Fascinating research paper in Nature on “Quantifying the Advantage of Looking Forward”. Summary:
In this study, we present a cross-country analysis of search engine queries, and demonstrate a strong link between behaviour online and real world economic indicators. By considering searches for years represented in Arabic numerals, an almost ubiquitous written representation, we can evaluate worldwide interest in years in the future (such as “2013”) and years in the past (such as “2011”). These representations have previously been considered in an investigation of a large corpus of text from books, where analysis suggested that authors’ interest in the past has decreased over time7. Here, we compare the predisposition of Internet users in different countries to look more to the future, or more to the past. We find that the online “future orientation” of a country is strongly correlated with the country’s per capita gross domestic product (GDP).