Hans Rosling (2018) Factfulness

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Hans Rosling is dead, but his work lives on. Clichéd, I know. But Rosling does something we rarely do, he looks at the facts. And he concludes that the world is so much better than it’s ever been. He’s an optimist, a myth buster and all-round good guy.

I’m none of these things. I’m a bit like Calimero, walking about under rainy skies with an egg-shell head and complaining ‘It’s an injustice. It’s an injustice’.

This is a book I should really re-read, but I won’t, of course. It’s an injustice. It’s an injustice.

Let’s look at the facts in factfulness.

The Gap Instinct is when we create a binary world, black and white, rich and poor, celitc and rangers. In between the two groups we place the valley of death with no river styx and no boatman to help us across. Here’s my prejudices. I think rich, elderly, self-serving, white men are responsible for most of the world’s ills. Shhh, whisper it, here’s the rub. I still believe it after reading Rosling’s book. I guess I could quote John Maynard Keynes, ‘In the long run we’re all dead,’ or ‘when the facts change, I change my mind’.

Rosling argues and gives statistical evidence to buttress his argument that mostly we don’t change our mind much. Our prejudice remain the same. Our world view undisturbed.

Rosling asks what is wrong with this picture of ‘them’ and ‘us’? We shift ourselves to the side of the angels. Rosling concludes that there is no them and us. There is only us, but he’s talking about a bigger picture and no just my prejudices.

Measuring the gap between rich and poor, the developing world and the developed world here is the matrix he uses to measure progress.  He doesn’t, for example, use the Marxist, or indeed Weberian idea of class. Too messy. He’s looking for something more practical. The world’s population, about seven billion people as split into four income levels. Each figure represents a cohort. On Level 1, for example, about 1 billion people live on a $1 per day.   Level 2, about 3 billion people live on $4 per day. Level 3, 2 billion people, live on $16 per day. Here we are on Level 4, a billion people live here, that’s where I live, ‘you are a rich consumer,’ $64 per day. I don’t feel rich. That’s the problem. It’s not about feelings but facts. The world is becoming richer and more people are moving through the levels quicker than at any other time in history.

Rosling reminds us: Beware the comparisons of averages. Beware comparisons of extremes. And reminds us the view from up here (rich man’s territory) skews our vision and understanding.

We get to, ‘The Negativity Instinct’, familiar territory for me and The Mega Misconception that The World Is Getting Worse’. Actually, I got this question right. I did quite well in Rosling’s quiz. I ticked the box that said the world is getting better. Thinking and feeling again. Rosling shows that those living in ‘extreme poverty’ $1 a day, has halved in the last 20 years and has been falling steadily since 1800s (when measurements began). Average life expectancy is on the up and up. Child survival at birth to five years has taken an exponential leap.   Even Hunger is declining. We’re all fat bastards now, but not equally flabby.

Science, Literacy, Democracy, Clean Water, Immunization rates, Number of Girls in school all increasing.

We don’t Trump the good news. We Trump the Trump, whether that’s a good thing, or a bad thing, it’s a very human trait.

So here’s Rosling’s view of how to think and not feel. Balance negative news with positive news. Trump may be the moron’s moron, but he’s old and he might die soon. ‘Expect bad news’ Trump may get re-elected. ‘Don’t Censor History’. I don’t. I just blame the morons that voted for him.

‘The Straight Line Instinct’ is to be avoided. Here his example is The Mega (he used Mega lots) Misconception That ‘The World Population is Just Increasing and Increasing.  Here Rosling is playing devil’s advocate for us dummies. He concedes that over the next 13 years about a billion people will be added to the population. But the number of children will be about the same. As the world’s population becomes richer we have less children. I can cut in here and say, yeh, I knew that. In South Korea during the 1950s (Korean War) women had on average about seven children. Now, they have one. Yeh, one, it’s causing real problems. As it is in Japan and China.

Rosling’s quick fix here is don’t assume straight lines (question them). Many or most trends are S-bends, slides, humps or doubling lines.

The Fear Instinct is in some ways what makes us human. We think with our heart and not our head. Men in advertising love it. They sell us everyday fear. Your penis is too small. Yes, it is, thanks.  Rosling asks us to ‘be afraid of the Right Thing’.  He gives us a natty equation. Risk = danger x exposure.

The Size Instinct is like the penis risk equation, getting a handle on proportion. Journalists make everything bigger. They direct our limited attention span to how big the disaster they are covering is. Rosling asks us to compare the numbers. In 2016, for example, ‘4.2 million babies died’.  But back in the 1950s it was ‘14.4 million’.

Rosling’s compass. Compare and contrast. 80/20 rule. Look for the largest numbers and deal with them first. They are likely to be more important than the others put together. Divide them. Amounts and rates tell different stories.

The Generalization Instinct is something we’re all good at. It’s a bit of a hybrid. The gap instinct makes us think in terms of us and them. The generalization instinct makes us think them over there are all the same. Think of our old friend the moron’s moron generalizing about ‘shit countries’ – over there.

In general, Rosling’s what to do list is generalizable under the headings. ‘Look for differences within groups. Look for similarities across groups, but also differences across groups. Beware of ‘the majority’ (especially morons that label others ‘enemies of the people’). Beware of vivid examples. Assume people are not idiots (unless they’re the current US President).

The Destiny Instinct. I get that all the time. My destiny is told in the nearest puddle. Someone bigger is going to stand on me. For Rosling the Destiny Instinct is the kind of prejudices that make the white man’s burden sound perfectly reasonable. Rosling puts it in terms of snobbish self-regard. But what he does here is confirm my suspicions that the world economy is moving East to Asia. China is the new United States. Britain is a pimple on the end of United States arse. Rosling tells us Africa, with the poorest countries in the world can catch up. As China did, in a relatively short time, before leaving many nations in the wing mirrors. As South Korea did. As India is doing.

His factfulness checklist has in it Keep track of gradual improvements. A small change can translate into a huge change over decades. I’d need to fling in Thomas Piketty’s Capital here. He shows that those whose incomes (the one-percent) grow faster than the 99% then small changes are massive changes and a worrying trend over time.

Rosling asks us to update our knowledge. Yeh, read books. I like that idea. Think for yourself. Go on try it at home.

Talk to grandpa to see how things have really changed. Talk to me. I remember phone boxes that took two-pence coins.

Collect examples of cultural changes. See above.

The Single Perspective Instinct is a variation on the old chestnut when you’ve got a hammer everything looks like a nail, or when you’re the moron’s moron everybody looks like a terrorist apart from the leader of the terrorist state which invade Ukraine, disembowelled Chechnya and broke so many Geneva Conventions they ran out of condemnations. But as Rosling argues, we find simple ideas attractive, but not as attractive as prostitutes peeing on a bed Mr T? Sorry, I’ll need to be more professional here.

Rosling argues we should trust professionals and experts. Not everyone is equal in what they know, but everybody can have an opinion. Look at the data.  But look at the data critically.

The checklist asks you to test your ideas. Be humble (I like that). Hammers and nails. If you’re good with a tool you’ll want to use it. Number, but only numbers. Beware of simple ideas and simple solutions. Get rid of all immigrants and we’ll all be great in Great Britain again. Make America Great Again.

The Blame Instinct is fishing for a simple reason for complex problems. Playing the Blame Game is easy. Do it at home. I blame elderly rich white men. (I’m with Piketty on that one, but they don’t have to be white, just superwealthy, which qualifies as white).

Rosling looks at how we scapegoat ‘Refugees’, for example. I’ll cut to the chase them away. ‘Our European governments claim to be honouring the Geneva convention that entitles a refugee from a severely war-torn country [like Syria] to apply for and receive asylum. But their immigration policies make a mockery of this claim…’

Here’s the checklist. ‘Look for causes not villains’ [the 1% who own mostly everything] ‘Look for systems, not heroes [expropriation of capital].

‘The Urgency Instinct’ is human nature. Amazon promises to deliver the next day, but that’s not soon enough. We want it now. ‘Tomorrow may be too late’. Rosling tells us to relax. ‘It’s almost never true’. He tells us to put a foot in our mouth and control the urgency instinct. ‘Insist on the Data’.

Now we’re on my territory. Read This Now. Urgent.

Rosling’s checklist of ‘The Five Global Risks We Should Worry About.’

We can exclude Rosling from this list as he’s dead.

  1. Global pandemic
  2. Financial Collapse
  3. World War III
  4. Climate Change
  5. Extreme Poverty.

These are not independent of each other. Climate Change is inevitable. We’ve missed the boat. And World War III isn’t inevitable, but more likely with the moron’s moron in office and financial collapse would be inevitable should a war start. Maybe not. I don’t want to find out.

Here’s the cure. Take a breath Mr President. Insist on the data. Beware of fortune-tellers Mr President don’t appoint them to the highest offices of state. Be wary of drastic action Mr President.

Rosling’s final words really were his final words. ‘I have found fighting ignorance and spreading a fact-based worldview to be sometimes frustrating, but ultimately inspiring and joyful way to spend my life’. Amen to that.

Yep. Factfulness. We’ve been here before, but with the growth in social -media reports and fake news we never needed it more.

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AEK Athens 2—1 Celtic.

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Celtic out of the Champions League. Brendan Rodgers experiences his first serious setback at Celtic. And I wasn’t too chuffed either. Early goals in the first and second half from Rodrigo Galo and Marko Livaja put AEK on easy street. I’m a big fan of the dog’s chance. With twelve minutes to go Scott Sinclair –believe it or not – scored with a header. The dog’s chance was up and running with three legs and a Hoopy the Hoops strip. With almost the last kick of the ball Jozo Simunovic stuck a leg out and the ball squirmed past the AEK post. Game over.

The most annoying thing is Kilmarnock beat us and drew with us last year. AEK were better that Kilmarnock, but if we use the Rangers manager Stevie G’s metric the neutral fan (if such a beast exists and certainly not here) would say over the two legs Celtic were the much better team. AEK, like our Ayreshire friends, went up the park and scored goals that were amateurish from the Celtic perspective. The second and killer AEK goal, in particular, was a bog standard ball chipped into the box from just over the half way line. Hendry lost the first header. Lustig lost the second and Celtic were two goals down. In the Champions League such defending is punished. In the Premier League it was also punished. The only good thing here was it wasn’t Kyle Lafferty that scored against Celtic.

We’re left with a lot of what ifs. If Dembele and Edouard had remained fit then I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have being having this mini-crisis. In the first leg Dembele would have knocked the AEK defence about and created chances. When he come on last night we looked more dangerous. Over the two legs we had three or four chances to every AEK effort. They scored more, obviously, and had a Walter Smith like back to the walls defensive performance. At least they didn’t bring on Laudrup to gallop away and score the winner in the last minute. I remember it well.

Our defence is rotten. Tierney is the exception to the rule. A big player in every game. The rest can go. Simunovic, in particular, just can’t hack it. But I’ve never been a fan. I’d be willing to give Jack Hendry and Ayer a chance. Lustig is borderline. When we need to defend, as was shown against AEK, they go missing. As for Boyata, no better than Effe and for many of the same reasons. He lets us down in big games and now in the biggest match of all decided he’s not fit. I’m with Sutton on this one, fuck off Boyata.

It’s a major kick in the finances for Celtic. Money invested in players is not money wasted. Rangers are on the rise and really, all kidding aside, we need to start again. We’ve went backwards. We’re still be far the best team in Scotland, but when our best players are missing, we’re bog average, even Hearts can beat us and Rangers will beat us. That unbeaten run of two years ago seems like a distant memory. History is created every day. Celtic need to start now.

Brendan Rodgers – where do we go next?

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Brendan Rodgers like me is a Celtic fan. Somebody asked me in the pub today why I watch Celtic if all I do is moan. ‘Because they give me so much joy,’ I said.

The last two years have been a joy. But this week has been a stinker. And I fear our Champions League involvement will end on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday night against AEK Athens we lost a bad goal just before half time. All goals Celtic lose are bad goals and we can no longer blame Effe Ambrose. Dedryck Boyata was for a while the fall guy, for similar reasons. Big games. Big mistakes were sure to follow like Morcambe follows Wise, but without the sunshine.  But as the most physically adept and best header of the ball in Scottish football you’d have expected Boyata to play today against Hearts. Hearts are a route- one team with a big man up front to bruise the opposition defence. Kicking the ball is a bonus. They didn’t often manage it today, but they did manage a goal. All goals Celtic lose are bad goals, but Kyle Lafferty’s strike was a cracker.

I’m trying to get my head around how Kyle Lafferty is a complete dumpling – yet he seems to manage to score against Celtic every time he plays. Perhaps Jozo Simunovic can explain it to me. He’d a shocker the last time we played Hearts in Edinburgh and wasn’t much better here. He made a mistake for the first goal and should have been penalised earlier for a shove on Naismith in the Celtic box. Any big money bids come in and he can go. Any small bids come in…

Celtic’s B team couldn’t beat Hearts A team. Simunovic wasn’t the worst man on the park. That dishonour goes to the man who stepped in to replace Ntcham, Kouassi. Kouassi hasn’t played much for Celtic but has played against Hearts a few times. He’s big and likes a tackle. Here he was rotten. No dressing it up. Rotten. Couldn’t pass the ball, couldn’t defend. There was a big hole with a John McGinn strip where Kouassi was playing. An empty jersey.

Last year I was buoyant. This year we won’t win the treble. Too many empty jerseys. We won’t qualify for the Champions League. Too many empty jerseys. Right now I’d settle for a double and a decent Europa Cup run.  I’m not sure that’ll be enough for Brendan.

I hate saying it, Rangers can win the league. Last year I laughed at that idea. I knew we’d go to Ibrox and beat them. I knew we’d go to Aberdeen and beat them. This year Rangers will beat Celtic. I’m not sure in what competition, but on this evidence it will happen. If Kyle Lafferty can score wonder goals every time he plays the Hoops anything is possible. Plan for the unthinkable. Celtic win the league and Rodgers walks. Rangers win the league and Rodgers is pushed. The money men seem to have got us into a fine mess once more. Short-term thinking leads to long-term problems.  Get decent players in and get them in now, or suffer the consequences.

 

Rip it Up, BBC 2 9pm, BBC iPlayer, produced and directed by Pete Stanton.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bbbv4w/rip-it-up-series-1-1-blazing-a-trail

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bc3ljs/rip-it-up-series-1-2-success-and-excess

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bc3ljs/rip-it-up-series-1-2-success-and-excess

Rip it Up and Start Again. Rip it Up and Start Again. That’s the lyrics to an Orange Juice song.  I don’t know my contraltos from my tomatoes. Doesn’t matter.  I loved Rip it Up, three hours of nostalgia and the good old days that never existed. My favourites were KLF, the millionaires who burnt a million quid (alledgedly). I forgot how bonkers and how good they were. Watching clips of them made me laugh. I did quite well, in the quiz accompanying the series, which is equally bonkers, out of the five billion vinyl sales of records I bought three albums. Saturday Night Fever, Bat out of Hell and something else, but not with Pan Pipe music. Fuck off Pan Pipes and Fuck off with The Birdy Song.

The last episode ‘Success and Excess,’ was a bit out of my league, it was all about indy music and independent record labels, as a person that doesn’t listen to music and hardly listened to music when I was younger, I’d never heard of them. What it reminded me of was that old trope that anyone can write a book and get it published. There was that self-congratulatory feel from the falling faces of established stars. Guys and girls in their bedroom are going to make music and make it in the music industry.

That’s called the exception to the rule, rule. More commonly known as bullshit.

The first episode ‘Blazing a Trail’ had a more honest narrative appeal. In other words, I liked it. Lulu and Donovan. Nazareth, are a bit like The Jesus and Mary Chain to me, never heard their music but the names have that familiar ring. I’m more a Middle of the Road kinda guy. Here we find they were a precursor to Abba (I liked the blonde one).  And when you listen, it’s all there, under all that hair. Loved it. From the Skiffle of Lonnie Donniegan to the Bay City Rollers.

Now we’re hitting my childhood. My sister fancies Alan because he looked quite quiet. I can see her point. John von Neumann, I think it was who helped to develop Game Theory and had other side-lines in Dangerous Minds, suggested when you were trying to get aff with somebody don’t go for the A* lister, which in my time was Pauline Moriarity, go for the cast off, ugly duckling. Then you’ve got a chance. So logically, my sister fancied Alan because she’d no chance with Les. In the same way I didn’t fancy Farah Fawcett, but the ugly Charlie’s Angel because if we ever met, that was it. The Bay City Rollers sold over 100 million vinyl records. I bought zero. They ended up skint, but that wasn’t my fault. I didn’t get pocket money and if I did I bought a packet of caramels, which lasted longer.  So much for the big music industry.

‘Success and Excess’, the second programme featured that well know band from my neck of the woods, Wet, Wet, Wet. The Clydebank Group hit a virtuous circle, a number 1 hit tied in with the soundtrack of a successful film. That’s international success, and breaks the American market, right away. See Glaswegian  Jim Kerr, Simple Minds and that coming-of-age movie The Breakfast Club. For any band this is called the licence to print money club.

I was talking to my brother about this. Marty Pellow’s brother was called Kojak. That wasn’t his real name. We got into a fight when I was younger and he tried to steal my carry-oot. Nobody puts Baby in the Corner. Really? Yeh, I stole that line from Dirty Dancing, which was the complete opposite of what most of us were doing. Real disco dancing was a bit of awakward-larity elbow movement, looking at your feet and appearing as if you’d just shuffled out of a dark wardrobe and was hoping for a girl to give you directions, preferably a pretty girl. And nobody steals my carry-oot, even Marty Pellow’s brother. Right enough that’s not his real name either. He’s dead now. (RIP) The summer of 1976 was the hottest summer until now and well, when it’s pissing down these programmes take you right back to your childhood. Terrific TV.