The New York Times
Chilean physicist develops map to diagram global economies
The map shows not just the size of the world’s economies, but also their interconnectedness and complexity, and the great differences between different types of economy.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Chilean physicist César A. Hidalgo has contributed to some of the most prestigious research institutions in the world.
Since leaving home in Santiago to pursue his PhD at the University of Notre Dame, Chilean physicist César A. Hidalgo has contributed to some of the most prestigious research institutions in the world, including Harvard and most recently the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
On May 11, the The New York Times published a new diagram developed by Hidalgo that maps the complex network of the world economy, describing it as “a new approach to the most important unsolved problem of the last century: how to make a rich country out of a poor one.”
The diagrams are made up of a dense cluster of nodes, or small circles, connected with other nodes that represent other products or economic capabilities necessary for the production of other nodes.
Nodes in similar colors are at least superficially derived from the same industry, while nodes clustered close to one another represent products that require similar economic building blocks.
The nodes vary in size depending on the amount of total world trade they represent. The same basic “product space” – made up of 774 interconnected nodes – is used to plot out the economy of every nation on earth, but what it reveals is the vast structural differences between those economies.
The structure of the diagram plots out powerfully interconnected economic nodes – ideal for sustained future development – and those at the fringes, which represent developmental dead ends.
The diagram also allows economists not just to evaluate the size of an economy, but also to better understand its complexity, its distribution, and potentially even the specific means of using pre-existing economic strengths to power development into connected industries.
Hidalgo’s undergraduate work in Physics at Universidad Católica in Santiago led him to enter the Center for Complex Network Research at Notre Dame in 2004 where he proceeded to complete his graduate dissertation. He then became a research fellow at Harvard’s Center for International Development, becoming an adjunct lecturer in Public Policy the following year. The 2010-11 academic year is Hidalgo’s first as an Assistant Professor in Media Arts and Science at MIT.
His works seeks to improve the understanding of systems using and developing concepts of complexity, evolution and network science. These interests, combined with background in and knowledge of graphic design, all contributed to the development of the product space diagram.