FACTFULNESS, THE STRESS-REDUCING HABIT OF ONLY CARRYING OPINIONS FOR WHICH YOU HAVE STRONG SUPPORTING FACTS.


The Guardian recently published this article “Good news at last; the world isn’t as horrific as you think”. The article is actually an extract from the new book by Hans Rosling a Swedish physician, academic, and statistician, who died in 2017. The article in the Guardian is an edited excerpt from his posthumously published book Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World (Sceptre). The same book is recommended by Steven Pinker in an article in the same newspaper called; “Steven Pinker recommends books to make you an optimist.”

This is a book I would recommend to my students who soon will be writing about politics in their exams, and most of the focus in class has been the war in Syria, terror, and political confrontations. It is easy to imagine they will write texts where they describe a world where conflict is taking over and things are only getting worse. If not any time to read the whole book I will certainly recommend they read the article.

Things are bad, and it feels like they are getting worse, right? War, violence, natural disasters, corruption. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, and we will soon run out of resources unless something drastic is done. That’s the picture most people in the west see in the media and carry around in their heads.

I call it the overdramatic worldview. It’s stressful and misleading. In fact, the vast majority of the world’s population live somewhere in the middle of the income scale. Perhaps they are not what we think of as middle class, but they are not living in extreme poverty. Their girls go to school, their children get vaccinated. Perhaps not on every single measure, or every single year, but step by step, year by year, the world is improving. In the past two centuries, life expectancy has more than doubled. Although the world faces huge challenges, we have made tremendous progress.

 

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