DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions
By: Aleksandra Vasić, Media Specialist, DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions
Emergency situations have turned out to be a quite accurate filter for optimists, pessimists and those who know how to assess which information is true and which is false. A man is prone to believe what he wants to believe. There are few who, under difficult circumstances, recognise the truth and look it in the eye.
We all know someone, who knows someone, whose cousin’s cousin told her something, “in confidence”, because she is in a position, at the source of information – “she knows, trust me”. In 10% of cases this person not exist, in 89.99% of cases while this information came to our ears it has completely changed (for example, take a look HERE how the information changes as it goes from one person to another). In 0.01% of cases do not trust the person who tells you “trust me”.
However, we are different. We recognise fake news, we are not burdened by conspiracy theories. We read dozens of texts, articles about how today man receives more information daily than any man before in history, so normally, the consequence of all that is the great exposure to misinformation, fake news, incomplete information that can be very dangerous, causing panic and action that jeopardise own and other people’s health and safety. We know all that, we know how to recognise fake news… But do we really know? Or we have the feeling that we know what the untrue information is? Is something true just because it has been repeated enough times from different sources or is there some fact behind what we think we know. And is the truth same for everyone?
Imagine that you are reading an article and the author compares you to a monkey. Yes, just you. Would you be offended? Certainly you would. Would you be okay with that? No way. They are the smartest among animals, but wait, author, let’s not offend each other (rolling up our sleeves). What if I told you that there is such author who would compare you to a monkey and you will laugh to yourself to conceal the shame, and you will know you’re right, just for yourself.
Let’s test it.
1. In all the countries with low incomes throughout the world today, what percentage of girls finish primary school?
2. In the past 20 years the share of the world’s population that lives in extreme poverty:
- is almost doubled
- remained more or less the same
- has almost halved
3. How during the last 100 years the number of fatal cases per annum from natural disasters changed?
- It increased more than twice
- It remained at almost the same level
- It reduced by less than half
The author of the test (the original test has 13 questions) Hans Rosling who in his book Factfulness (translated into Serbian as Faktologija) refers to the fact that the world is much better than what we think and lists 10 reasons why this is so. He backed this up with facts on more than 300 pages. I do not know how you respond to these three questions, but I can tell you that the greatest world experts from different areas (economics, medicine, politics, business, etc.), and from all parts of the world, did the test terribly. Or more specifically, if chimpanzees had been given to complete the questionnaire, the chimpanzees would probably have given more correct answers by randomly encircling the answers. It was assumed that the experts who were at the sources of information, both confidential and publicly available information, would know the exact answer, but it seems that they do not know.
Only 7% of respondents (according to the survey cited in the book) answered the first question correctly (Answer: C). South Sudan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where the percentage of female children who finish primary school is less than 20%. Did you circle the answer on the basis of feeling or you possessed the facts and on the basis of them you circled the correct answer? Or were you mistaken?
In the last 200 years the level of extreme poverty was with a 85% down to 9% (source: Gapminder, 2017), in relation to the past 20 years, today the number nearly halved (Answer: C). Why do we have such a bad perception? Who is to blame? The media? Our individual pessimism? Governments or just human nature?
“The world cannot be understood without numbers, nor through numbers alone. A country cannot function without government, but government cannot solve every problem. Neither the public sector nor the private sector is always the answer. No single measure of a good society can drive every other aspect of its development. It’s not either/or. It’s both and it’s case-by-case.”
The number of victims of natural disasters does not lie in the change in the natural disasters themselves, but in the difference in people’s living conditions. A large number of people rose out of extreme poverty and ensured better living conditions. Disasters are not chosen by countries, they happen all over the world, but the damage is greater in countries with a lower standard of living than in those with higher living standards. There where the health systems, security systems, infrastructure and many other parameters when in comes standard are better, the number of victims caused by these disasters is lower, i.e., it decreased almost by half during the past 100 years (Answer: C).
In addition to a rich life experience Hans Rosling Factufulness is based also on 25 pages of very reliable sources that are at arm’s length, but we are often preoccupied with other things to have the information that we are presented with checked. Apart from optimism test (or pessimism test, if you prefer) that is waiting for you at the beginning of the book, you will find a great number of information on the mode of life in countries with different levels of income, the health systems, the differences between the countries on the human psychology, about ourselves. The best thing that Hans will give you is the filter for unnecessary, fake, incomplete information and willingness to reconsider all, if they should be re-examined from the root, in search for truth.
Why a man in general receives so lightly all dramatic information and “gossip”? Why is a large number of clicks on those “you won’t believe it” or “a man bit a dog” titles. Rosling gives the reply – once upon a time that was the only relevant information – “These are poisonous berries, do not eat them!” or “A wolf ate a man there, don’t go there!”. It’s amazing how much remained recorded in our nucleic acids.
Hans appeals that before we accept the new information for granted, we ask ourselves as many questions as possible, looking for additional, logical responses, comparing it with some other data or information, putting it in the relation or presenting it in another perspective. When some information is examined in detail, it may turn out that the news may not be correct or that it is not sufficiently precise, but it works much more dramatic than it actually is. It should be borne in mind that good news is often not the news.
This book is a pure slap in the face of reality. But not a violent slap, it is more of a slap that startles you from a faint. The book was recommended Bill and Melinda Gates, as well as by Obama. Of course, Hans is a TED Talk speaker. Unfortunately the charming Swede left us in February 2017, but by no means with hands empty. He left us with the tool to dig the truth.
And from me, if nothing else, at least you got one text without mentioning the main topic in the media today. And take the pill for optimism – Factfulness 342mg – once per day.
’’We have an instinct to find someone to blame, but we rarely look in the mirror’’ (Hans Rosling)