Factfulness – Hans Rosling

I imagine there is some alternate universe somewhere where books like this aren’t needed. But moreover, I imagine a world where perhaps a book like this doesn’t court controversy.

I don’t know if this specific book has courted controversy, but it certainly is in the same family of books that have. Specifically, I kind of put this book in the same family as those books by Steven Pinker that look at the data about the world around us and try to argue that the world is actually getting better in many respects, despite how bad things look when we look out the window.

Hans Rosling’s Factfulness is a book that claims that the vast majority of us are wrong about the state of the world, and that things are not as grim as we all like to think. To support this idea, Rosling has a series of question, almost all of which people guess wrong answer to when presented. The questions are all based on the state of the world currently. He then presents certain fallacies we engage in that lead us to this erroneous thinking.

Was I convinced? Perhaps. But certainly not nearly as much as I was by Pinker’s thematically similar books. Rosling’s book was more focused on just a few different aspects of the world around us, while Pinker’s seemed to be a little more well rounded. However, that might actually be a virtue of this book – because it doesn’t let us forget (as so many people accuse books like this of doing) that

SAYING THE WORLD IS BETTER NOW THAN IT WAS 100 YEARS AGO DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE WORLD IS GOOD, OR THAT WE NEED TO STOP WORKING TO MAKE IT BETTER.

(when you are half way through a race, you can’t exactly stop working)

I ended up loving the theme of this book. Or perhaps feeling is a better word. The book comes off as delightfully, refreshingly, optimistic. I feel like we need more of that these days. But I knew that was going to happen going in. Like I have already alluded to, I like all of the older cousin books this work seems to have, so my enjoyment doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

However, while I think the information in it is important, and something that I think a lot of people do lose sight of these days, there was something about the writing of this book that I just found to be… dull. I didn’t double check this to see if it was authored liked this (the authors are Swedes, and while their English is famously good…), or if this was something the fault of a translator, but there was something about the style I found to be… well, just rather dull really. I know that’s hard to pin down with non-fiction, but I truly felt this way.

 

 

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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