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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Review: Factfulness

Factfulness is Hans Rosling's legacy: he wrote the book and it was published after he passed away. The book is a great accompaniment and follow up to his various Ted Talks, using statistics, graphs and visualization tools about how the world is a much better place than the gloomy news you might get. The reasons are pretty much the same as in Greg Easterbrook's It's Better Than It Looks: much of the world has moved from the poverty line of having only a dollar a day to spend to 2, 4, 8 or even 16 dollars a day.

This is genuine cause for celebration: 90-95% of kids now finish elementary schooling of one form or another. Most kids are vaccinated against the childhood diseases. Even many developing countries, childbirth rates have plummeted because improve infant survival rates and education of girls meant that family planning is now the rule rather than the exception.

Rosling accompanies each chapter not just with a summary, but a contrarian rule to remind yourself to avoid the simple answers but also to read between the lines as to what's not being reported. A shark attack or polar bear attack might draw the news, but that's because they're unusual. The flip side of it is that something that kills a lot of people (such as the 'flu or traffic crashes or domestic violence) gets ignored because it's not interesting enough to the news media.

The one place where Rosling fails is his depiction of the climate carbonization problem. He claims that the environmental activists tend to exaggerate the problem. From what I can tell, the planet is actually warming faster than projections, so I'd venture to say that the problem is more urgent than what the activists are suggesting.

Nevertheless, this is a fun book to read and well worth your time. Recommended.

1 comment:

Scott said...

The issue with climate change is that humans overestimate the effects in the short term and underestimate them in the long term. With something like bear attacks in Yosemite, whether we address the problem or not, there's no outcome where an army of bears descends on LA and wreaks havoc. We don't know what specifically will happen with climate change, but climate change has some very plausible dystopian outcomes (and a few _really_ scary options, like methane bomb).