The 8 Major Forces Shaping the Future of the Global Economy
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The 8 Major Forces Shaping the Future of the Global Economy

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The 8 Major Forces Shaping the Future of the Global Economy

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.

– Jimmy Dean

The world is changing faster than ever before.

With billions of people hyper-connected to each other in an unprecedented global network, it allows for an almost instantaneous and frictionless spread of new ideas and innovations.

Combine this connectedness with rapidly changing demographics, shifting values and attitudes, growing political uncertainty, and exponential advances in technology, and it’s clear the next decade is setting up to be one of historic transformation.

But where do all of these big picture trends intersect, and how can we make sense of a world engulfed in complexity and nuance? Furthermore, how do we set our sails to take advantage of the opportunities presented by this sea of change?

The Intersection of Data and Powerful Visuals

Interpreting massive amounts of data on how the world is changing can be taxing for even the most brilliant thinkers.

For this reason, our entire team at Visual Capitalist is focused on using the power of visual storytelling to make the world’s information more accessible. Our team of information designers works daily to transform complex data into graphics that are both intuitive and insightful, allowing you to see big picture trends from a new perspective.

After all, science says that 65% of people are visual learners – so why not put data in a language they can understand?

While we regularly publish our visuals in an online format, our most recent endeavor has been to compile our best charts, infographics, and data visualizations into one place: our new book Visualizing Change: A Data-Driven Snapshot of Our World, a 256-page hardcover coffee-table book on the forces shaping business, wealth, technology, and the economy.

The book focuses on eight major themes ranging from shifting human geography to the never-ending evolution of money. And below, we present some of the key visualizations in the book that serve as examples relating to each major theme.

1. The Tech Invasion

For most of the history of business, the world’s leading companies have been industrially-focused.

Pioneers like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison innovated in the physical realm using atoms – they came up with novel ways to re-organize these atoms to create things like the assembly line and the incandescent lightbulb. Then, companies invested massive amounts of capital to build physical factories, pay thousands of workers, and build these things.

The majority of the great blue chip companies were built this way: IBM, U.S. Steel, General Electric, Walmart, and Ford are just some examples.

But today’s business reality is very different. We live in a world of bytes – and for the first time technology and commerce have collided in a way that makes data far more valuable than physical, tangible objects.

The best place to see this is in how the market values businesses.

Market capitalization of tech companies

As you can see above, companies like Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft have supplanted traditional blue chip companies that build physical things.

The tech invasion is leveraging connectivity, network effects, artificial intelligence, and unprecedented scale to create global platforms that are almost impossible to compete with. The tech invasion has already taken over retail and advertising – and now invading forces have their eyes set on healthcare, finance, manufacturing, and education.

Will atoms ever be more valuable than bytes again?

Interesting Facts:

2. The Evolution of Money

Money is arguably one of humanity’s most important inventions. From beaver pelts to gold bars, the form and function of money has constantly fluctuated throughout history.

In the modern world, the definition of money is blurrier than ever. Central banks have opted to create trillions of dollars of currency out of thin air since the financial crisis – and on the flipside, you can actually use blockchain technology to create your own competing cryptocurrency in just a few clicks.

Regardless of what is money and what is not, people are borrowing record amounts of it.

The world has now amassed $247 trillion in debt, including $63 trillion borrowed by central governments:

Global debt by gdp

In today’s unusual monetary circumstances, massive debt loads are just one anomaly.

Here are other examples that illustrate the evolution of money: Venezuela has hyperinflated away almost all of its currency’s value, the “War on Cash” is raging on around the world, central banks are lending out money at negative interest rates (Sweden, Japan, Switzerland, etc.), and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are collectively worth over $200 billion.

How we view money – and how that perception evolves over time – is an underlying factor that influences our future.

Interesting Facts:

3. The Wealth Landscape

Wealth is not stagnant – and so for those looking to make the most out of global opportunities, it’s imperative to get a sense of how the wealth landscape is changing.

The modern view is either extremely healthy or bubbly, depending on how you look at it: Amazon and Apple are worth over $1 trillion, Jeff Bezos has a $100+ billion fortune, and the current bull market is the longest in modern history at 10 years.

Will this growth continue, and where will it come from?

Here’s one look based on projections from the World Bank:

Where is Global Growth Happening?

Despite these estimates, there is a laundry list of items that the ultra-wealthy are concerned about – everything from the expected comeback of inflation to a world where geopolitical black swans seem to be growing more common.

Here’s why those building and protecting wealth are rightly concerned about such events:

Geopolitical black swans and the S&P 500

But the wealth landscape is not all just about billionaires and massive companies – it is changing in other interesting ways as well. For example, the definition of wealth itself is taking on a new meaning, with millennials leading a charge towards sustainable investing rather than being entirely focused on monetary return.

How will the wealth landscape look a decade from now?

Interesting Facts:

4. Eastern Promises

The economic rise of China has been a compelling story for decades.

Up until recently, we’ve only been able to get a preview of what the Eastern superpower is capable of – and in the coming years, these promises will come to fruition at a scale that will still be baffling to many.

Understandably, the scope of China’s population and economy can still be quite difficult to put into perspective.

The following map may help, as it combines both elements together to show that China has countless cities each with a higher economic productivity than entire countries.

China cities vs. country GDPs

In fact, China has over 100 cities with more than 1,000,000 inhabitants. These cities, many of which fly below the radar on the global stage, each have impressive economies – whether they are built upon factories, natural resource production, or the information economy.

As one impressive example, the Yangtze River Delta – a single region which contains Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Wuxi, Nantong, Ningbo, Nanjing, and Changzhou – has a GDP (PPP) of $2.6 trillion, which is more than Italy.

Interesting Facts:

Don’t forget: our new book covers
all of these eight themes in detail:

5. Accelerating Technological Progress

As we’ve already seen, there are many facets of change that will impact our shared future.

But here’s the kicker: when it comes to technological progress, the rate of change itself is actually getting faster and faster. Each year brings more technological advancements than the last, and once the exponential “hockey stick” kicks into overdrive, innovations could happen at a blindsiding pace.

This could be described as a function of Moore’s Law, and the law of accelerating returns is also something that futurists like Ray Kurzweil have talked about for decades.

Interestingly, there is another offshoot of accelerating change that applies more to the business and economic world. Not only is the speed of change getting faster, but for various reasons, markets are able to adopt new technologies faster:

The accelerating rate of technology adoption

New products can achieve millions of users in just months, and the game Pokémon Go serves as an interesting case study of this potential. The game amassed 50 million users in just 19 days, which is a blink of an eye in comparison to automobiles (62 years), the telephone (50 years), or credit cards (28 years).

As new technologies are created at a faster and faster pace – and as they are adopted at record speeds by markets – it’s fair to say that future could be coming at a breakneck speed.

Interesting Facts:
Future tech facts

6. The Green Revolution

It’s no secret that our civilization is in the middle of a seismic shift to more sustainable energy sources.

But to fully appreciate the significance of this change, you need to look at the big picture of energy over time. Below is a chart of U.S. energy consumption from 1776 until today, showing that the energy we use to power development is not permanent or static throughout history.

Energy Use Since 1776

And with the speed at which technology now moves, expect our energy infrastructure and delivery systems to evolve at an even more blistering pace than we’ve experienced before.

Interesting Facts:

7. Shifting Human Geography

Global demographics are always shifting, but the population tidal wave in the coming decades will completely reshape the global economy.

In Western countries and China, populations will stabilize due to fertility rates and demographic makeups. Meanwhile, on the African continent and across the rest of Asia, booming populations combined with rapid urbanization will translate into the growth of megacities, holding upwards of 50 million people.

By the end of the 21st century, this animation shows that Africa alone could contain at least 13 megacities that are bigger than New York:

Megacities demographic animation

By this time, it’s projected that North America, Europe, South America, and China will combine to hold zero of the world’s 20 most populous cities. What other game-changing shifts to human geography will occur during this stretch?

Interesting Facts:

8. The Trade Paradox

By definition, a consensual and rational trade between two parties is one that makes both parties better off.

Based on this microeconomic principle, and also on the consensus by economists that free trade is ultimately beneficial, countries around the world have consistently been working to remove trade barriers since World War II with great success.

But nothing is ever straightforward, and these long-held truths are now being challenged in both societal and political contexts. We now seem to be trapped in a trade paradox in which politicians give lip service to free trade, but often take action in the opposite direction.

To get a sense of how important trade can be between two nations, we previously documented the ongoing relationship between the U.S. and Canada, in which each country is the best customer of the other:

USA/CAN Trade Relationship

With the recent USMCA agreement, the two countries seem to have sorted their differences for now – but the trade paradox will continue to be an ongoing theme in economics and investing at a global level for many years to come, especially as the trade war against China rages on.

Points to Consider:

How You Can Visualize Change

The forces behind change are not always evident to the naked eye, but we believe that by fusing data, art, and storytelling together that we can create powerful context on the trends shaping our future.

If you enjoyed our summary above, you can explore these ideas further with our book “Visualizing Change”, which offers 256 pages of infographics, data visualizations, and charts on the future direction of the global economy and technology.

Get your copy of Visualizing Change today

Our book makes a great holiday gift. Get it on Amazon.com or Amazon.ca, or even customize a bulk order with your logo

Support the Future of Data Storytelling

Sorry to interrupt your reading, but we have a favor to ask. At Visual Capitalist we believe in a world where data can be understood by everyone. That’s why we want to build the VC App - the first app of its kind combining verifiable and transparent data with beautiful, memorable visuals. All available for free.

As a small, independent media company we don’t have the expertise in-house or the funds to build an app like this. So we’re asking our community to help us raise funds on Kickstarter.

If you believe in data-driven storytelling, join the movement and back us on Kickstarter!

Thank you.

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Ranked: The Best-Selling Video Game Consoles of All Time

Video game consoles have changed drastically over the last 50 years. Here are some of the best-selling ones across the globe.

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Ranked: The Best-Selling Video Game Consoles of All Time

In 1972, the first-ever commercially available home video game console hit the market—the Magnavox Odyssey. Players of the Odyssey had a choice between two built-in games that were stored directly in the device, and would use a joystick and dials as a controller.

Video game consoles have come a long way since then, and the console market has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry that’s expected to reach $72.67 billion in value by the end of 2022.

This graphic by Enrique Mendoza uses data from VGChartz to show the market leaders in the industry, by highlighting the top-selling video consoles of all time, as of May 8, 2022.

Nine Generations of Video Game Consoles

Before diving into the top-selling consoles, it’s worth taking a step back to touch on the evolution of home consoles to show how they’ve changed over the years.

We dug into the literature on the history of video game consoles, and found that most articles and blog posts on the topic cite nine different generations of devices.

Here’s a breakdown of each generation, and some of their most noteworthy systems:

1972: Gen One, Where it Began

Consoles in the first generation had pre-built games that were stored directly on the device. They include the Magnavox Odyssey and Atari’s Pong.

1976: Gen Two Emerges

In this generation, games were sold separately, rather than programmed into the device. Consoles of this gen include the Fairchild Channel F and the Atari 2600.

1983: Gen Three, the “8-bit Generation”

This era’s consoles typically had 8-bit processes which allowed for more advanced graphics for the time. A few notable consoles during this gen were ​​the Sega SG-1000 and the Nintendo Famicom, released outside Japan as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

1987: Gen Four Elevates Handheld Gaming

Home consoles were released with 16-bit systems, meaning that audio and graphics improved even more in this era. But an arguably bigger moment for this gen was the emergence of the Nintendo Game Boy.

1993: The 3D Start of Gen Five

This generation saw the move away from pixels and towards 3D polygons. Some consoles like the Sony PlayStation started using CD-ROMs instead of cartridges, which stored more data at a cheaper cost and changed the industry.

1998: Gen Six and the Internet

At the start of this generation, the three major players in the console space were Sony, Sega, and Nintendo. By the end, Sega would be replaced with Microsoft as it launched the Xbox and helped popularize online console gaming.

2005: HD Graphics and Motion Controls of Gen Seven

On one side of the market, Microsoft and Sony were competing with high-definition graphics, faster processers, and different forms (Blu-rays or DVDs). But Nintendo’s motion-sensing Nintendo Wii arguably defined this generation, and the handheld Nintendo DS swept the market as well.

2012: Gen Eight’s Modern Consoles

Consoles of this era started having increased connectivity and processing power, with full HD an expectation. It was also an extremely long generation, starting with Nintendo’s unsuccessful Wii U and ending with the ultra-successful Nintendo Switch, widely considered the first hybrid console with three different ways to play: TV mode, handheld mode, or tabletop mode.

2020: Gen Nine and Beyond

So far, this generation has brought upgraded graphics (up to 8K resolution), larger games, and game-streaming capabilities. Devices in this gen include the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5, which both use solid state drives to increase speed and performance, while Nintendo has yet to introduce a 9th generation device.

The Best-Selling Game Consoles

The best-selling video game console of all time is Sony’s PlayStation 2 (PS2). More than 157 million systems have been sold around the world since its launch in March 2000.

RankConsoleManufacturerGlobal lifetime sales (millions)
1PlayStation 2 (PS2)Sony157.68
2Nintendo DS (DS)Nintendo154.90
3Game Boy (GB)Nintendo118.69
4PlayStation 4 (PS4)Sony116.97
5Nintendo Switch (NS)Nintendo107.21
6PlayStation (PS)Sony102.50
7Nintendo Wii (Wii)Nintendo101.64
8PlayStation 3 (PS3)Sony87.41
9Xbox 360 (X360)Microsoft85.8
10Game Boy Advance (GBA)Nintendo81.51
11PlayStation Portable (PSP)Sony81.09
12Nintendo 3DS (3DS)Nintendo75.95
13Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)Nintendo61.91
14Xbox One (XOne)Microsoft50.57
15Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)Nintendo49.10
16Nintendo 64 (N64)Nintendo32.93
17Sega Genesis (GEN)Sega29.54
18Atari 2600 (2600)Atari27.64
19Xbox (XB)Microsoft24.65
20GameCube (GC)Nintendo21.74
21PlayStation 5 (PS5)Sony19.32
22PlayStation Vita (PSV)Sony16.21
23Xbox Series X/S (XS)Microsoft14.32
24Nintendo Wii U (WiiU)Nintendo13.97
25GameGear (GG)Sega10.62
26Sega Saturn (SAT)Sega8.82
27Dreamcast (DC)Sega8.20
28Atari 7800 (7800)Atari4.30

Despite the fact the PS2’s been discontinued since 2013, no other gaming console has managed to top it—in fact, the next closest actively-sold consoles, the PS4 and Nintendo Switch, are each more than 40 million units behind.

One major factor for the PS2’s success was its built-in DVD player. At the time, DVD players were very expensive, and in many places a PS2 was a cheaper and effective alternative. It was also one of the first devices to be “backward compatible,” meaning users could play most of their PS1 games on the PS2. This meant players didn’t have to buy a whole new library of games when they made the switch to a PS2, and Sony could tap into its existing customer base.

But while Sony’s PS2 is the top-selling console on the list, Nintendo has more top-selling consoles on the list—almost half of the consoles on the list are manufactured by Nintendo (11), while only seven are made by Sony.

What Will it Take to Out-Sell the PS2?

As the PS4 has started taking a backseat to the PS5 in sales and promotion, the current most-likely contender for the best-selling console crown is the Nintendo Switch. Early in 2022, it was the fastest console to sell 100 million units.

With lots of hype around the possibilities of AR and VR, it’ll be interesting to see what new features come with the next generation of gaming consoles.

Will future devices ever beat the PS2’s record-breaking sales? Time will tell. But for now, the 22-year-old console continues to hold its well-earned spot at the top.

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Visualizing The 50 Biggest Data Breaches From 2004–2021

In 2021, more than 5.9 billion user records were stolen. This graphic visualizes the 50 largest data breaches, by entity and sector, since 2004.

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This graphic visualizes the 50 largest data breaches, by entity and sector, since 2004.

Visualizing The 50 Biggest Data Breaches From 2004–2021

As our world has become increasingly reliant on technology and data stored online, data breaches have become an omnipresent threat to users, businesses, and government agencies. In 2021, a new record was set with more than 5.9 billion user records stolen.

This graphic by Chimdi Nwosu visualizes the 50 largest data breaches since 2004, along with the sectors most impacted. Data was aggregated from company statements and news reports.

Understanding the Basics of Data Breaches

A data breach is an incident in which sensitive or confidential information is copied, transmitted or stolen by an unauthorized entity. This can occur as a result of malware attacks, payment card fraud, insider leaks, or unintended disclosure.

The targeted data is often customer PII (personally identifiable information), employee PII, intellectual property, corporate data or government agency data.

Date breaches can be perpetrated by lone hackers, organized cybercrime groups, or even national governments. Stolen information can then be used in other criminal enterprises such as identity theft, credit card fraud, or held for ransom payment.

Notable Data Breaches Since 2004

The largest data breach recorded occurred in 2013 when all three billion Yahoo accounts had their information compromised. In that cyberattack, the hackers were able to gather the personal information and passwords of users. While the full extent of the Yahoo data breach is still not fully realized, subsequent cybercrimes across the globe have been linked to the stolen information.

Here are the 50 largest data breaches by amount of user records stolen from 2004–2021.

RankEntitySectorRecords CompromisedYear
1YahooWeb3.0B2013
2River City MediaWeb1.4B2017
3AadhaarGovernment1.1B2018
4First American CorporationFinance885M2019
5SpambotWeb711M2017
6LinkedinWeb700M2021
7FacebookTech533M2021
8YahooWeb500M2014
9Marriott InternationalRetail500M2018
10SyniverseTelecoms500M2021
11FacebookWeb419M2019
12Friend Finder NetworkWeb412M2016
13OxyDataTech380M2019
14MySpaceWeb360M2016
15ExactisData340M2018
16TwitterTech330M2018
17AirtelTelecoms320M2019
18Indian citizensWeb275M2019
19WattpadWeb270M2020
20MicrosoftWeb250M2019
21Experian BrazilFinance220M2021
22Chinese resume leakWeb202M2019
23Court VenturesFinance200M2013
24ApolloTech200M2018
25Deep Root AnalyticsWeb198M2015
26ZyngaGaming173M2019
27VKWeb171M2016
28EquifaxFinance163M2017
29DubsmashWeb162M2019
30Massive American business hackFinance160M2013
31MyFitnessPalApp150M2018
32EbayWeb145M2014
33CanvaWeb139M2019
34HeartlandFinance130M2009
35NametestsApp120M2018
36TetradFinance120M2020
37LinkedInWeb117M2016
38Pakistani mobile operatorsTelecoms115M2020
39ElasticSearchTech108M2019
40Capital OneFinance106M2019
41Thailand visitorsGovernment106M2021
42FirebaseApp100M2018
43QuoraWeb100M2018
44Rambler.ruWeb98M2012
45TK / TJ MaxxRetail94M2007
46MyHeritageWeb92M2018
47AOLWeb92M2004
48DailymotionWeb85M2016
49AnthemHealth80M2015
50Sony Playstation NetworkGaming77M2011

The massive Yahoo hack accounted for roughly 30% of the 9.9 billion user records stolen from the Web sector—by far the most impacted sector. The next most-impacted sectors were Tech and Finance, with 2 billion and 1.6 billion records stolen, respectively.

Although these three sectors had the highest totals of user data lost, that doesn’t necessarily imply they have weaker security measures. Instead, it can probably be attributed to the sheer number of user records they compile.

Not all infamous data breaches are of a large scale. A smaller data breach in 2014 made headlines when Apple’s iCloud was hacked and the personal pictures of roughly 200 celebrities were disseminated across the internet. Although this highly targeted hack only affected a few hundred people, it highlighted how invasive and damaging data breaches can be to users.

The Cost of Data Breaches to Businesses

Every year data breaches cost businesses billions of dollars to prevent and contain, while also eroding consumer trust and potentially having an adverse effect on customer retention.

A 2021 IBM security report estimated that the average cost per data breach for companies in 2020 was $4.2 million, which represents a 10% increase from 2019. That increase is mainly attributed to the added security risk associated with having more people working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Measures to Improve Data Security

Completely preventing data breaches is essentially impossible, as cybercrime enterprises are often persistent, dynamic, and sophisticated. Nevertheless, businesses can seek out innovative methods to prevent exposure of data and mitigate potential damages.

For example, after the iCloud attack in 2014, Apple began avidly encouraging users to adopt two-factor authentication in an effort to strengthen data security.

Regardless of the measures businesses take, the unfortunate reality is that data breaches are a cost of doing business in the modern world and will continue to be a concern to both companies and users.

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