This book is about 2 things.

  • Busting huge myths about demographics and poverty.
  • Teaching you how to call on doctored data.

Facts that will surprise you! In 2018

  1. 60% of the girls in low income countries, finish primary school. 
  2. Majority of the world does not live in poor, but in middle income countries.
  3. In the last 20 years, extreme poverty has fallen 50%.
  4. Live expectancy across the world today is 70 years.
  5. We have 200 crore children under the age of 15 today, by 2100 it would go up to 400 crore.
  6. By 2100 the world population will increase by 400 cr, not because of children but because of adults in the age 15-74.
  7. 80% of the children under 1 year of age have been vaccinated.
  8. In 1996 tigers, giant pandas, black rhinos were listed as endangered. Today none of them are.
  9. 80% of the world has access to electricity.

Sentences with high impact

  • Illusions don’t happen in your eyes, they happen in your brain.
  • If we sifted through every input and analysed every decision rationally, a normal life wou be impossible.
  • Data therapy – understanding as a source of mental peace. Because the world is not as dramatic as it seems.
  • Numbers are not as interesting as the stories of the lives behind the numbers.
  • You simply wont find any country today where child mortality has increased.

Gap Instinct

  • As per income the word is not divided into 2 or 3, but 4 levels !
  • Developing and developed is a definition from 1965, which is more a lie than true today.
  • Only 9% of the world lives in low-income countries today.
  • New labels to replace the old ones
    • Level 1 – up to 4000 rupees a month
    • Level 2 – 4,000 to 35,000 a month
    • Level 3 – 35,000 to 67,500 a month.
    • Level 4 – 67,500 a month.
Just 9% is still stuck in Level One.
  • Just 200 years ago 85% of the world population was in Level 1, today .
  • Our binary thinking urges us to think in 2’s and that’s why stories of extreme poverty and of extreme wealth stay with us.
  • Averages are extremely misleading. The spread is completely ignored.
  • The biggest challenge in developing a fact-based world view is that most first hand experiences are from Level 4 and most second hand experiences are from the media, which is still stuck in the binary world of extraordinary events that don’t show normalcy.
  • The easiest way to control the gap instinct or misrepresentation through averages is to look for the majority. Averages as well as the Median.

Negative Instinct

  • Information of bad events are generally more likely to reach us that good news.
  • Better and Bad – Practice distinguishing between a level (e.g bad) and a direction (e.g. better). Understand that things can be both bad and better. Current State and Direction !
  • Good news is not news. Good usually does not make it to the news column as fast as bad news does. So every time you feel like reacting to bad news, check how you would have reacted to equally good news.
  • Gradual Improvement is usually not news. We tend to over estimate what can be achieved in the short term and underestimate what can be achieved in the long term.
  • More news does not equal more suffering. It just means more coverage.
  • Beware of Glorification. People and countries tend to over glorify their historic achievements, mainly because hardly anyone has the time or the patience to object.
  • Poverty, the original source of human suffering is about to be eradicated.
  • In 1997, India and China were living in extreme poverty. By 2017 India’s extreme poor dropped to 12% and just 0.7% in China.
  • To control your reaction, expect bad news, as it is a lot more difficult to get good news than bad.
    • Understand the difference between a level, and direction. For e.g things could be bad, but may be moving rapidly to a better situation. The movement to better should be focused on, instead of just the current state – level.
    • Gradual improvement is great news.
    • More news does not indicate more problems, it only indicates better coverage of the problem.
Good things are increasing !

The Straight Line Instinct

  • We are now at peak child.
  • With child mortality coming down, and people moving from Level 1 to Level 2, the no of births per woman has had a drastic fall and is as low as 2.1 in the US and 1.9 in Iran in 2017 !
  • Earlier humans lived as well as died in balance with nature. Next they continued to produce more kids assuming high mortality, but as mortality reduced, they realised they didn’t need to many kids and neither could they afford them. At this point, most couples like to have no more than 2 kids.
  • Every generation kept in poverty with continue to produce more kids. Every generation that moves up Levels will continue to drop the birth rate per woman.
  • Bride Age
    • Level 1 – 15-20
    • Level 2 – 20-25
    • Level 3 – 22.5- 27.5
    • Level 4 – 25 – 30
  • Almost nothing grows in straight lines. Excel hates to believe it !

The Fear Instinct

  • None of us have enough mental capacity to consume all the information out there. So we end my paying attentions to information that fits our dramatic instincts, and ignoring the information that does not.
  • Natural disasters don’t kill as many people as they used to before, as most people who died in them before the 1960-70’s were in Level 1 and they couldn’t protect themselves.
  • Deaths of few people in Level 4 are hyped like 10,000 times that of death of people in Level 1. Just look at the coverage of deaths in Afghanistan vs the coverage in the US.
  • Risk = Danger x Exposure – However dangerous something is, there is no risk unless you have exposure.

The Size instinct

  • Most things fit in the 80:20 rule. Whenever you are overwhelmed with details, use the 80:20 rule for some basic clarity.
  • Most people thing Solar is a huge energy source today, however, as of 2016 it was just 3%, and Oil+Gas+Coal was 87%.
  • Today the world population PIN is 1-1-1-4, Indicating Americas 1, Europe 1, Africa 1 and Asia 1. By 2040 that same PIN is likely to change to 1-1-4-5, indicating that more than 80% of the world population will be living in India and Africa.
  • The centre of the gravity of the world over the next 20 years will shift from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean.
  • How the level 4 customers are projected to change
    • Current – North Atlantic representing 11% of population have 60% of level 4 market
    • By 2027 – North Atlantic will shrink to 50% of the market.
    • By 2040 – 60% of the Level 4 market will be outside the West 🙂
  • GDP/ Pollution/ Emissions etc should be measured per person and not per country.
  • Lonely numbers should always be compared to something.

The Generalisation Instinct.

  • Africa the continent has 54 countries, and we generalise Africa like it were a country. 
  • Never settle when someone simply says majority, ask for the percentage.
  • Look for differences within the group, differences between groups and similarities.
  • Don’t settle with single examples for big decisions, ask for multiple examples.
  • The number of people on Level 3, will increase from 200cr to 400 cr by 2040. Instead of thinking of new ways to make money from the rich on Level 4. Look at cheaper products on level 3.
    • Every reduced baby means an addition 2 years of mensuration for women, and with so many people entering level 2 and 3 it makes so much more sense to look for cheaper solutions to mensuration than make 

The Destiny Instinct

  • Just because something has always been, is not a reason to believe that it will always be.
  • Cultures, nations,nations, religions and people are not rocks, they are always in constant transformations.
  • Just 35 years ago, India was where Mozambique is today.
  • The Western consumer market was just a teaser for what is coming next from Africa and Asia.
  • Average babies per woman in 2017 in Iran is  1.6 compared to 1.9 in the US.
  • The link between religion and babies is very often overrated.
    • Today Muslim women have an average of 3.1 children to the average of 2.7 children of the Christians.
  • A stunning 15% of the earths land surface is protected and growing rapidly.
  • Africans will soon go to Europe as welcomed tourists and not refugees.
  • Most compounding happens, slowly and then suddenly.

The Single Perspective Instinct.

  • We generally find simple ideas very attractive.
  • Constantly test your favourite idea for weakness and be humble about your area of expertise.
  • Always try to work with a combination of experts and generalists.
  • Activists will always portray negative pictures.
  • The wisest people look at the numbers, but not just the numbers. The Story is usually always as important as the numbers.
  • Cuba is the Healthiest of the Poor and America is the sickest of the rich, because both are based on single minded systems. Cuba thinks the central govt should solve all the problems and America thinks the market should solve all the problems.
  • Get a toolbox, not just a hammer.

The Blame Instinct

  • Bad things happen even if no one intended them to.
  • Resist the urge to find a scapegoat for everything that goes wrong.
  • Look for causes more than villians.
  • Look for systems that work an not just heroes.

The Urgency Instinct

  • Recognise when a decision is urgent and understand that very few decisions in life are really really urgent.
  • Take a breadth.
  • Take a call on relevant data only if you can be certain about its accuracy.
  • Be weary of drastic action.
  • Never think of worse case scenarios, unless you think of best case scenarios at the same time as well.
  • Be weary of exaggeration.
  • When people tell you to take a decision immediately, please hesitate. They mostly just want you to stop thinking clearly.

2 replies on “Fun Facts from Factfulness

  1. Wow! that is some very heavy gist of models and human psychology. Haven’t completed the “Thinking fast and slow” but this post can go hand in hand quite smoothly with the concepts in the book.

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