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Audio articles

The perils of navigating the economy using old maps 

IbyIMD+ Published 3 July 2023 in Audio articles • 8 min read • Audio availableAudio available

Outdated tools make it hard to answer even basic economic questions, much less create thoughtful policy. It’s time to create a better data architecture for mapping our increasingly complex technology-driven business world.

It is hard to know where you are going if you don’t have a decent map either a physical map, or a mental map based on experience. First-time visitors to London can be forgiven for wondering why there are so many “High Streets” in the same city, or how they wound up in Westminster or St John’s Wood when they thought they were in London. The London Tube map stylized, simplified, and necessarily inaccurate turns out to be an indispensable guide for getting around a charmingly idiosyncratic city.  

What happens when the tools and categories you use for your map no longer work? For much of the 20th century, you could reasonably describe the US economy using a simple set of nested categories; industries consisted of firms that operated establishments (factories, offices, stores) staffed by employees who engaged in occupations. Today, not so much: when crypto exchange Coinbase went public in 2021, its prospectus noted that it did not have a physical headquarters for…

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