Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 624
Hans Rosling, together with his coauthors Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, encourages the reader to question their “knowledge” about the real world. Most people, he maintains, “know” a lot of “facts” that are absolutely untrue. Rather than acquire accurate knowleldge from reliable sources, most people base the information that they...
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Hans Rosling, together with his coauthors Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, encourages the reader to question their “knowledge” about the real world. Most people, he maintains, “know” a lot of “facts” that are absolutely untrue. Rather than acquire accurate knowleldge from reliable sources, most people base the information that they assume is factual on unproven assumptions and erroneous conclusions that are widely disseminated by the media. He wrote this book, therefore, to separate the wheat from the chaff, so that more people can grasp the “big picture” that otherwise eludes us. He offers to do this by providing “simple thinking tools.”
I have posed hundreds of fact questions…about poverty and wealth, population growth, births, deaths, education, health, gender, violence, energy, and the environment—basic global patterns and trends—to thousands of people across the world… [M]ost people do extremely badly.
Rosling identifies a quality he calls “the negativity instinct.” He argues that human beings tend to pessimism, believing in scenarios of doom and gloom more often than in hopeful ones. He encourages the reader to counter this tendency in order to control that negativity. He promotes optimism, and confidence in improving conditions, as an antidote; this will help us to continue finding solutions to real problems rather than to give up or ignore them.
How can we help our brains realize that things are getting better when everything is screaming at us that things are getting worse?… The solution is not to balance out all the negative news with more positive news. That would just risk creating a self-deceiving, misleading, comforting bias in the other direction… I am certainly not advocating looking away from the terrible problems of the world. I am saying things can be both bad and better.
One of the questions he routinely poses to people has to do with global population. He asks them to show on maps of the world where the majority of the world’s people live. Which continent has the largest percentage of human beings? This question has numerous practical implications in terms of consumption, energy usage, and need for access to services. Although in the initial stages, he was shocked to realize the extent of misinformation, Rosling came to accept that most people he queried did not know where people lived. Their scores were below even randomness, but closer than on other questions.
[W]here is the world market? Where are the internet users? Where will tourists come from in the future? Where are most of the cargo ships going? And so on….
This is one of the fact questions where people score best…. They are almost as good as random….
Seventy percent of people don’t know that the majority of mankind lives in Asia.
One of the cautionary notes that Rosling sounds relates to the manipulation of statistics. The case he uses to bring home why this is problematic is that if infant mortality. Overall, globally, the number of infants dying each year seems very high; for 2016, the number was 4.2 million infants not reaching their first birthday. While this number seems dreadfully high, he shows that the percentage rate over more than 60 years has declined from 15 percent to 3 percent. While these numbers are still very high, the decline is for him significant and should be addressed. The relationships among numbers is as significant as the numbers themselves.
When you see one number falling it is sometimes actually because some other background number is falling…. Some people feel ashamed by doing this kind of math with human lives. I feel ashamed when not doing it. A lonely number always makes me suspicious that I have misinterpreted it. A number that I have compared and divided instead can fill me with hope.
Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 537
In order to answer this question, it is important to identify the primary assertion of the text as a whole. Hans Rosling's Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think is an optimistic take on the state of the global community. In order to deconstruct the notion that the world is getting worse (as many people believe), Rosling discusses the various misconceptions that have been propagated due to media misrepresentation. Rosling instead asserts that the state of the world is much better in the present than it has ever been, and he provides copious evidence to support his claim.
With this is mind, it is easier to identify three important quotes. I will list each quote below and then discuss what Rosling means by including it in his text.
I want people, when they realize they have been wrong about the world, to feel not embarrassment, but that childlike sense of wonder, inspiration, and curiosity that I remember from the circus.
The quote above is found in the introduction of the book. This quote underscores Rosling's message because it shows that he is not merely trying to make people feel ignorant or stupid. One criticism of Rosling's message could certainly be that he assumes the average person has no idea what is really going on in the world and thus feels a responsibility to educate the public. However, this quote demonstrates Rosling's willingness to break down myths to inspire hope in the average person.
Another important quote from the text comes in chapter 8, which is titled the "Single Perspective Instinct":
We find simple ideas very attractive. We enjoy that moment of insight, we enjoy feeling we really understand or know something.
In this quote, Rosling defines what he calls the single perspective instinct, a phenomenon in which the average person seeks to interpret and understand the world's problems—and its solutions—using an overly-simplified approach. The reason people have a tendency to do so, according to Rosling, is because it ascribes order to a world that is seemingly always in chaos, and we are naturally attracted to simple explanations and simple solutions.
Finally, the last important quote comes from chapter 10, aptly titled "The Urgency Instinct":
When people tell me we must act now, it makes me hesitate. In most cases, they are just trying to stop me from thinking clearly.
This quote perfectly describes this urgency phenomenon that Rosling insists is rarely more than a scare tactic. He explains that people have a tendency to put off actions in the face of risks that are far off in the future. Because of this, activists who have what they believe is a pressing cause will often try to motivate the public by exclaiming how action must be taken immediately. While this can be an effective motivator to some, Rosling says it actually turns people off from long-term commitment to a cause when they realize the truth. For Rosling, this instinct is both the most attractive to users and the most detrimental to progress.
Overall, each of the quotes discussed above allow the reader to grasp how Rosling deconstructs the common schema that causes such a pessimistic view of the world.