Library / Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong about the World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think

Links GoodReads
RatingRating 5

The book is an easy read, yet profound. The mood is positive. A lot of cool facts.

Quotes (6)

Illusions in Our Brains

My glasses have a custom lens to correct for my personal sight problem. But when I look at this optical illusion, I still misinterpret what I see, just like everyone else. This is because illusions don’t happen in our eyes, they happen in our brains. They are systematic misinterpretations, unrelated to individual sight problems.

Binary Thinking

I think this is because human beings have a strong dramatic instinct toward binary thinking, a basic urge to divide things into two distinct groups, with nothing but an empty gap in between. We love to dichotomize. Good versus bad. Heroes versus villains. My country versus the rest. Dividing the world into two distinct sides is simple and intuitive, and also dramatic because it implies conflict, and we do it without thinking, all the time.

China 1960

There’s a dip in the global life expectancy curve in 1960 because 15 to 40 million people—nobody knows the exact number—starved to death that year in China, in what was probably the world’s largest ever man-made famine. The Chinese harvest in 1960 was smaller than planned because of a bad season combined with poor governmental advice about how to grow crops more effectively. The local governments didn’t want to show bad results, so they took all the food and sent it to the central government. There was no food left. One year later the shocked inspectors were delivering eyewitness reports of cannibalism and dead bodies along roads. The government denied that its central planning had failed, and the catastrophe was kept secret by the Chinese government for 36 years. It wasn’t described in English to the outside world until 1996. (Think about it. Could any government keep the death of 15 million people a global secret today?)

Data as Absolutely Key

It was data — the data showing that suspected cases were doubling every three weeks—that made me realize how big the Ebola crisis was. It was also data — the data showing that confirmed cases were now falling—that showed me that what was being done to fight it was working. Data was absolutely key. And because it will be key in the future too, when there is another outbreak somewhere, it is crucial to protect its credibility and the credibility of those who produce it. Data must be used to tell the truth, not to call to action, no matter how noble the intentions.

Evidence-Based Rationality

Ask yourself, “What kind of evidence would convince me to change my mind?” If the answer is “no evidence could ever change my mind about vaccination,” then you are putting yourself outside evidence-based rationality, outside the very critical thinking that first brought you to this point.

Aliases of Syphilis

The body’s largest organ is the skin. Before modern medicine, one of the worst imaginable skin diseases was syphilis, which would start as itchy boils and then eat its way into the bones until it exposed the skeleton. The microbe that caused this disgusting sight and unbearable pain had different names in different places. In Russia it was called the Polish disease. In Poland it was the German disease; in Germany, the French disease; and in France, the Italian disease. The Italians blamed back, calling it the French disease.