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tv   Amanpour on PBS  PBS  May 7, 2018 6:00am-6:30am PDT

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. welcome to amanpour on pbs. tonight for all of us feeling overwhelmed for the bad news hitting us. the world isn't as bad as we think. that's the message of this new book by a world famous professor whose dying wish was to spread the word. while the world may be better than we think, there's still room for improvement. i talked to putin insider on why he says we're on the border of not a cold but a hot war with
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russia. good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. in a stressed out world sorting fact from fiction has never been more important. the fact is when we think about the stage the vast majority of us have it all wrong. we think it's about poorer more violent and less healthy than it really is. and that is the start but basic message behind the best selling new book. a swede dish professor who's first tech talk went viral thanks to 12 million who took hope from his presentations. 20 years ago, 29% of us lived in extreme poverty. now it is 9%. flying is now over 2,000 times safer than it was in the eearly 1930s.
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hans ross liling son and his wi helped write the book and i had a discussion about how it was put together, its message and their father's legacy. anna and ola, welcome to the program. >> thank you so much. >> 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? >> 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 insight that that we didn't have much impact. hans was very disappointed. even the fan club that loved his tech talks seemed to not really learn what we were trying to tell them. this we figured out by doing knowledge questions. and then we realized probably we need to write down what we are trying to teach and that's when we realized the book format is
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something we haven't even tried. then we started carving out a 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. >> what's incredible is that when hans was diagnosed with n pancreatic cancer, he was given very little time to live. tell me how he chose to do this book above all his other thousands of commitments. >> well, i think actually it was a pretty easy decision i would say because the reason we started writing the book was 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. honestly when we started righting the book, we had no
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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 materials, so we were all very shocked when we realized this would be the last thing we do together. >> it is incredible to read about how even on his death bed even a few days before he died he went to the hospital with the notes. he was busy, you know, 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. >> absolutely. we were at the hospital actually sitting next to him and discussing the composition of the chapters and this is how hans functioned. he was always a teacher.
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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 feelings. because all those things we had already gone through so to say. so the constructive purpose of writing this book and continuing his mission, so to say, was also comforting for him. >> so anna, let me ask you, it's called "factfulness". it's a great title with today's world. 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. i find that from bill gates really instructive. obviously hans was trying to teach throughout his life that things are not as bad as they
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look and that there are inherent biases to why people get stressed and depressed and negative and focus on the bad. sum it up for me, anna. >> 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. since we think we know it, we have a very hard time relearning, because we're already set. and we have a very over dramatic world view and somehow the whole book is about the way we can relearn is actually to first get to know that 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 trying to get control over our overdramatic thinking. so the book has ten dramatic instincts and we try to give the reader rules of thumb to
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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 they scored very, very bad. so ola, could you tell them a little bit about the test. >> on average people scored two correct out of 12 and that is pretty low. even 15% gets zero correct answers on these basic questions about the state of the world. the funny thing is that those questions are a, b, c questions which means that by random you would score 1/3 correct like a chimpanzee. 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 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
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random. so we're starting below the randomness that people perceive. they say i don't know these things, i was just guessing. no. then they would score like a chimpanzee, right? but they are worse than chimpanzee. we have asked roughly 120 questions which we've been experimenting with in public polls and then we selected those where people scored worse than random and asking ourselves, how is this possible, what's the pattern. in the book we're presenting dramatic pattern in more wrong than modern. that's what the book is about. that's the bias. the reader we know will learn something from the book. that's maybe why bill gates is so positive because this is a very useful book. >> 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?
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>> i would love to ask you some questions here and now, because one of the poor messages of this book is humbleness that most journalists that we have been testing score equal to the public. we've been testing noble las an they core juscore just like the. can we ask you one or two questions. >> go ahead. >> if we take this one, it will be a, b, c. in all low income countries, how many girls finish primary school? is it a, 20%. b, 50%, or c, 60%? >> okay. i'm going to go for c. >> maybe because you know we are asking it. you're supposed to pick the best answer. that's a very good trick. >> no, it's not a trick. it's that i'm not a pessimist. >> it's actually correct. but look at this. it's so beautiful.
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60% of girls go to school in the worst off countries. the low income countries people believe it's 75% or 60% of humanity. it's not. it's only 9% of humans live in so-called low income countries. but even in those worst of countries, 60% of girls finish primary school even there. >> 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 that right? >> that's a good summary, yes. it's not only that things are better. it's also to get the proportions right sayinghat maybe 80% 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
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overpopulation fear. in the future, yes, we will be four billion more people, but then the population growth is very likely to stop because more family planning is being spread. we're basically getting the big proportions right. for example, where the billions live on the world map, et cetera. these kind of core frameworks for knowing the world. if you get those right, you don't have to memorize all, but you should have the big proportions right in your head. >> i think it's very important to mention that even though it's a book about the world and development, it's very important to us that it is a practical book that you can actually use. it's done as more a handbook to think clearly about the world. >> we do live in a very stressed out political world right now and everybody's walking around as if the weight of the world is on top of them. how does this empower people. >> for example, we have defined
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the ten dramatic instincts. one of them is negativity. by the end of the chapter we got rules telling you that when someone says something is getting worse, we get a stronger feeling that the world is getting worse and we have fake news, okay, we should stop and ask ourself is this just overreporting? imagine today we've got better reporting of fake news than we ever had. back in the air era of ku klux . we can get very upset when the reporting is improvedment. it's actually a sign of improvement that we know more about the fakes. maybe sometimes we're confusing more reporting about say narl disasters with the feeling that this phenom na itself is increasing. it's actually an increase of reporting. this is one rule of thumb among roughly 50 by the end of the
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chapters. and imagine we could teach this to schoolchildren. at low ages to learn how our processing of information is systematically skewing our picture of the world with statistics as therapy. go to the u.n. website. look at statistics and you're going to get surprised. the world is not as bad as you thought it was. >> i need a dose of that therapy. but it is interesting. there are less conflicts. there are lease people killed in war. although the syria war has skewed that upwards now. l listen, there are really awful things happening. there is is racism. there is anti-immigration, antimoo anti-migrants. there are actually really bad things happening right now. >> 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
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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 of -- we can actually make differences even in a positive direction. >> so i want to add -- he got angry when people called him an optimist. he said i'm a very serious possiblist. 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 should. >> so let us end this conversation with one of your father's most viral comments that he made at his first head speech. >> but one late night when i was compiling the report, i really realized my discovery. i have shown that swedish top students know statistically
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significantly less about the world than the chimpanzees. because the chimpanzee would score half right if i gave them two bananas. they would be right half of the cases. but the students are not. the problem for me was not ignorance. it was preconceived ideas. >> that's a really good way to end. that's hans, your dad, your father-in-law on how he discovered bias. so ola and anna, thank you very much for joining us. >> thank you very much. >> thank you so much. so if hans rossling dedicated his wlife to strippin away the biases, russia today is exploiting those very same biases escalating the disinformation campaign against the west. that campaign together with its conventional military ones in syria and ukraine places the world on a treacherous path which is the title of a new book by my next guest.
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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, welcome to the program. >> thank you. >> i'm really interested because your book 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 war. >> 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 asked me my opinion that was, like, two years ago to compare the cuban crisis and
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then today's tension. my answer is i consider the tension higher and the problems are much, much worse than them days. >> so why do you think that? because in those days you had thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at each other. you had two, you know, completely divergent ideologies and the cuban missile crisis could have brought us to the brink of nuclear war. it's not like that today. why do you think it is so much more tense now. >> 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 dared to tell listen if you have some kind of
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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 of political peyramid, they are using these phrases and i consider that extremely dangerous. >> 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? 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 you. >> russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors. not out of strength, but out of
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weakness. >> what do you make of that? i know president putin was jolly upset at being called a regional power. >> 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 the culture, from the history, from the -- the tensions of the people of the country. the 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. >> so did president putin and the russian people, did you, for instance, believe that that relationship would be turned around under a president trump? >> there was a great deal of hope among russian general
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society and the new president declared some type of attempt to restore normal diplomatic relations between two countries he was expecting with some hope. but of course there was some kind of expectation that the situation will change and change for the better. >> 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. and 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? >> i am known that during my period as a president of russian railways i was openly challenging some of the
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decisions on the part of economic policy of the russian f federation. but of course we are facing difficulties due to the, you know, situation which you call sanctions. but i as former diplomat, i know the sanctions can be imposed only by united nations. so this is a tricky turn. >> well, i know that you all like to pass these terms, but the fact is you do have economic let's say punishments on your country. do you think that the economy -- >> maybe punishment. some would like to consider an & 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. >> so for russia do these restrictions, thiez economic
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restrictions, do they threaten president putin's rule? in other words, is there gng 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. >> not because of the restrictions placed by outside force i suppose. instead history proves that under the external pressure russian society doesn't matter, liberals, deserves, whoever, the russian society always had a tendency to unite. but if we are talking about the prospective, 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 in russia better. >> as a former kgb agent and as
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a former diplomat and as a former ceo, i want to ask you what you make of, you know, 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 several years ago or the poisoning of the skcripals that could have only been produced by a 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? >> of course i suppose nobody in russia happy over the actual situation in the relations with the west and i completely agree
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with those who are looking forward for improvement. as for the first part of your question and specifically about the allegations, you know that the information from british press suddenly disappeared and the situation is why? >> only because the british press has moved on, sir. it's only because they've moved on. the national security adviser, they've written letters, they've said it in special committees that they believe and the intelligence, because i've spoken to them, that only some, you know, an organization as sophisticated and as powerful as russia and the government and the military complex could have made it and deployed it. >> a reputable expert, by the way, british one, he challenge that it was made in russia. he also delivered his opinion
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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 inny laboratory not that sophisticated, but with some safety and security measures. that's it. >> so mistlet me finish with th. timothy snyder who is a professor at yale university has written a new book and concentrated very clearly on russia and eastern europe. this is what he told me about russia and this information. 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's no point in acting. he's right. >> listen, but it can be applied to nowadays information distribution and, you know, and
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information sources. i suppose this is the biggest problem that mankind is facing now. all our concerns 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. >> vladimir, thank you so much for joining me. >> thank you very much. bye-bye. so a little light and shade to close out our week and that is it for our program tonight. thanks for watching "amanpour" on pbs and join us again next time.
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