Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
Factfulness Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think.jpg
AuthorHans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Ola Rosling
PublisherFlatiron Books
Publication date
April 3, 2018
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
WebsiteGapminder: Factfulness (the book)

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think is a 2018 book by Swedish statistician Hans Rosling with his son Ola Rosling and daughter-in-law Anna Rosling Rönnlund. In the book, Rosling suggests the vast majority of human beings are wrong about the state of the world. He demonstrates that his test subjects believe the world is poorer, less healthy, and more dangerous than it actually is, attributing this not to random chance but to misinformation.[1][2]

Rosling recommends thinking about the world as divided into four levels based on income brackets (rather than the prototypical developed/developing framework) and suggests ten instincts that prevent us from seeing real progress in the world.[3][4]

Bill Gates highlighted the book as one of his suggested 5 books worth reading for summer 2018, offering to purchase a copy for any 2018 college graduate upon request.[5]


(Left to right) Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Hans Rosling, and Ola Rosling discuss their book Factfulness in 2016.

Four income levels[edit]

Rosling criticizes the notion of dividing the world into the "developed world" and the "developing world" by calling it an outdated view. He shows that today most countries are "developed" and the others are not how developing countries were when the term became popular. Instead, he offers a four category model based on income per person (adjusted for price differences):

  1. Level 1: less than $2 a day
  2. Level 2: $2–$8 a day
  3. Level 3: $8–$32 a day
  4. Level 4: $32+ a day

He says that the a majority of the countries in the world are on Level 2 or Level 3. A select few countries are on Level 1 and Level 4.

World getting better[edit]

The book also stresses that many people think the world is getting worse when, in fact, it is not. The survey at the beginning states that with over 10,000 poll recipients 80% knew less about the world than "chimps" would have, i.e. they do worse than random guessing. That, the authors claim, shows that the media systematically skew data and trends and select stories to make people think that the world is getting worse.

However, Christian Berggren, a Swedish professor of industrial management, has questioned those claims and suggested that Rosling's own thinking shows a bias towards Pollyannaism. Particularly, Berggren criticized the authors for understating the importance of the European migrant crisis, the environmental impacts of the Anthropocene, and continued global population growth.[6]

Rules of thumb[edit]

Ten rules of thumb helping to avoid overdramatic interpretations[7]
Number Dramatic instinct Example Rule of thumb Example
1 Gap instinct 'Look at the gap!' Locate the majority 'Is there really a gap?'
2 Negativity instinct 'It's getting worse!' Expect negative news 'Would improvement get attention?'.
3 Straight line instinct 'It just continues!' Imagine bending lines 'Why would this line not bend?'
4 Fear instinct 'It's scary!' Calculate the risk 'Is it really dangerous?'
5 Size instinct 'It's big!' Check the proportions 'Is it big in comparison?'
6 Generalization instinct 'They're all the same!' Check your categories 'How are they different?'
7 Destiny instinct 'It never changes!' Notice slow changes 'Isn't it always changing slowly?'
8 Single-perspective instinct 'This is the solution!' Use multiple tools 'What other solutions exist?'
9 Blame instinct 'That's the bad guy!' Resist pointing fingers 'What system made this possible?'
10 Urgency instinct 'It is now or never!' Take small steps 'Can we take decisions as we go?'

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hardyment, Christina (2018). "Review: Factfulness by Hans Rosling, read by Simon Slater". The Times.
  2. ^ Millen, Robbie (2018). "Review: Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling". The Times.
  3. ^ Mahadevan-Dasgupta, Uma (2018). "Factfulness review: The miracle of human progress". The Hindu.
  4. ^ Brueck, Hilary (April 4, 2018). "The author of one of Bill Gates' favorite books says the world isn't as apocalyptic as you might think - here are five of his top reasons why". Business Insider. Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  5. ^ Gates, Bill (May 21, 2018). "5 books worth reading this summer". Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  6. ^ Berggren, Christian. (2018). Good Things on the Rise: The One-Sided Worldview of Hans Rosling. Translation of an essay published in Kvartal, Sept. 20, 2018 https://kvartal.se/artiklar/bra-saker-pa-uppgang-roslings-varldsbild-ar-ensidigt-positiv/. 2018.
  7. ^ Factfulness, Gapminder Foundation (page visited on 15 November 2020).