Saturday, March 21, 2015

The world needs a global heat map of nation-specific stress levels

I new Russia was stressed, but I didn’t know it was this bad …

G.M. Exiting Russia, for the Most Part -

… Because of the collapse of the ruble in December, Russians’ incomes have plummeted: The average salary peaked in 2013 at $800 a month, and is projected this year to be about $400…

That line is buried halfway down in a NYT article on GM closing a Russian plant. I wasn’t able to confirm it in a quick search, and it’s likely ruble denominated salaries are roughly flat, but, still, that’s an amazing shift. Russia is a poor country, and given massive wealth inequality and corruption, most Russians are extremely poor by wealthy world standards. Russia remains a failed state and it’s getting worse.

Which reminds me, again, that we need a worldwide heat map of national distress levels to understand the planet we live on. Something we can glance at to see current stress levels, and click on a nation to get underlying information.

I can’t find anything like this today (maybe the CIA has one?). Instead I find World Stress Map is a “global compilation of information on the present-day stress field of the Earth’s crust”, while a search on “Distressed World Map”  finds simple maps rendered in a “distressed” style of aged paper.

That’s not what we need. We need an interactive “heat map” of nations that shows, at a glance, stress level indicators. I’m thinking of a 100 point linear scale of collapse probability, but probably it’s a non-linear “richter” type scale.

It’s not hard to come up with candidate metrics.  Economics, ecology, political science and history are full of possible indicators. Active civil war (Syria scores 100), changes in per capita income and income distribution, deterioration in air and water conditions (Egypt!), shifts in “tribal” (ex. white nationalist) power, instability in neighbors, military threats, deflation measures, employment churn, demographic transitions (birth rates, age skews), shifts in savings balances, rise of women in patriarchy — it’s basically the same list once used to model the rise of Al Qaeda.  

Someone like Randall Munroe could put up a first draft. Alas, he has a firm rule - “I don’t use submitted comic ideas”. Still, it’s the kind of thing that he does so well… 

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