THE WORLD IN NUMBERS
The World Is Spiky
Globalization has changed the economic
playing field, but hasn't leveled it
Urban areas house half uf all the
worlds people, and continue to grow
in both rich and poor countries.
lie world, according to the title
New York Times co\uTi\-
nist Thomas Friedman's book., is flat.
Thanks to advances in technology, the
global playing Held has been leveled,
tbe prizes are there for the taking, and
everyone's a player—no matter where
on the surface of the earth he or she
may reside. "In a flat world," Friedman
writes, "you can innovate without hav-
ing to emigrate."
Friedman is not alone in this belief:
for the better part of the past century
economists have been writing about
the leveling effects of technology.
P'rom the invention of the telephone,
the automobile, and the airplane to the
rise of the personal computer and the
Internet, technological progress has
steadily eroded the economic impor-
tance of geographic place—or so the
But in partnership with colleagues
at George Mason University and the
geographer Tim Gulden, of the Center
for International and Security Stud-
ies, at the University of Maryland, I've
begun to chart a very different eco-
nomic topography. By almost any
measure the international economic
landscape is not at al! flat. On the con-
trary, our world is amazingly "'spiky."
In terms of both sheer economic horse-
power and cutting-edge innovation.
PEAKS, HILLS, AND VALLEYS
When looked at through the lens of economic production, many cities
with large populations are diminished and some nearly vonish. Three
sorts of places make up the modern economic landscape. First are
the cities that generate innovations. These are the tallest peaks; they
have the capacity to attract global talent and create new products and
industries. They are few in number, and difficult to topple. Second are
the economic "hills"—places that monufacture the world's established
goods, take its calls, ond support its innovation engines. These hills
can rise and fall quickly; they are prosperous but insecure. Some, like
Dublin and Seoul, are growing into innovative, wealthy peaks; others
are declining, eroded by high labor costs and a lack of enduring com-
petitive advantage. Finally there are the vast valleys—places with little
connection to the global economy and few immediate prospects.
surprisingly few regions truly mat-
ter in today's global economy. What's
more, the tallest peaks—the cities and
regions that drive the world econ-
omy—are growing ever higher., while
the valleys mostly languish.
he most obvious challenge to
the flat-world hypothesis is the
explosive growth of cities worldwide.
More and more people are cluster-