I will write a reflective post about my life soon. Really, I promise. Until then it’s just a glimpse into some of the tools that help me make sense of the world.
- The OEC: Whenever I start learning about a country, I stop by the MIT Media Lab’s Observatory of Economic Complexity. It’s a fantastic tool, and the recent redesign makes it more useful than ever- especially the country profile pages. Yesterday I found out that Malawi does most of its trade with Canada. (click for interactive):
I can just imagine the conversation: “Hey, I’ll give you my t-shirt if you give me some of your radioactive chemicals…”
Looking at trade gives a fascinating window into a country’s economy. Having a complex economy (lots of colours) is good because it promotes stability and growth. You don’t have all your eggs in one basket. This happens in three dimensions:
First, you want to export complex goods, like cars and computers (Japan), not tobacco and tea (Malawi). In resource rich countries, that means exporting tables and plastics instead of timber and petroleum.
Second, you want a complex mix of goods (China), instead of relying on a single product (Saudi).
Finally, you want to export to complex mix of countries (Not like Mexico), so that if one stops buying, you aren’t left without a market.
The OEC makes learning all this easy. If you want to get an idea of where a country fits in the global order. I couldn’t recommend a better tool.
- The True Size: Malawi is a small country, Africa is a big continent. But how big? The True Size lets you overlay countries on top of a world map. It’s fantastic just for playing around, and also for finding out that Greenland is disappointingly small.
- Gapminder: Hans Rosling is the godfather of making statistics interesting. Wondering about the relationship between cellphones and economic growth? Education and employment? Gapminder World gives you access to an incredible amount of information that is fairly easy to play around with.
- US States GDP if they were Countries. Not actually a tool, just an interesting endnote. Canada’s economy is the same as Texas’, Arkansas and Angola are also comparable.
Conclusion: the US economy is overwhelmingly large.