I recently finished Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think and I urge you to read it. It was enlightening.
Hans Rosling along with his son Ola Rosling and daughter in law Anna Rosling Rönnlund took to heart the mission to debunk a few misconceptions we have about the world. And the best part? They debunked them with data. Some of them might seem incredible but are actually based on hard data.
You should read the book to find out for yourself but I would like to take this opportunity to stress a point Hans makes several times: the fact that things are better and are improving does not mean everything is well and good, quite the contrary. On many fronts there huge challenges to overcome. That said, we should take confort that things are, in fact, improving a use that as fuel to keep improving.
Below is a summary (verbatim from the end of each chapter), that explains each misconception. The end of each chapter also offers tips on how to identify and avoid each of them. To really understand it, no one better than Hans to explain it. Read it!
THE GAP INSTINCT
Factfulness is ... recognizing when a story talks about a gap, and remembering that this paints a picture of two separate groups, with a gap in between. The reality is often not polarized at all. Usually the majority is right there in the middle, where the gap is supposed to be.
THE NEGATIVITY INSTINCT
Factfulness is ... recognizing when we get negative news, and remembering that information about bad events is much more likely to reach us. When things are getting better we often don’t hear about them. This gives us a systematically too-negative impression of the world around us, which is very stressful.
THE STRAIGHT LINE INSTINCT
Factfulness is ... recognizing the assumption that a line will just continue straight, and remembering that such lines are rare in reality.
THE FEAR INSTINCT
Factfulness is ... recognizing when frightening things get our attention, and remembering that these are not necessarily the most risky. Our natural fears of violence, captivity, and contamination make us systematically overestimate these risks.
THE SIZE INSTINCT
Factfulness is ... recognizing when a lonely number seems impressive (small or large), and remembering that you could get the opposite impression if it were compared with or divided by some other relevant number.
THE GENERALIZATION INSTINCT
Factfulness is ... recognizing when a category is being used in an explanation, and remembering that categories can be misleading. We can’t stop generalization and we shouldn’t even try. What we should try to do is to avoid generalizing incorrectly.
THE DESTINY INSTINCT
Factfulness is ... recognizing that many things (including people, countries, religions, and cultures) appear to be constant just because the change is happening slowly, and remembering that even small, slow changes gradually add up to big changes.
THE SINGLE PERSPECTIVE INSTINCT
Factfulness is ... recognizing that a single perspective can limit your imagination, and remembering that it is better to look at problems from many angles to get a more accurate understanding and find practical solutions.
THE BLAME INSTINCT
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.
THE URGENCY INSTINCT
Factfulness is ... recognizing when a decision feels urgent and remembering that it rarely is.