Loud letters



It’s rare to find a non-fiction book easy to read and engaging, but that’s what Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, and Anna Rosling Rönnlund have achieved with Factfulness. This book fundamentally changed how I see the world and my place in it. I’ve learned so much that I can’t help but share my notes and highlights with you so you can grasp the contents and eventually read the book yourself.

The book starts interestingly with Hans Rosling’s love for sword swallowing and a quiz testing the reader on his understanding of the world. I won’t be sharing the questions or the correct answers with you here, so you’ll have to check out the book to take the quiz. Nonetheless, here are my answers to the single-choice quiz so you can compare your answers with mine.

  1. A
  2. A
  3. A
  4. B
  5. B
  6. A
  7. B
  8. B
  9. A
  10. C
  11. A
  12. B
  13. A

One thing’s sure is that I was negatively surprised by my score.

Pantomime = Dramatic entertainment in which performers express meaning through gestures accompanied by music.

The Gap Instinct

Look for the majority.

Chasm = Deep fissure in the earth’s surface.

The gap instinct 1

The gap instinct 2

The Negativity Instinct

Expect bad news.

Improved reporting is itself a sign of human progress, but it creates the impression of the exact opposite.

Things can be both bad and better.

The negativity instinct 1

The negativity instinct 2

The Straight Line Instinct

Lines might bend.

Seldom = Rarely.

Rose-tinted glasses = The cheerful or optimistic view of things, usually without a valid basis.

The straight line instinct 1

The straight line instinct 2

The Fear Instinct

Calculate the risks.

Something frightening poses a perceived risk. Something dangerous poses a real risk.

Risk = danger × exposure.

Run amok = Behave uncontrollably and disruptively.

Chemophobia = The fear of chemicals.

The fear instinct 1

The fear instinct 2

The Size Instinct

Get things in proportion.

In the deepest poverty you should never do anything perfectly. If you do you are stealing resources from where they can be better used.

Rudimentary = Involving or limited to fundamental principles.

Skimp = Use less time, money, and material on something than necessary to economize.

Pagoda = Hindu/Buddhist temple.

The size instinct 1

The size instinct 2

The Generalization Instinct

Question your categories.

Your country has become so safe that when you go abroad the world is dangerous for you.

The generalization instinct 1

The generalization instinct 2

The Destiny Instinct

Slow change is still change.

The destiny instinct 1

The destiny instinct 2

The Single Perspective Instinct

Get a toolbox.

We are not the healthiest of the poor, we are the poorest of the healthy.

It’s better to argue for democracy as a goal in itself instead of as a superior means to other goals we like.

The single perspective instinct 1

The single perspective instinct 2

The Blame Instinct

Resist pointing your finger.

‘Claim’ comes just as easily as ‘blame.’

Our press may be free, and professional, and truth-seeking, but independent is not the same as representative.

Prosaic = That lacks imaginativeness or originality.

The blame instinct 1

The blame instinct 2

The Urgency Instinct

Take small steps.

Without trust, we are lost.

Galvanize = Shock or stimulate into taking action.

The urgency instinct 1

The urgency instinct 2


Factfulness is written in a friendly, non-judgmental way and is full of interesting facts and insights. I found myself maniacally highlighting phrases and sentences. It’s not just a book on statistics but about how our brains see the world as worse than it is in reality.

Hans Rosling was a professor of international health at Karolinska Institute and co-founder of Gapminder, a non-profit making data easily understandable by everyone. Also, check out the TED Talks Rosling hosted before passing away on 7 February 2017, at the age of 68. His works will always nurture the minds of generations to come.