The world cannot be understood with numbers alone

“The world cannot be understood without numbers. And it cannot be understood with numbers alone.” Dr Hans Rosling

If you believe in this statement, we suggest you read Hans Rosling’s new book “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think.” 

An epidemiologist, Dr Hans Rosling together with his son Ola Rosling and daughter in law Anna Rosling Ronnlund Hans, are able to provide readers with a different take on viewing the world.  If one’s worldview is very binary, it will definitely change by the end of the book.  

Hans reminds us how our world has improved vastly since the early 1900’s.  And he’s right – we have seen a reduction in many diseases through the introduction of vaccinations; infant and child mortality rates have improved worldwide; more girls are being educated; and more people are coming out of extreme poverty.  In saying this however, we do struggle to celebrate these successes. As humans, it is our natural tendency to be drawn to sensationalist stories which are rare events. We don’t like to celebrate slow success. Ultimately, this can skew our judgement of progress which has occured around us.

Hans view of the world is not binary such as developed or developing countries.  He divides the world into four income levels which describes one’s way of life at each level.  This includes how an individual or family might fetch water (do they walk to a mud hole or do they have access to a running tap); what type of transport they use (walk, bike, motorcycle or car); how they cook their food (open fire, gas stove, oven); whether their children are able to attend school; and what families might have for dinner (rice only or variety of food).  The majority of the world’s population are on level 2 and 3. Since we live in New Zealand, we will be catergorised as level 4.

If you enjoy watching Han’s TED talks (if you haven’t done so you need to search YouTube now) you will certainly be impressed with the many gems he shares in Factfulness.  Our very own Jacinta has seen Han’s live in action when she attended the 2015 Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference in Mexico.  Han’s loves data and he wants the world to understand how to interpret data properly so we can celebrate the wins that have been achieved worldwide.  We want to be smarter than the chimpanzees (you will get this if you’ve watched a TED talk or read Factfulness).

For a quick overview, watch Bill Gates review of Factfulness below.