Making large things visible to the human eye

The Great Shift East: The World According to Americans

Bizarrely, some of the most vituperative reactions I have gotten on this map of the world’s economic centre heading east

Shifting World Economic Centre of Gravity

Shifting world economic centre

(Quah, 2011) have been entirely technical.  You might have thought some would instead be to defend US hegemony and unipolarity.  But no.

(Well, actually, yes, there were some.  But this is a post about visualizing facts.)

“Since the centre of gravity is deep within the planet, why didn’t you use instead an azimuthal projection from the North Pole?”  “Surely the eastwards movement is just drawn from your personal political bias.  If instead, I were to stand high above the middle of the Pacific Ocean and track what you call the Great Shift East, I would instead see the Great Shift West.”  “If I were looking at this from the Philippines, wouldn’t this so-called Great Shift East be barely perceptible?”  “This analysis is a disgrace to the LSE – the author wastes pages and pages discussing technical refinements, and then throws the argument all away by choosing just one arbitrary projection.”

Both during and right after doing my PhD, sitting at the feet of Tom Sargent, Chris Sims, and Lars Peter Hansen, I had cut my teeth on Hilbert Space analysis of L2 stochastic processes (e.g., 1989, 1992).  I take my projections seriously.  The bottom line on creating the world’s economic centre map  was that no single fixed projection was used, but instead a sequence of mappings – continuously tracking the shifting world economic centre of gravity – each point based on a cylindrical projection.

Here, however is another way to think about the Great Shift East.  We went from

(image from Barry Ritholtz – but the URL is misspelt and so I’m not linking directly to it) …

… to

Front page The Times of London, 28 October 2011

People say the darndest things.

4 responses to “The Great Shift East: The World According to Americans

  1. Pingback: Clash at ERC: The UK and the Eurozone in the Shifting Global Economy « DannyQuah

  2. Pingback: The UK and the eurozone in the shifting global economy – Marcus Evans Offices

  3. Peter Jorgensen 2012.01.14 at 11:46

    Dear Danny Quah,

    I just took a look at your paper. The caption of Figure 1 says “[…] The cylindrical projection realigns perspective appropriately and, by virtue of being a (distance-minimising) projection, locates the closest point on the planet’s surface to the WECG”. I may have the wrong end of the stick here, but I don’t think your projection finds the closest point on the planet’s surface. The closest point would be the one you got by projecting from the centre of the planet to the surface.



    • Danny Quah 2012.01.14 at 11:56

      Peter – you are right. The caption couldn’t take the complete explanation. The text of the paper provides the correct description: Think of the projection as not being from the centre of the sphere to the surface but from the North-South axis (an entire line) to the WECG – or vice versa – and then extending to burst through the surface.

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