I recently read Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World - - and Why Things are Better Than You Think by Rosling, et al (2018). In this book, Rosling and co-authors use a remarkable collection of data to identify and address numerous misperceptions that we typically hold regarding the current state of affairs in our world. To underscore these misperceptions he repeatedly compares the responses to survey items in his voluminous audiences (usually highly educated ones) to the response rates he gets on the same surveys when placed in front of chimpanzees. All too often, the chimpanzees outscored the humans. Actually, almost always. Uh oh!
My top takeaways from reading Factfulness:
· Averages mislead us by hiding a range, often a very broad range, of numbers in a SINGLE number.
· Beware comparisons of both averages ANDextremes.
· Be very careful jumping to any conclusions if the data variances are less than 10%.
· Bad news plays much better in the media than good news; that’s why we get so much of the former.
· Trends in data almost always exist in curves; rarely ever in straight lines.
· I/We are not normal; and other people are not idiots.
· Categorizations are the same as generalizations, and they are usually misleading.
· Change is almost always a very slow process, thus very difficult to see while it’s occurring.
· Single perspectives are notorious liars; viewing problems from many different angles is the best path to a meaningful solution.
My favorite quote(s):
“I never trust data 100 percent, and you never should either.” (p. 50)
“The world cannot be understood without numbers. And it cannot be understood with numbers alone.” (p. 128)
“Factfulness is … recognizing when a scapegoat is being used and remembering that blaming an individual often steals the focus from other possible explanations and blocks our ability to prevent similar problems in the future. To control the blame instinct, resist finding a scapegoat.” (p. 222)
“Factfulness is … recognizing when a decision feels urgent and remembering that it rarely is.” (p. 242)
This book was recommended to me by a colleague who noted that it completely changed the way he thought. It had a similar impact on me. I just love it when authors, speakers, teachers, wangateurs take my mind to new places.
I highly recommend Factfulness.