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Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling

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Written by a Swedish physician who went on to become very influential in International Public Health policy and a well known speaker. Starts with a thought provoking test that aims to show how little you know about the world. Then goes onto explain and rebuke the gap instinct. The gap instinct is that you believe there is Us vs Them, West vs East, Rich vs Poor. It is easy for people to draw sharp lines but the book suggests the majority of people are in fact in the middle. We need to be careful to not think that unusual is usual due to bias of media reporting.

Suggests most natural graphs that can be made are not straight, such as growth charts, although humans tend to think in straight lines. Goes into a fair bit of detail about child mortality data and how it can be used as a proxy for how developed a country is.

Suggests when analysing large data use the 80:20 rule to focus on the most important things. Suggests monitoring rates often provides the most useful data.

Beware of sweeping generalisations, for example taking data from one situation and assume and it will work in another situation. An example is study from soldiers injured in battlefields who were found to have a higher mortality if placed on their backs as they may aspirate if they vomit. This study was unfortunately generalised to babies being encouraged not to sleep on their backs, which was later found to be the incorrect advice.

How a person lives often relates to their level of poverty or richness rather than the country they live in. For example some people may cook in a certain way, but that may relate to what they can afford to do, it wouldn’t be wise to generalise that all people in that country do the same thing.

Mentions the 4 tiers of Richness:
1. Low Income – extreme poverty, $1 to $2 per day – 1 billion people
2. Middle Income – poverty $4 per day – 3 billion people
3. Middle Income – $8 to $32 per day – tap water and electricity – 2 billion people
4. High income –more than the above – 1 billion people

Population attitudes change swiftly over years. Humans have a tendency to blame other people for things that really are really not their doing.

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