Posted by Ian Bentley
On Monday evening the Bookworms chewed over Factfulness, a book written by a team of authors, led by the late Hans Rosling, a renowned Swedish statistician, global health expert and TED Talk presenter.


Factfulness is a thought-provoking and enlightening exploration of how humans perceive the world and why our perceptions are often distorted. It makes a compelling case for a more fact-based and optimistic worldview. The Bookworms noted how the book was enriched by the series of engaging anecdotes and personal experiences, including Rosling's time as a doctor in developing countries. 

Bill Gates described Factfulness as one of the most important books he’d read. So moved was he to share the book’s insights that in 2018 Gates gave copies to 4 million college graduates in the US.

Do you know more about the world than a chimpanzee?  Take the 13-question test that Rosling gave to thousands of audience members at the talks he delivered over many years.  If you scored less than six correct, join the chimpanzees and the vast majority of audience members.

People’s failure to outperform the chimps in this test highlights the pervasive sense of pessimism that dominates public opinion and news media. Rosling and his co-authors argue that this negativity is very often at odds with the objective reality of the world. Readers are introduced to a new framework for understanding global issues, emphasizing the importance of data and statistical analysis.

Much like the work of Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky and Steven Pinker the authors delve into the psychological biases that lead people to faulty decision making and to misunderstand the state of the world. They identify common cognitive biases, such as the fear instinct and the gap instinct, which color our perceptions and contribute to a distorted worldview.

Factfulness provides readers with a set of ten "instincts" that shape human thinking and lead to misinterpretations of global trends. (See summary of these instincts at–_and_Why_Things_Are_Better_Than_You_Think) The authors argue that by recognizing and countering these instincts, individuals can develop a more accurate understanding of the world. 

Throughout the book, the authors present a wealth of data and statistics to support their claims, revealing that, contrary to popular belief, the world has made significant progress in areas such as health, education, and poverty reduction. Readers are encouraged to adopt a more factful worldview, one that acknowledges the positive trends and opportunities for improvement on a global scale.


The Bookworms enjoyed our conversation of this serious book and recommend it to others. It is especially relevant to Rotarians. 

If light fiction is more your style, though, perhaps you’d like to join us when we discuss Jane Gardam’s Old Filth (Failed in London, try Hong Kong) on Monday 13th November. (Contact Gordon or Ian B if you’re interested)