An Overview of the World's Current State

Dated Mar 14, 2020; last modified on Fri, 24 Nov 2023

It’s hard to give pessimistic answers when ’s title says “Things Are Better Than You Think”…

Educational Attainment

Q1. In all low-income countries across the world today, how many girls finish primary school?

There has been lots of efforts to get girls to finish primary school, e.g. providing sanitary towels. Surely, they must be at \( \ge 40% \) completion rates.

πŸ”²β€…β€…A: 20 percent

βŒβ€…β€…B: 40 percent

βœ…β€…β€…C: 60 percent

Q10. Worldwide, 30-year-old men have spent 10 years in school, on average. How many years have women of the same age spent in school?

βœ…β€…β€…A: 9 years

βŒβ€…β€…B: 6 years

πŸ”²β€…β€…C: 3 years


Q2. Where does the majority of the world population live?

With all the talk about the 1% owning an absurd share of the wealth, my money is on majority of the world population being low-income.

βŒβ€…β€…A: Low-income countries

βœ…β€…β€…B: Middle-income countries

Q3. In the last 20 years, the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty has…

We’ve made too many scientific advancements for us to be worse off. Sure, inequality is growing - but [most] people are trending up.

πŸ”²β€…β€…A: almost doubled

πŸ”²β€…β€…B: remained more or less the same

βœ…β€…β€…C: almost halved

Only 5% of Americans (and 7% of respondents) got it right.

Extreme poverty is defined as those living on less than $2.15 a day. 700m people live under the extreme poverty line. Just over half live in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Between 1980 and 2016, the average income of the bottom 50% of earners nearly doubled, as this group captured 12% of the growth in global GDP. An improvement, but the imbalance persists.

Population Distribution

Q4. What is the life expectancy of the world today?

With majority of the population in low-income countries, the average must skew lower.

πŸ”²β€…β€…A: 50 years

βŒβ€…β€…B: 60 years

βœ…β€…β€…C: 70 years

Q5. There are 2 billion children in the world today, aged 0 to 15 years old. How many children will there be in the year 2100, according to the United Nations?

This is mostly a wild ass guess. Africa is projected as a growing market. Growing market means more babies. Same goes for Asia. I’m not too sure about this one though.

βŒβ€…β€…A: 4 billion

πŸ”²β€…β€…B: 3 billion

βœ…β€…β€…C: 2 billion

Q6. The UN predicts that by 2100 the world population will have increased by another 4 billion people. What is the main reason?

βŒβ€…β€…A: There will be more children (age below 15)

βœ…β€…β€…B: There will be more adults (age 15 to 74)

πŸ”²β€…β€…C: There will be more very old people (age 75 and older)

Q8. There are roughly 7 billion people in the world today. Which map shows best where they live? (Each figure represents 1 billion people.)

China and India have a billion+ people each. I think Africa has more people than Europe.




Natural Disaster

Q7. How did the number of deaths per year from natural disasters change over the last hundred years?

We have relief efforts and stuff. We shouldn’t be worse off…

πŸ”²β€…β€…A: More than doubled

πŸ”²β€…β€…B: Remained about the same

βœ…β€…β€…C: Decreased to less than half


Q9. How many of the world’s 1-year-old children today have been vaccinated against some disease?

πŸ”²β€…β€…A: 20 percent

βŒβ€…β€…B: 50 percent

βœ…β€…β€…C: 80 percent

Since 1990, the global maternal mortality rate and the infant mortality rate have been cut by half.


Q12. How many people in the world have some access to electricity?

In Kenya, I’d think \( \approx 50\% \) of people have electricity. But Kenya being sort of middle-income, let’s be pessimistic here.

βŒβ€…β€…A: 20 percent

πŸ”²β€…β€…B: 50 percent

βœ…β€…β€…C: 80 percent


Q11. In 1996, tigers, giant pandas, and black rhinos were all listed as endangered. How many of these three species are more critically endangered today?

If memes have taught me anything, pandas are dying out. I’d assume the same for rhinos because of their horns. Tigers, not so much - Princeton would have mentioned it at some point.

βŒβ€…β€…A: Two of them

πŸ”²β€…β€…B: One of them

βœ…β€…β€…C: None of them

Q13. Global climate experts believe that, over the next 100 years, the average temperature will…

βœ…β€…β€…A: get warmer

πŸ”²β€…β€…B: remain the same

πŸ”²β€…β€…C: get colder

Points of View

Of ~12k people in 14 countries, the average was 2 of the first 12 questions. People were not only wrong, but systematically wrong. Random guessing would have netted 4/12. Most people have outdated knowledge, often several decades old.

I got 2/12. Turns out I’m average and a pessimist.

The overdramatic worldview: war; violence; natural disasters; corruption; rich get richer and poor get poorer; number of poor people is ever increasing; we’ll soon run out of resources.

The fact-based worldview: most people are somewhat ‘middle-income’; their girls go to school, their children get vaccinated; two-child families; want to go abroad on holiday.

We’re evolutionarily hard wired with instincts that enable swift conclusions. But we must control our appetite for drama lest we subscribe to the overdramatic worldview.

What is the better attitude to have? What spurs more action to better the world, instead of being complacent/resigned? Do people that have changed their parts of the world systematically subscribe to one more than the other?


  1. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World - and Why Things Are Better Than You Think. Hans Rosling; Anna Rosling RΓΆnnlund; Ola Rosling. Apr 3, 2018. ISBN: 978-1250107817 .
  2. How Poverty Ends. The Many Paths to Progress -- and Why They Might Not Continue. Abhijit V. Banerjee; Esther Duflo. . . Accessed Nov 24, 2023.
  3. Poverty Overview: Development news, research, data | World Bank. . Oct 17, 2023. Accessed Nov 24, 2023.