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"Factfulness": Things Are Better Than We Think; "A Treacherous Path": Hot War Between Russia And US. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired May 4, 2018 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, for all of us feeling overwhelmed by bad news that hits us at warp speed, here is a comforting fact. The
world isn't as bad as we think. That's the message of this new book "Factfulness" by a world famous professor whose dying wish was to spread
Plus, while the world may be better than we think, there is still plenty of room for improvement. I talk to Putin insider Vladimir Yakunin on why he
says we're on the brink of not a cold war, but a hot war with Russia.
Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
In a post-truth, stressed out world, sorting fact from fiction has never been more important. The fact is when we think about the state of our
world, the vast majority of us have it all wrong.
We think it's a lot poorer, a lot more violent and a lot less healthy than it actually is. And that's the stark and basic message behind the
bestselling book "Factfulness".
Hans Rosling was a Swedish professor, whose first TED Talk went viral, thanks to 12 million people who watched and took hope from him. Until he
died last year, he dedicated his life to making us all look at the stats.
Twenty years ago, for instance, 29 percent of the people lived in extreme poverty. Now, it is only 9 percent. Flying is now over 2,000 times safer
than it was in the early 1930s.
Hans Rosling's son Ola and his wife Anna helped write the book and I had a great discussion with them about how it was put together, its important
message and the Rosling legacy.
Anna and Ola Rosling, welcome to the program.
ANNA ROSLING, DAUGHTER-IN-LAW OF HANS ROSLING: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: Ola, can I ask you? Hans was your dad. What made you write the book and what has it meant to both of you really writing this book?
OLA ROSLING, SON OF HANS ROSLING: Well, we worked together with Hans for 18 years and he got more and more famous for his lecture style and the
visualizations we developed.
But, roughly, five years ago, we encountered the sad insights that we didn't have much impact. Hans was very disappointed. Even the fan club that
loved his TED Talks seemed to not really learn what we were trying to tell them. And this, we figured out by doing knowledge questions.
And then, we realized probably we need to write down exactly what we are trying to teach. And that's when we realized the book format is something
we haven't even tried.
So, then we started carving out a comforting book that could help people realize the basic facts that we've been trying to teach in live lectures.
That was the initial start of it. And then, we had just started this when Hans passed away.
AMANPOUR: What's incredible, Anna and Ola, is that when Hans was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and it was a very virulent strain, he was given
very little time to live. Tell me, Anna, how he chose to do this book above all his other thousands of commitments?
O. ROSLING: Well, I think, actually, it was a pretty easy decision for him, I would say, because the reason we started writing the book was actually to
try to make the world easier to understand for all people because we felt the frustration that what we have done so far didn't really do enough.
And, honestly, when we started writing the book, we had no idea that he was ill. So, we thought this would be the starting point of our new
collaboration style where we would start with the book and then develop more material.
So, we were all very shocked when we realized this will be the last thing we do together.
AMANPOUR: And it is incredible to read about how, even on his deathbed, even a few days before he died, he went to the hospital with the notes. He
was busy editing from his hospital bed.
It must have given him, in a way, and you as well, a great sense of final purpose and satisfaction about his life's work.
O. ROSLING: Absolutely. We were at the hospital actually sitting next to him, discussing the composition of the chapters. And this is how Hans
functions. He was always a teacher. And even then, he was more comforted by discussing how we could explain the progress of the world and the
demographic change rather than discussing family issues and the feelings because all those things we had already gone through, so to say.
[13:05:13] So, the constructive purpose of writing this book and continuing his mission, so to say, was also comforting for him.
AMANPOUR: So, Anna, let me ask you. Of course, the book is called "Factfulness". It's a great title for today's world with the fake news and
all the rest of it. This is called "Factfulness".
And it's so interesting to see Bill Gates having endorsed it at the top, saying one of the most important books I've ever read, an indispensable
guide to thinking clearly about the world. And I find that from Bill Gates really instructive.
So, what is it - obviously, Hans was trying to teach throughout his life that things are not as bad as they look and that there are inherent biases
to why people get stressed and depressed and negative and focus on the bad. Sum it up to me, Anna.
A. ROSLING: Well, I would say one of the biggest problems is probably that we think we know what the world is like, but we don't. And since we think
we know it, we have a very hard time relearning because we're already set, we think, and we have a very overdramatic worldview.
And somehow, the whole book is about the way we can relearn is actually to first get to know that we are we are wrong and then it opens up a small
window where we can be humble and curious and relearn and, basically, change the way we see the world by actually trying to get control over our
So, the book has 10 dramatic instincts and we try to give the reader rules of thumb to actually control them. And that is how we think you can
actually overcome your ignorance about the world.
We have done tests within 14 countries and tested 12,000 people. And out of 12 questions, these were very, very bad. So, Ola, could you tell them a
little bit about the test.
O. ROSLING: On average, people scored 2 correct out of 12. And that is pretty low. Even 15 percent gets zero correct answers on these basic
questions about the state of the world.
And the funny thing is that those questions are A, B, C questions, which means that by random you would score one-third correct like a chimpanzee
do. That means four correct out of 12.
And this is astonishing ignorance, as we call it. How can humans score worse than random? So, we're not discussing a lack of knowledge. We're
discussing actively false knowledge. False perception of the world is the only thing that can lead you to be worse than random.
So, we are starting below the randomness that people perceive. They say, I don't know these things, I was yes guessing. No, then they would score like
a chimpanzee, right? But they are worse than chimpanzee.
So, we have actually asked roughly 120 questions, which we've been experimenting with in public polls and then we selected those where people
score worse than random and asking ourselves how is this possible? What's the pattern?
And in the book, we are presenting the systematic pattern in more wrong than random. And that's what the book is about. And that's the bias. The
reader, we know, will learn something from the book. And that's maybe why Bill Gates is so positive because this is a very useful book.
We know that most people are going to be wrong about it.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, my question to you is this. Should you give me a couple of test questions first or should I play your father's viral comment about
the chimpanzees and the randomness first. Which one should I do first?
A. ROSLING: I would love to ask you some questions here and now because one of the core messages of this book is humbleness that most journalists that
we have been testing score equal to the public.
We've been having Nobel Laureates and academics in university after university and they scored just like the public. So, could we just go ahead
and ask you two or three questions or one question here?
AMANPOUR: Yes, go ahead.
A. ROSLING: That would be really amazing. So, if we take this one for example, it's going to be A, B, C questions. In all low income countries
across the world today, how many girls finish primary school? Is it, A, 20 percent; B, 50 percent; or C, 60 percent?
AMANPOUR: OK, I'm going to go to C.
ROSLING: Maybe because you know we are asking it, so it's the best answer. That's a very good trick.
AMANPOUR: No, it's not a trick. It's not a trick. It's that I'm not a pessimist.
ROSLING: (INAUDIBLE) people take the worst. Yes, actually correct. But look at this. It's so beautiful, 60 percent of girls go to school in the worst
off countries. The low-income countries.
[13:10:01] People believe it's 75 or 60 percent of humanity. It's not. It's only 9 percent of humans live in so-called low income countries. But even
in those worst off countries, 60 percent of girls finish primary school even there.
AMANPOUR: One of the ways to sum up your philosophy and sum up the book is to say that it is the sort of synthesis of the notion that there is bad in
the world, bad things do happen - in some places, no girls go to school - but things are getting better and are not as bad as we want to believe. Is
ROSLING: That's a good summary, yes. It's not only that things are better. It's also to get the proportions right, saying that maybe 80 percent of
humanity actually have gotten it much, much better already during the last 50 years.
And then, there are more to it. There are other systematic problems we're finding in people's knowledge, like the overpopulation fear.
In the future, yes, we will be 4 billion more people, but then the population growth is very likely to stop if, yes, more family planning is
being spread, et cetera. So, we are basically getting the big proportions right.
For example, where the billions live on the world map, et cetera, these kind of core frameworks for understanding the world, if you get those
right, you don't have to memorize all the detailed facts, but you should have the big proportions right in your head.
O. ROSLING: So, I think it's very important to mention that even though it's a book about the world and the development and so on, it's very
important to us that it is a practical book that you can actually use. So, it's done as more as a handbook to think clearly about the world.
AMANPOUR: We do live in a very negative, a very stressed-out political world right now and everybody is walking around as if the weight of the
world is on top of them. How does this empower people?
ROSLING: So, for example, we have defined the ten dramatic instincts. And one of them is negativity. And by the end of the chapter, we've got rules
of thumb telling you that when someone says that something is getting worse, like you just claimed that we get a stronger and stronger feeling
that the world is getting worse and we have fake news and stuff.
OK, we should stop and ask yourself, is this just over reporting. Imagine that, today, we've got better reporting of fake news than we ever had. Back
in the era of Ku Klux Klan, for example, none of them were using Facebook, so there was no transparency.
Today, we can see all the news that are flourishing and we can get very upset when the reporting is improvement. It's actually a sign of
improvement that we know more about the fakes.
So, maybe sometimes we're confusing more reporting about, say, natural disasters with the feeling that this phenomenon itself is increasing, while
it's actually an increase of reporting.
This is one rule of thumb among roughly 50 by the end of the chapters. And imagine we could teach this to school children at low ages to learn how our
processing of information is systematically skewing our picture of the world.
We say statistics at therapy. Go to the UN website, look at statistics and you're going to get surprised. The world is not as bad as you thought it
AMANPOUR: I need a dose of that therapy.
O. ROSLING: Yes, please.
AMANPOUR: But, I mean, it is interesting. There are less conflicts. There are less people killed in wars, although, as you report, the Syria war has
skewed that back upwards now.
But, listen, there are really awful things happening. There is racism. There is anti-immigration, anti-migrants, anti-foreigner. It does seem to
be that there are actually really bad things happening right now.
A. ROSLING: Yes. And the book is not about saying those bad things are not happening because they are and we need to really look at them and really
understand them to make a difference.
But to do that, we need to put them in a perspective that is more realistic because I think we might feel overwhelmed by all the negative information
and we forget about the positive long-term trends.
And, hopefully, by looking at the long-term trends getting better, we can get a sense that we can actually make differences even in a positive
AMANPOUR: So, I want to add -
ROSLING: My father used to say that he got angry when people call him an optimist. He said I'm a very serious possibilist. We should not look away
from the news, but we need to realize they are not giving a representative picture of the total world. They are reporting the exceptions, and they
AMANPOUR: So, let us end this conversation with one of your father's most viral comments that he made at his first TED speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANS ROSLING, SWEDISH PROFESSOR: But one late night, when I was compiling the report, I really realized my discovery. I have shown that Swedish top
students know statistically significantly less about the world than the chimpanzees because the chimpanzee would score half right if I gave them
two bananas with Sri Lanka and Turkey. They would be right half of the cases. But the students are not there. The problem for me was not
ignorance. It was preconceived ideas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[13:15:13] AMANPOUR: Oh, that's a really good way to end. That's Hans Rosling, your dad, your father-in-law, on how he discovered bias.
So, Ola and Anna, thank you very much for joining us.
O. ROSLING: Thank you very much.
A. ROSLING: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: And so, if Hans Rosling dedicated his life to stripping away the emotional biases that blind us to the truth of the world, Russia today is
exploiting those very same biases, escalating its disinformation campaign against the West.
That campaign, together with its conventional ministry ones in Syria and Ukraine, places the world on a treacherous path, which is the title of a
new book by my next guest, Vladimir Yakunin.
He was once a KGB agent and a diplomat. He's a Putin insider and friend and he's former CEO of Russian Railways, one of Russia's largest companies. I
spoke with him about how Russia and the West got to this dismal place and how it could all get a lot worse before it gets better.
Vladimir Yakunin, welcome to the program.
VLADIMIR YAKUNIN, AUTHOR, "THE TREACHEROUS PATH": Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, I'm really interested because your book really sort of puts a fine line on the situation right now.
You have said the West and Russia are on the brink of a hot war. I mean, things are even worse, you believe, than during the worst times of the Cold
YAKUNIN: Listen, this is my humble opinion that nowadays the situation is very, very tense and difficult.
And once a friend of mine from the United States of America, she asked me my opinion - that was like two years ago - to compare the Cuban crisis and
And my answer was that I can see that the tension was higher and problem are much, much worser than Donbass.
AMANPOUR: So, why do you think that? Because in those days, you had thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at each other. You had two completely
divergent political and economic ideologies pointed against each other. And the Cuban missile crisis, everybody thought could have brought us to the
brink or over the brink of nuclear war.
It's not like that today. Why do you think it is so much more tense now?
YAKUNIN: It is again my opinion. But I should say that, at that time, so- called red lines were accepted. And despite the fact that nuclear missiles were targeting some objects, no one major leader, they had to tell, listen,
if we have some kind of nuclear attack, like 100,000 people will pass away. So, no one dared to accept the usage of nuclear missiles.
Nowadays, unfortunately, people at the top hierarchy of political pyramid, they are using these phrases and I can see that that is extremely
AMANPOUR: Does President Putin embody the desire to be respected as a great power and to be a great power and, for the rest of the world, to understand
that Russia is a great power?
And I ask you because I know President Putin was very angry with President Obama when he basically said the following. And I'm going to play it for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors, not out of
strength, but out of weakness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Mr. Yakunin, what do you make of that. I know President Putin was jolly upset at being called a regional power.
YAKUNIN: The greatness of the country, that is not the involvement in many aspects of the global politics with military force. The greatness of the
power derives from their culture, from the history, from the intentions of the people of the country, their ability to concentrate, their ability to
work, to help, to be part of the global event.
And from the history, yes, we know that was the status of Russia.
AMANPOUR: So, did President Putin and the Russian people - did you, for instance, believe that that relationship would be turned around under a
YAKUNIN: Listen, there was a great deal of hope among the Russian general society and even MPs that a new president who declared some kind of attempt
to restore normal diplomatic relations and personal leadership relations between two countries, he was expected with some hope.
[13:20:08] But, of course, there was some kind of expectation that the situation will change and change for the better.
AMANPOUR: One of the things that makes a nation strong is its economy. And, obviously, Russia's economy is not doing great right now partly because of
the price of oil, partly because of the sanctions and all of that kind of stuff.
It kind of is having a corrosive effect. Again, as a former CEO of a massive company, what hope do you have for the economy of Russia to get
really back and truly on its feet?
YAKUNIN: I am known that during my period as a president of Russian Railways, I was openly challenging some of the decisions on the path of
economic policy of Russian Federation.
But, of course, we are facing difficulties due to the situation, which you call sanctions. But I, as former diplomat, I know that sanctions can be
imposed only by United Nations. So, this is a tricky term.
AMANPOUR: I know that you all like to parse these terms, but the fact is you do have economic, let's say, punishments on your country. Do you think
that the economy -?
YAKUNIN: Maybe punishment. Of course, somebody would like to consider and introduce this like punishment, but I suppose that is some kind of
restrictions and those restrictions are quite serious not only for Russia, but for the European countries, as you know.
AMANPOUR: So, for Russia, do these restrictions, these economic restrictions, do they threaten President Putin's rule? In other words, is
there going to be a time when people are going to get fed up that the economy is so sluggish or are they going to carry on supporting him because
he has a very high approval rating?
YAKUNIN: Not because of these restrictions placed by (INAUDIBLE 2:14), I suppose. Instead, history proves that, under the external pressure, Russian
society - it doesn't matter liberals, conservatives or whoever - the Russian society always tended to unite.
But if we are talking about the perspective, of course, I suppose people and the president himself, they are thinking about the same things, how to
improve the situation, how to make the life standards in Russia better.
AMANPOUR: As a former KGB agent and as a former diplomat and as a former CEO, I want to ask you what you make of - you say that Russia isn't being
understood from its perspective.
But, look, I'm sitting in England where there have been multiple accusations against Russia for the deaths of whether it be Alexander
Litvinenko several years ago with the polonium or the poisoning of the Skripals with Novichok that the authorities here say could only have been
produced by a military/government organization.
The fake news, the interference in other people's elections, all of that kind of thing, do you accept that Russia also is an agent of its own
misfortune, given the relations right now?
YAKUNIN: Of course. I suppose nobody in Russia happy with the actual situation in relations with the West. And I completely agree with those who
are looking forward for improvement.
As far as the first part of your question, and specifically about Skripal allegation, you know that now the information from British press suddenly
disappeared. And this is a question why.
AMANPOUR: It's only because the British press has moved on. It's only because they've moved on. But the national security advisor, they've
written letter. They've said it in special committees that they believe that - and the intelligence because I've spoken to them that only some - an
organization as sophisticated and as powerful as Russia and the government and the military complex could have, A, made the Novichok and, B, deployed
YAKUNIN: A very reputable expert, by the way, British one, he challenged that it was made in Russia. He also delivered his opinion that nobody can
actually find out where this substance was actually produced and, finally, that this can be produced - or could be produced, better to say, in any
laboratory not that sophisticated, but with some safety and security measures. That's sit.
[13:25:13] AMANPOUR: OK. Mr. Yakunin, let me finish with this then because it quite perfectly sums up this dilemma.
Timothy Snyder who is a professor at Yale University has written a new book and he's concentrated very clearly on Russia and Eastern Europe. This is
what he told me about Russia and disinformation.
"The idea is that you want to convince people at home and abroad that nothing is true, everything is relative, everything is subjective and,
therefore, there' no point in acting."
YAKUNIN: Listen, but it can be applied to nowadays information distribution and information sources. I suppose this is the biggest problem that mankind
is facing now. All are concerned about the quality of information. And I suppose that should be taken under control by the societies in some way. I
don't know how, but this is my opinion.
AMANPOUR: Vladimir Yakunin, thank you so much indeed for joining me.
YAKUNIN: OK. Thank you very much. Bye-bye.
AMANPOUR: That's it for our program tonight. And remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at Amanpour.com and follow me on
Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.