveal statistics showing that the opposite is true: The world is getting consistently better.

They warn that misconceptions have real-life consequences. For instance, the inaccurate belief that the world is divided between extreme poverty and wealth causes some businesses to overlook the burgeoning consumer markets in Africa and Asia. These companies miss out on profits, and people lose access to goods and medicines that could improve their lives. The Roslings’ playful manner brings their statistics to life. getAbstract recommends their eye-opening thesis to leaders, students, activists and policy makers.

About the Authors

Hans Rosling was a physician and professor of International Health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, and co-founded Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and the Gapminder Foundation. Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund are also co-founders of the foundation, where he is director and she is vice-president.


The authors offer these lessons and insights:

1. The state of the world is better than you think.

The late Hans Rosling devised a multiple-choice quiz on global conditions for his audiences at lectures and conferences worldwide. Whether respondents were laypeople or policy experts, the majority proved wrong about poverty, population growth, the environment and other topics. Their answers reflected a belief that the world is more threatening and miserable than statistics reveal it to be. They believed everything is getting worse.

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