Clicky

36 Best Hans Rosling Quotes To Remind You of the Good

Quote Graphic: Remember: things can be bad, and getting better. — Hans Rosling

Hans Rosling was a Swedish doctor, statistician, “possibilist”, and public speaker who devoted his life to improving global health. He was also a passionate advocate for using data to help decision-makers understand and solve complex problems in the world.

He studied medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and public health at St. John's Medical College in India. He later worked as a doctor and studied outbreaks of konzo. In the early- and mid-200s, he began to develop his unique approach to data visualization, which he used to communicate complex statistical concepts to lay audiences.

Rosling became a global celebrity (at least in a particular niche) in 2006 when he gave a now-famous TED Talk about the power of data to improve the world. He went on to co-found the Gapminder Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes the use of data to improve global health and education.

Rosling was named one of TIME's 100 Most Influential People in 2012 and was given the Harvard Foundation Humanitarian Award in 2012. Rosling died of cancer in 2017. His book, Factfulness, was released posthumously — and became an instant New York Times Bestseller.

We've collected Hans Rosling's best quotes about global health, optimism, the state of the world, and how to make a difference.

Explore Hans Rosling's Best Quotes From Factfulness, TED Talks, and More —

Famous Quotes

“Cultures, nations, religions, and people are not rocks. They are in constant transformation.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

“Cultures, nations, religions, and people are not rocks. They are in constant transformation.” — Hans Rosling, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think.

“There’s no room for facts when our minds are occupied by fear.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“There’s no room for facts when our minds are occupied by fear.” — Hans Rosling, Factfulness.

“It is quite relaxing being humble, because it means you can stop feeling pressured to have a view about everything, and stop feeling you must be ready to defend your views all the time.”
— Hans Rosling

“It is quite relaxing being humble, because it means you can stop feeling pressured to have a view about everything, and stop feeling you must be ready to defend your views all the time.” — Hans Rosling

“The goal of higher income is not just bigger piles of money. The goal of longer lives is not just extra time. The ultimate goal is to have the freedom to do what we want.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“The goal of higher income is not just bigger piles of money. The goal of longer lives is not just extra time. The ultimate goal is to have the freedom to do what we want.” — Hans Rosling, Factfulness.

“Everyone seems to get the world devastatingly wrong. Not only devastatingly wrong, but systematically wrong. By which I mean that these test results are not random. They are worse than random: they are worse than the results I would get if the people answering my questions had no knowledge at all.”
— Hans Rosling

“Everyone seems to get the world devastatingly wrong. Not only devastatingly wrong, but systematically wrong. By which I mean that these test results are not random. They are worse than random: they are worse than the results I would get if the people answering my questions had no knowledge at all.” — Hans Rosling

“Factfulness is… recognizing that a single perspective can limit your imagination, and remembering that it is better to look at problems from many angles to get a more accurate understanding and find practical solutions. To control the single perspective instinct, get a toolbox, not a hammer.
• Test your ideas. Don’t only collect examples that show how excellent your favorite ideas are. Have people who disagree with you test your ideas and find their weaknesses.
• Limited expertise. Don’t claim expertise beyond your field: be humble about what you don’t know. Be aware too of the limits of the expertise of others.
• Hammers and nails. If you are good with a tool, you may want to use it too often. If you have analyzed a problem in depth, you can end up exaggerating the importance of that problem or of your solution. Remember that no one tool is good for everything. If your favorite idea is a hammer, look for colleagues with screwdrivers, wrenches, and tape measures. Be open to ideas from other fields.
• Numbers, but not only numbers. The world cannot be understood without numbers, and it cannot be understood with numbers alone. Love numbers for what they tell you about real lives.
• Beware of simple ideas and simple solutions. History is full of visionaries who used simple utopian visions to justify terrible actions. Welcome complexity. Combine ideas. Compromise.”
 
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“Factfulness is… recognizing that a single perspective can limit your imagination, and remembering that it is better to look at problems from many angles to get a more accurate understanding and find practical solutions. To control the single perspective instinct, get a toolbox, not a hammer. • Test your ideas. Don’t only collect examples that show how excellent your favorite ideas are. Have people who disagree with you test your ideas and find their weaknesses. • Limited expertise. Don’t claim expertise beyond your field: be humble about what you don’t know. Be aware too of the limits of the expertise of others. • Hammers and nails. If you are good with a tool, you may want to use it too often. If you have analyzed a problem in depth, you can end up exaggerating the importance of that problem or of your solution. Remember that no one tool is good for everything. If your favorite idea is a hammer, look for colleagues with screwdrivers, wrenches, and tape measures. Be open to ideas from other fields. • Numbers, but not only numbers. The world cannot be understood without numbers, and it cannot be understood with numbers alone. Love numbers for what they tell you about real lives. • Beware of simple ideas and simple solutions. History is full of visionaries who used simple utopian visions to justify terrible actions. Welcome complexity. Combine ideas. Compromise.”  — Hans Rosling, Factfulness.

“This is how much the world has changed: just 20 years ago, 29 percent of the world population lived in extreme poverty. Now that number is 9 percent.”
— Hans Rosling

“This is how much the world has changed: just 20 years ago, 29 percent of the world population lived in extreme poverty. Now that number is 9 percent.” — Hans Rosling

→ Read more positive quotes about poverty

“Does saying “things are improving” imply that everything is fine, and we should all relax and not worry? No, not at all. Is it helpful to have to choose between bad and improving? Definitely not. It's both. It's both bad and better. Better, and bad, at the same time. That is how we must think about the current state of the world.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“Does saying “things are improving” imply that everything is fine, and we should all relax and not worry? No, not at all. Is it helpful to have to choose between bad and improving? Definitely not. It's both. It's both bad and better. Better, and bad, at the same time. That is how we must think about the current state of the world.” — Hans Rosling, Factfulness.

On Being Optimistic and The World Being Good

“Here’s the paradox: the image of a dangerous world has never been broadcast more effectively than it is now, while the world has never been less violent and more safe.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“Here’s the paradox: the image of a dangerous world has never been broadcast more effectively than it is now, while the world has never been less violent and more safe.” — Hans Rosling, Factfulness.

“Every group of people I ask thinks the world is more frightening, more violent, and more hopeless — in short, more dramatic — than it really is.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“People often call me an optimist, because I show them the enormous progress they didn't know about. That makes me angry. I'm not an optimist. That makes me sound naive. I'm a very serious “possibilist”. That’s something I made up. It means someone who neither hopes without reason nor fears without reason, someone who constantly resists the overdramatic worldview. As a possibilist, I see all this progress, and it fills me with conviction and hope that further progress is possible. This is not optimistic. It is having a clear and reasonable idea about how things are. It is having a worldview that is constructive and useful.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“I want people, when they realize they have been wrong about the world, to feel not embarrassment, but that childlike sense of wonder, inspiration, and curiosity that I remember from the circus, and that I still get every time I discover I have been wrong: “Wow, how is that even possible?”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“Remember: things can be bad, and getting better.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“Remember: things can be bad, and getting better.” — Hans Rosling, Factfulness.

“Think about the world. War, violence, natural disasters, man-made disasters, corruption. Things are bad, and it feels like they are getting worse, right? The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer; and the number of poor just keeps increasing; and we will soon run out of resources unless we do something drastic. At least that’s the picture that most Westerners see in the media and carry around in their heads. I call it the overdramatic worldview. It’s stressful and misleading. In fact, the vast majority of the world’s population lives somewhere in the middle of the income scale. Perhaps they are not what we think of as middle class, but they are not living in extreme poverty. Their girls go to school, their children get vaccinated, they live in two-child families, and they want to go abroad on holiday, not as refugees. Step-by-step, year-by-year, the world is improving. Not on every single measure every single year, but as a rule. Though the world faces huge challenges, we have made tremendous progress. This is the fact-based worldview.
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

→ Read more positive quotes about hunger

“This is data as you have never known it: it is data as therapy. It is understanding as a source of mental peace. Because the world is not as dramatic as it seems. Factfulness, like a healthy diet and regular exercise, can and should become part of your daily life. Start to practice it, and you will be able to replace your overdramatic worldview with a worldview based on facts. You will be able to get the world right without learning it by heart. You will make better decisions, stay alert to real dangers and possibilities, and avoid being constantly stressed about the wrong things.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“This is data as you have never known it: it is data as therapy. It is understanding as a source of mental peace. Because the world is not as dramatic as it seems. Factfulness, like a healthy diet and regular exercise, can and should become part of your daily life. Start to practice it, and you will be able to replace your overdramatic worldview with a worldview based on facts. You will be able to get the world right without learning it by heart. You will make better decisions, stay alert to real dangers and possibilities, and avoid being constantly stressed about the wrong things.” — Hans Rosling, Factfulness.

“Last year, 4.2 million babies died. That is the most recent number reported by UNICEF of deaths before the age of one, worldwide. We often see lonely and emotionally charged numbers like this in the news or in the materials of activist groups or organizations. They produce a reaction. Who can even imagine 4.2 million dead babies? It is so terrible, and even worse when we know that almost all died from easily preventable diseases. And how can anyone argue that 4.2 million is anything other than a huge number? You might think that nobody would even try to argue that, but you would be wrong. That is exactly why I mentioned this number. Because it is not huge: it is beautifully small. If we even start to think about how tragic each of these deaths is for the parents who had waited for their newborn to smile, and walk, and play, and instead had to bury their baby, then this number could keep us crying for a long time. But who would be helped by these tears? Instead let’s think clearly about human suffering. The number 4.2 million is for 2016. The year before, the number was 4.4 million. The year before that, it was 4.5 million. Back in 1950, it was 14.4 million. That’s almost 10 million more dead babies per year, compared with today. Suddenly this terrible number starts to look smaller. In fact the number has never been lower.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

"If people want to help with something, it's good to know where the problem is … [for example] the problem of lack of schooling for girls is not a global problem. It is not a developing world problem, it's a problem in the poorest 2 billion. But there it's an extremely severe problem … Men in Afghanistan have half the schooling of women in the world. But young women in Afghanistan have one-seventh of the men in Afghanistan. This is the world I would like to explain.
— Hans Rosling, in The Guardian

→ Read more quotes about hope

On the Media

“Forming your worldview by relying on the media would be like forming your view about me by looking only at a picture of my foot. Sure, my foot is part of me, but it’s a pretty ugly part. I have better parts.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“Forming your worldview by relying on the media would be like forming your view about me by looking only at a picture of my foot. Sure, my foot is part of me, but it’s a pretty ugly part. I have better parts.” — Hans Rosling, Factfulness.

“You should not expect the media to provide you with a fact-based worldview any more than you would think it reasonable to use a set of holiday snaps of Berlin as your GPS system to help you navigate around the city.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“The world cannot be understood without numbers. But the world cannot be understood with numbers alone.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“When things are getting better we often don’t hear about them. This gives us a systematically too-negative impression of the world around us, which is very stressful.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“Never leave a number all by itself. Never believe that one number on its own can be meaningful. If you are offered one number, always ask for at least one more. Something to compare it with.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“And thanks to increasing press freedom and improving technology, we hear more, about more disasters, than ever before. When Europeans slaughtered indigenous peoples across America a few centuries ago, it didn’t make the news back in the old world. When central planning resulted in mass famine in rural China, millions starved to death while the youngsters in Europe waving communist red flags knew nothing about it. When in the past whole species or ecosystems were destroyed, no one realized or even cared. Alongside all the other improvements, our surveillance of suffering has improved tremendously. This improved reporting is itself a sign of human progress, but it creates the impression of the exact opposite.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“Beware of exceptional examples used to make a point about a whole group.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“Beware of exceptional examples used to make a point about a whole group.” — Hans Rosling, Factfulness.‍

→ Read more quotes about good news and quotes about bad news

Short Quotes

"Fame is easy to acquire, impact is much more difficult.”
— Hans Rosling

"Fame is easy to acquire, impact is much more difficult.” — Hans Rosling

“To control the negativity instinct, expect bad news.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“Something frightening poses a perceived risk. Something dangerous poses a real risk.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“Look for systems, not heroes.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“Look for causes, not villains.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“Slow change is still change.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“Slow change is still change.” — Hans Rosling, Factfulness.

“The only proven method for curbing population growth is to eradicate extreme poverty”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

Read more short quotes

More Quotes

“Human beings have a strong dramatic instinct toward binary thinking, a basic urge to divide things into two distinct groups, with nothing but an empty gap in between. We love to dichotomize. Good versus bad. Heroes versus villains. My country versus the rest. Dividing the world into two distinct sides is simple and intuitive, and also dramatic because it implies conflict, and we do it without thinking, all the time.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“Human beings have a strong dramatic instinct toward binary thinking, a basic urge to divide things into two distinct groups, with nothing but an empty gap in between. We love to dichotomize. Good versus bad. Heroes versus villains. My country versus the rest. Dividing the world into two distinct sides is simple and intuitive, and also dramatic because it implies conflict, and we do it without thinking, all the time.” ‍— Hans Rosling, Factfulness.

“I remember the words of Ingegerd Rooth, who had been working as a missionary nurse in Congo and Tanzania before she became my mentor. She always told me, “In the deepest poverty you should never do anything perfectly. If you do you are stealing resources from where they can be better used.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“When abortion is made illegal it doesn't stop abortions from happening, but it does make abortions more dangerous and increase the risk of women dying as a result.”
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

“When abortion is made illegal it doesn't stop abortions from happening, but it does make abortions more dangerous and increase the risk of women dying as a result.” — Hans Rosling, Factfulness.‍

“Ask yourself, “What kind of evidence would convince me to change my mind?” If the answer is “no evidence could ever change my mind about vaccination,” then you are putting yourself outside evidence-based rationality, outside the very critical thinking that first brought you to this point.”
— Hans Rosling

“Categories are absolutely necessary for us to function. They give structure to our thoughts. Imagine if we saw every item and every scenario as truly unique — we would not even have a language to describe the world around us. The necessary and useful instinct to generalize, like all the other instincts in this book, can also distort our worldview.
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

Article Details

July 27, 2022 4:17 PM
Graphic Quote: Because you are alive, everything is possible. — Thich Nhat Hanh

59 Most Iconic Quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh

Born in Vietnam in 1926, his lifelong efforts to promote peace and reconciliation during and after the Vietnam War earned him a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr.
Colorful Quotation Marks

How Good Good Good creates its popular quote articles

Good Good Good’s extensive process of creating curated quote articles involves fact-checking, aligning with community values, continuous updates, and more.
Quote Graphic: We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference. — Nelson Mandela

61 Best Quotes About Making a Difference in the World

Dive into these beautiful, inspirational quotes about doing good in the world — and then go out and make a difference yourself.
Abstract graph showing progress in the world

4 Ways the World Is Changing for the Better

In all areas of life — ranging from healthcare to innovation to arts and culture to education — we’re seeing significant changes for the better.

Want to stay up-to-date on positive news?

The best email in your inbox.
Filled with the day’s best good news.