Author: Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling

In this book the author tells about indicators about the world. He thereby asks the following thirteen questions as multiple choice:

  1. How many girls in the low-income countries finish the primary school? 20%, 40% or 60%?
  2. Where does the largest part of the world population live? In low-income countries, in middle-income countries or in high-income countries?
  3. During the past 20 years, the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has almost doubled, remained about the same, or almost halved?
  4. What is the average life expectancy in the world? 50 years, 60 years or 70 years?
  5. There are now 2 billion children from 0 to <15 years in the world. How many children will there be according to the United Nations in the year 2100? 4 billion, 3 billion or 2 billion?
  6. According to the UN’s forecast, the world’s population has increased by another 4 billion by 2100. What is the main cause of this? More children under 15, more adults between 15 and 74, or more old people aged 75 and older?
  7. How has the number of people who perish during the past 100 years changed due to natural disasters? More than doubled, about the same or decreased to less than half?
  8. There are now around 7 billion people in the world. Where do these people live? Americas-Europe-Africa-Asia: 1-1-1-4, 1-1-2-3, 2-1-1-3 billion people?
  9. How many children of one year or younger in the world are now vaccinated against a disease? 20%, 50% or 80%?
  10. Thirty-year-old men around the world have spent an average of 10 years at school. How many years have women of that age been on average at school? 9 years, 6 years or 3 years?
  11. In 1996, tigers, giant pandas and black rhinos were on the list of endangered species. Wow many of these three species are now even more seriously threatened? 2 out of 3, 1 out of 3 or none of 3?
  12. How many people in the world have any access to electricity? 20%, 50% or 80%?
  13. Climate experts around the world think that the average temperature in the next 100 years will increase, stay the same or decrease?

These thirteen questions are better answered by chimpanzees with marked bananas according to a thought experiment. Even people who call themselves experts in a specialist field, answer wrongly in large numbers to questions about neighboring disciplines. Even the great leaders of the world systematically give wrong answers. The question is why. Because that is the question that can lead to a change. It turns out that we are people with at least 10 instincts that bother us. 10 is a large number. Which are they? This is explained in as many chapters, richly laced with examples and events from his own life and events in the world.

  1. The gap instinct: the instinct that paints an image of two separate groups with a gap between them. To keep it in control, it is best to look for the majority. In this situation you have to be careful to compare averages, extremes, … and watch for a look from above because that distorts the view.
  2. The negativity instinct: negative news reaches us much easier because positive things have too little news value. To keep it in control you best count on bad news. Remember, too, that something that “something is going better” is not ”something is going well”. The past is often represented in a pink distorted image.
  3. The straight-line instinct: We often think further in terms of linear extrapolations. Continue straight on the line. Remember, however, that most lines are not straight lines. Do not just go out of a straight line.
  4. The fear instinct: Terrifying things are often not the most dangerous things. Calculate the risks. The world seems scary because the scary messages are passed on better. Do not make decisions when you are anxious.
  5. The size instinct: when a separate number is given, compare it best with other numbers within the context. Look at the proportions. They have more meaning. Use the 80/20 rule when you get a long list. Record the largest topics first.
  6. The generalization instinct: this is working with conclusions based on categories. This can be misleading. Therefore look for differences within groups, for similarities between groups, differences between groups. Beware of ‘the majority’. That can also be only 51%. Beware of examples if you do not know whether they are the rule or the exception. Start from the idea that other people are smart too.
  7. The fate instinct: Know that something is not constant when it changes slowly. Because that is also change. Follow the small changes closely. In the long term, these become big changes. Do not let your knowledge get outdated. Talk to your grandfather to know what has changed. Let culture renew itself.
  8. The one-shot instinct: having one perspective can limit your imagination. Find a 360 ° view of your business. Let people who disagree with you test your ideas. Be honest with yourself about what you do not know. Be open to ideas from other fields. Provide facts in addition to the figures. Do not go through (too) simple ideas and (too) simple solutions.
  9. The scapegoat instinct: If someone is to blame, the attention goes away from other aspects. Therefore do not point with a finger but look for solutions. Find the cause without looking for the guilty. Search for the systemic background. If you do not seek villains, you do not need any heroes either.
  10. The urgency instinct: Needing an urgent decision is often unjustified. Make a step-by-step plan with small steps to make improvements. Before you start you take a deep breath. Request the dates of the facts. Beware of fortune tellers. Their statements are about the future and therefore have a great uncertainty. Do not proceed too fast. Ask yourself what the immediate and long term consequences and the side effects will be.


Manu Steens

Manu works at the Flemish Government in risk management and Business Continuity Management. On this website, he shares his own opinions regarding these and related fields. Since 2012, he has been working at the Crisis Centre of the Flemish Government (CCVO), where he has progressed in BCM, risk management, and crisis management. Since August 2021, he has been a knowledge worker for the CCVO. As of January 2024, he works at the Department of Chancellery and Foreign Affairs of the Flemish Government. Here, he combines BCM, risk management, and crisis management to create a tailored form of resilience management to meet the needs of the Flemish Government.

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