Saturday, August 3, 2019

Hans Rosling's "Factfullness" - A Review

Hans Rosling exploits and explains the many faults in the human way of thinking in his book Factfullness. Several of these instincts are quick, non-reflective responses to negative experiences or perceptions, and Rosling explains how to properly analyze these events. Rosling teaches the readers how to identify the reflexive, quick response and retract and dismantle it, finding the underlying truth and facilitating reflective thinking instead. Essentially, never accept anything at face value. There is always a deeper thought pattern that can explain things better than the mind’s initial explanation. Rosling delves into instincts such as negativity, blame, fear, and more.

The most enjoyable parts of this reading were from chapter four, which focused on the fear instinct. Fear is a powerful emotion. Rosling recalled a time during which he worked in the emergency room as a Junior Doctor in Sweden. There was reportedly an airplane crash, and the injured were being transported directly to Rosling. The injured man was a Russian; a pilot Rosling determined. He was seizing and bleeding badly. In an effort to calm the man down, Rosling told him that he was in a Swedish hospital. This made the pilot panic. All of these context clues -- the pilot’s nationality, his hysteria after being told where he was, and the crash itself -- led Rosling to one clear conclusion. World War 3 had begun, with this Russian pilot invading Sweden and being shot down. In reality, none of this was true. The pilot was conducting standard non-hostile procedures and went down accidentally. In fact, he wasn’t even bleeding or seizing at all. He was shivering because he had landed in water, and the red liquid Rosling had taken for blood was actually dye from the life jacket. This was all explained by a nurse working with Rosling. Fear is what led to Rosling’s outlandish conclusion. Rosling also admits that a third world war was one of his greatest fears growing up. I enjoyed this chapter specifically because it highlighted how effective fear is on influencing thought.

This story mainly demonstrates three ways of heuristic thinking: confirmation bias, confidence over doubt, and associative coherence. Since Rosling already had a fear of a third world war, and since the context clues of this event fit into that fear like a lock and key, he was convinced that he was correct. Which leads into the second way of heuristic thinking; confidence over doubt. Rosling had very little information on his patient when he came to his conclusion, and since it made sense, he didn’t fully think through how unlikely his WWIII conclusion was. Finally, we’ve learned throughout this course, perhaps more than anything else, that humans like things to make sense. It didn’t make any sense that the pilot was Russian, or that he crash-landed in Sweden. To make sense of it all, Rosling constructed a false story to give himself an answer to “why.”

Rosling’s goal is to push the reader to criticize and dissect everything. Don’t believe everything you see. Step back and pull away from the smoke and mirrors. This reading absolutely has value outside of the classroom. Dismantling common, shallow rhetoric is healthy for the community. A strong example in recent history is the Brett Kavanaugh hearing. Allegations of sexual assault arose, and many spectators were quick to back the claim because it supported their narrative that Kavanaugh was not fit to serve as a Supreme Court Justice (more confirmation bias here). Thankfully, the procedure followed criminal justice protocol (innocent until proven guilty). The principle of “innocent until proven guilty” was standardized thanks to critical thinkers, and in Kavanaugh’s case, almost disregarded by heuristic thinkers. If the heuristic thinkers had their way, it would have set an extremely unhealthy principle of “guilty until proven innocent” and anyone accused thereafter would suffer severe consequences, innocent or not. What would the effects on society be?

Here is a clip highlighting Lindsey Graham (rather aggressively) holding the left accountable for abandoning critical thinking in the case of Kavanaugh:

1 comment:

  1. That testimony was chilling to watch as evidence was obviously vague, but some people in congress viciously attacked Kavanaugh solely off of political bias. It truly is a shame how far people will go to try and ruin someone's life over accusations that were shown to have no validity. This is becoming more of a trend and it is important to listen to all the facts and to make decisions based on critical thinking. No one wants to be accused of being a rapist, and I can only imagine what went through Kavanaugh's mind- and everyone that knows him. That psychologist had false memories such as Elizabeth Loftus explained where a man Titus was convicted of rape, but then eventually the truth came out. This man died of a heart attack and lost the people he loved over someones distorted memory.