Quartz is a digitally native news outlet, born in 2012, for business people in the new global economy. We publish bracingly creative and intelligent journalism with a broad worldview, built primarily for the devices closest at hand: tablets and mobile phones.READ MORE
Journalists in most news organizations have fixed “beats”: bond markets, personal technology, international trade, and so on. At Quartz we organize ourselves around the seismic shifts that are changing the shape of the global economy. We call these topics our “obsessions,” and they evolve over time. (Here’s more on the philosophy behind them.) These are our current obsessions.
2016 will be one of America’s most pivotal elections, as Republicans and Democrats vie for voters who are frustrated with the nation’s trajectory, but for wildly different reasons. We’ll delve into the topics that matter most to the race and the global economy, from immigration to civil rights to foreign policy. The winner will have to address the ideological chasm that defines the US—or risk presiding over a union divided.
Perhaps no scientific or engineering objective under study today would have a greater impact than a big leap in batteries. Beyond the potential to bring electric cars to the masses, advances in batteries might mean reliable electricity for 1.4 billion more people. Incumbents in the energy sector might be utterly disrupted. Climate change might become much less of a threat. And geopolitics might be shaken anew.
To us, borders are not lines where countries meet, but places where national laws and transnational business intersect. When companies, capital and people cross borders, they enter a sphere where trade deals, tax havens, multinational supply chains and human migration are big factors in how business is done. Here we look at how the global economy operates in this space between states.
Britain’s vote to leave the EU on June 23, 2016 could have global ripple effects on the same scale as the end of the Cold War or the September 11 attacks. We’re following the fallout and analyzing the ramifications for global business, economics, trade, society, and politics.
If sport were only about winning and losing, there would be no stadiums, and weekend TV would be incredibly dull. Thankfully, sport is a business—a global business, into which passionate fans and smart corporations pour hundreds of billions of dollars. The business of sport ranges from the field to executives suites to televisions worldwide.
Man against microbe—the struggle is as ancient as we are, and yet it never gets old. Humans handily won the last century, leaving us healthier than ever before. But the magic of modern medicine is now fading as other forces of development reshape ecosystems. Ebola-style animal-borne epidemics, the return of measles, antibiotic resistance—these are just a few of the epic challenges that our global, urbanized ambitions are unleashing.
China could become the world’s biggest economy in 2014, but it now has to shift the engine of its economy from exports to domestic consumption, find new energy sources, cope with the environmental costs, adapt its one-party politics for a demanding, internet-connected population, and stake out its space as a world power. What will this mean, not only for China, but the rest of the planet?
Chinese conglomerates are making the most of Africa’s cheap labor, natural resources, and need for infrastructure. We examine how much those countries benefit; what political influence China gets from its investments; and the culture clashes that arise between locals and the million or so Chinese already living and working in African countries both large and small.
The one element that unites architecture and art, corporate branding, emojis and typography is design. From the structure of a workplace to the way we navigate technology, design has become an organizing principle and measure of innovation and success. Good design not only makes financial sense but it also has the power to change the way we interact with each other and the world around us.
We live in the most turbulent period of energy-driven disruption since John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil. At stake are today’s geopolitical power balance, future environmental stability, and fortunes lost and made. We follow the trends from traditional fossil fuels through to new energy technologies, extreme weather, and the personalities driving events.
Since the Silk Road linked China to the Roman Empire, fashion has been one of the great global industries. In today’s fast, $1.7 trillion apparel industry, issues surrounding technology, economics, ethics, and the environment play out worldwide—and in our wardrobes. Regardless of whether we fancy ourselves “fashion people,” we all get dressed, and in doing so, make personal choices about how we relate to the world.
Regulations meant to prevent another global financial crisis are reshaping the banking industry. New technology is upending everything, from the trading business to payment systems. The volatile fortunes of many economies are sending oceans of investor money washing around the planet. And mobile and online financial services are taking emerging markets by storm. What sorts of innovators can flourish in this rapidly changing financial world?
Television is in flux, right down to what that word even means. The name Glass is an argument: that media are best understood as a competition for attention on screens connected to the internet. Phones, tablets, laptops, monitors, TVs—it’s all just glass.
Geographical borders are almost irrelevant to the information that flows around the web and global financial system, but linguistic barriers are still very real. And while English remains the language of global business, a growing share of the internet’s content is being produced in other languages. We explore how multinational companies, executives, and different populations use language, and find the important stories that are lost in translation.
Despite great scientific strides, healthy living remains as much art as science. That is quickly changing though. The data streaming from devices that track your every move to genetic tests that tell how each molecule affects your health is revolutionizing medicine. We explore everything from the radical changes in the healthcare industry to the personal hacks of obsessive experimenters.
Drones, robots, and self-driving cars have the potential to reinvent industries as far-ranging as healthcare, logistics, commerce, and transit. And thanks to new developments in software, such as artificial intelligence and speech recognition, they’re getting smarter. This will create a vast, still-unknown world of possibilities—and risks.
The mobile revolution has forever changed how we communicate. Messaging apps already connect billions—and now they’re trying to take on commerce, search, and financial services. Brands and celebrities, from Elon Musk to Kobe Bryant, are using new publishing tools and channels to directly reach and influence their customers and fans. The rules—and business—of communications, advertising, and media are being rewritten. What happens when we’re all in touch?
Amid political turmoil, streets protests, and a Zika epidemic, Brazil is hosting the world’s largest sporting event. Here we look at who’s winning Rio 2016, from athletes to sponsors to cheerleading politicians.
Science and technology are upending how we learn. Cognitive science is uncovering more about how memory, motivation, and learning take place. Technology is disrupting how we search for, absorb and retain information. As countries scramble to produce competitive global citizens, everything from what we learn to how we learn it is in flux. We separate the science from the silly and look at how parents, teachers, and policymakers are responding.
In southeastern China, Shenzhen is a hub of tech giants like Tencent and drone maker DJI, as well as research labs and humming factories. Ninety percent of the world’s electronic goods come from Shenzhen and leave by its port. Some 20 million people now call it home, fueling the world’s fastest-rising home prices, and a volatile stock market. This obsession will explore how the world’s factory operates.
We all consume a staggering variety of resources and products from around the globe with increasingly convoluted origins. Whether it’s the clothes on our backs, food on our plates, or phones in our pockets we want to know: Where did this come from? How did it get here? And how does it affect the people who make and consume it?
The private sector is making its way out of the atmosphere as companies take on the tasks of launching astronauts and satellites, building space hotels and, yes, even going to Mars. But can the space business be profitable endeavor, or is it just an exciting way for billionaires to live out their fantasies?
Parenting in the information age can be maddening. Data and opinions are everywhere, but helpful guidance often feels in short supply. The conflicting advice is overwhelming: be loving but firm, aggressive but not psycho, encouraging but not coddling. We’ll help you stay sane with insights from experienced parents and research on everything from how to sleep train a baby to how to let your kids fail.
Since the summer of 2014, signs that Beijing is trying to dismantle Hong Kong’s cherished “one country, two systems” model have triggered growing waves of protest. At stake is not only the relative political freedom Hong Kong has enjoyed since Britain returned the territory to China in 1997, but its economic future, as it faces growing competition from other global financial hubs.
The legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use has reached a tipping point. If federal prohibition ends in the US, as many predict, the ramifications will span the globe as countries legalize to fight crime and develop new sources of wealth. Will the Green Economy be like a mega-corporate beer market, a farmer’s market, or something entirely new?
Humans have always had their own obsessions, some more universal, others more quirky and unique. With the rise of social media, members of niche communities are able to connect across the globe. Everyone from comic book lovers to paleo enthusiasts have created opportunities for new businesses. In this obsession, we explore the ways that economic opportunities are created by an affinity to an identity.
Between 2012 and 2016, the number of internet users worldwide is expected to double to some 5 billion people, and most of the new arrivals will be on mobile devices in emerging markets. The growth of this connected world will profoundly impact society, politics, technology, education, commerce, and finance.
Companies aren’t what they used to be; and neither are employees. As a generation of smart, demanding young people join the jobs market, every assumption we’ve made about work—where its done, by whom, for how long, and in what way—is being challenged. Workforces are more diverse and distributed. Technology is in the driving seat. And the concept of “career” is increasingly a chimera—multifarious and, perhaps, mythical.
From global shipping lanes to global warming, overfishing to piracy, the earth’s oceans are where some of the phenomena that define the 21st century economy are playing out. We’ll try to look at the sea as a country in itself, with its own economy, natural resources, environment, laws… and inhabitants.
An ever closer union or a collection of squabbling states? Europe’s grinding economic recovery has convinced some that deeper integration is needed, while others try to sever ties instead. We chronicle the political, social, and economic problems of building a bona fide “United States of Europe,” with an emphasis on how the region’s people and companies manage to survive, and even thrive, as the continent’s rules are rewritten.
The fiscal cliff (September-December 2012)
On Dec. 31, 2012, an automatic austerity package of tax hikes and spending cuts starts to kick in, with a recession to follow. The US government can make a deal to avoid that fate, but long-standing differences over government’s role in the economy haven’t disappeared. Both American businesses and global marketplaces depend on a solution, and the outcome will depend at least partly on the presidential election result. Can the two parties agree on deal that reduces the debt without reducing the economy to cinders? How will the repercussions affect American businesses and their trading partners? And will American sovereign debt be downgraded yet again, as it was in 2011 over the same sort of political deadlock?
The nation-state is struggling to keep up with the demands of the global economy. Multinational corporations, demographic trends, new technology and ways of doing business have reinvigorated old debates about the role of the public sector in the economy. After the global financial crisis, developed nations are trying to grow fast enough to support their standards of living, even as emerging markets challenge free-market capitalism with state-sponsored enterprise and industrial policy. What are the advantages and limits of state capitalism? Can struggling rich-world nations overhaul sclerotic institutions? How are state institutions adapting to rapid demographic and socioeconomic change? And how are national legal frameworks adapting to an increasingly transnational business world?
Low interest rates
In their attempt to quell the financial crisis of 2008-2009, central banks embarked on unprecedented new policies to flood the financial system with money. Today the crisis is over, the global economy is crippled, and those policies remain in place—indeed, central banks are likely to keep interest rates low for years to come. Savers, corporations, governments, and regulations are caught in the crossfire. What are the unexpected side-effects of low interest rates? Who will win and who will lose in this uncharted territory?
The next crisis
Economists now see the financial crisis and ensuing Great Recession as the culmination of years of poor policies and bad practices. In the ashes of the crisis, politicians and business leaders are establishing the framework of a new global system. But the reforms are the product of a mass of conflicting interests, and few doubt that it’s just a matter of time until the next bubble bursts. What are the new sources of financial instability and imprudent investment? Where is regulation still weak? And who stands to gain from the flaws still inherent in the global financial system?
A growing group of emerging-market startups are launching new business models, exporting them to other developing regions and even back to rich countries, adding new currents to the global flow of innovation. Startup culture is itself an economic indicator, reflecting and driving the kind of education and financing that makes countries competitive. Global venture capitalists are paying attention, even as new emerging-market investors emerge to capitalize on local growth rates and fresh capital protections. What does it take to foment a startup culture and which countries are doing it best? What are entrepreneurs and investors in emerging markets learning from their rich-country counterparts, and vice versa? What differences in entrepreneurial cultures and institutions will persist, and which will blur into universal trends?
China’s economic growth seems to be decelerating from its eye-popping highs, just as the country is going through its once-a-decade leadership transition. How will the new leadership set economic policy in the light of rivalry between political clans? How will it adjust to social unrest? And what effects is the economic slowdown having on industries and countries around the world that have come to depend on Chinese demand?
As the global middle class continues to swell, consumer spending on everything from corn to cars to air conditioners is hitting new highs, moving online and into emerging economies less affected than stagnant rich countries by recent recessions. How will consumer tastes evolve across borders? What sorts of companies and products will meet these changing demands? How will spending shape global trade and economics, and what are the political implications of more disposable income and time?
The mobile web
The web was born on desktop computers in Western countries. But more a tenth of the world’s web traffic is now on mobile phones, and it’s the so-called “developing” world that is leading the charge, with more than half of web use in some countries coming over mobile. Between ever-cheaper smartphones and “dumbphones” which cost as little as $10, plus the dawn of banking, messaging and social networking services that can run on any device, the possibility that everyone on earth could be connected is more real than ever. How will this disrupt existing internet giants, telecoms companies and the supply chain that creates mobile devices? How will new form factors, like watches and face-based computers, change our experience of the web? And how will we solve the problem of transmitting all this data within the limits of the electromagnetic spectrum?
Credit-card companies make money on every transaction. But the web, mobile phones and new sales terminals are making possible payment mechanisms that improve on credit card transactions or do away with them all together. That’s a lucrative business, which is why the payments sector has seen some of the highest pre-IPO valuations of any in Silicon Valley. Meanwhile, the rise of bitcoin and its imitators means that a stateless virtual currency could become a serious intermediary between other currencies, or payment method in its own right. And in emerging markets, payments via mobile phone are already turning telecoms companies into banks. All these changes are wresting the control of money from its traditional guardians.
The euro-zone crisis threatens to throw some countries into default and ever deeper recession, and roil global markets. But crisis fatigue has set in, turning the news from Europe into a mind-numbing succession of policy pronouncements and political spats. Rather than tracking every detail, we will boil our coverage down to a simple guide to the level of threat facing European unity. And in parallel we will focus on two questions: who is winning and losing in Europe’s turmoil, and what are the methods that people and companies are using to adjust, cope with, and even profit from the shifting economic circumstances?
The key to the “mobile” revolution is in fact gigantic, immobile data centers, containing the millions of servers that, collectively, comprise the “cloud.” The cloud uses both electricity and silicon more efficiently than personal computers, and as it moves into ever more nooks and crannies of our lives and brings about the genesis of an “internet of things”—from biosensing clothing to vast arrays of environmental monitors—profound shifts in how we live and work will result. What will be the effects on labor as software eats all routine cognitive tasks? Will “big data” result in profound new insights or only marginal improvements? And which of the companies that build and service the cloud will win or lose, as efficiencies are wrung from every part of it?
The crash of its real estate and stock markets in the early 1990s trapped Japan in a deflationary spiral and a state of perpetual low growth. Prime minister Shinzo Abe is now trying to spring that trap. Aggressive monetary policy, fiscal stimulus and structural reform are the pillars of this approach, which the world has nicknamed “Abenomics.” No government has ever tried anything so bold before. But neither has a country suffered from chronic deflation for so long. Can Abenomics succeed in reviving Japan? Or is it already too late for the world’s third-largest economy?
America’s creaky immigration regime has created a huge black market of unauthorized low-skilled labor; an enormous backlog of people waiting for citizenship; and, some companies say, a shortage of skilled labor. This year lawmakers in Washington see the chance to pass the first major reform in decades, and businesses and workers in sectors from agriculture to technology, and in countries from India to Mexico, are waiting (or lobbying) for a bill that could transform the US labor market.
During the boom years before the 2008 financial crash, few warned of the dangerous build-up of debt among the developed world’s governments, corporations and consumers. Yet when the debt bubble burst, it nearly brought the global economy to its knees. Now, just a few years on, pockets of the world economy—from China’s construction sector to US student borrowing—are again leveraging up. Where, when and why are certain areas proving irresistible magnets for investor cash? And when—it’s not a question of if—will debt, capitalism’s most powerful tool, will see another blowup?
How we buy
As the global middle class keeps swelling, consumer spending on everything from corn to cars to air conditioners is hitting new highs and moving online, and doing so especially fast in emerging economies. How are the newly affluent changing the face of luxury as well as the mass consumer market? What sorts of companies and products are meeting these changing demands? How is spending in developed economies shifting? What is the future of physical retail stores? Is the context between e-commerce operations and brick-and-mortar stores really a zero-sum war? How will spending shape global trade and economics, and how do shifting political tides affect spending?