What does every college graduate need? According to Bill Gates, it’s a compendium of statistics. This summer, the software billionaire is set to give a copy of the late Hans Rosling’s Factfulness to every student graduating from a US college.
Published in April, the book lays out Rosling’s argument that the world is actually in a much better state than we think.
“Things are bad, and it feels like they are getting worse, right?” Rosling writes. “War, violence, natural disasters, corruption. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer; and we will soon run out of resources unless something drastic is done. That’s the picture most people in the west see in the media and carry around in their heads.
“I call it the overdramatic worldview. It’s stressful and misleading … Perhaps not on every single measure, or every single year, but step by step, year by year, the world is improving. In the past two centuries, life expectancy has more than doubled. Although the world faces huge challenges, we have made tremendous progress.”
The Swedish doctor and professor of international health was working on the book when he died of cancer last year – Gates says he even brought chapters with him in the ambulance to the hospital. It was completed by his son Ola Rosling and daughter-in-law Anna Rosling Rönnlund, and has already topped charts in the US and UK, with UK publisher Sceptre on its 16th reprint.
Gates appears on the inside cover, calling it “one of the most important books I’ve ever read – an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world”. And now he has invited the 4 million students due to graduate in 2018 to download a free digital copy of the book from his website.
“If you’re getting a degree from a US college this spring, I have a present for you. It’s a book. (No surprise there. Books are my go-to gift),” Gates announced on his blog. “Although I think everyone should read it, it has especially useful insights for anyone who’s making the leap out of college and into the next phase of life.”
Gates added that he hoped readers would take to heart Rosling’s suggestion that a “fact-based worldview” shows that “the world is not as bad as it seems – and we can see what we have to do to keep making it better”.
Rosling Rönnlund called the giveaway “a wonderful thing”. She added: “Downloading might not be the same as reading but at least we get closer to their brains.”
According to Rosling Rönnlund, the idea that things have improved over time “makes people happier”.
“We’re not saying the world is good or perfect,” she said, “we’re just saying it’s better than people think. It doesn’t mean we should just relax but we have a better starting point than people think.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010