Using Google logs, an international team of scientists has found that in 2012 Germans searched for the future on the Internet more than any other nation.
The researchers from the UK, Switzerland and the United States looked at the number of Google searches people conducted in a given year for both the preceding year and the next year to come. They call the ratio the ‘Future Orientation Index.’
Their previous study, published in the Scientific Reports, has shown that countries with internet users who search for more information about the future tend to have a higher per-capita GDP.
To find the correlation for 2012, the team analyzed queries from 45 different countries. The results show Germany as the nation most focused on the future, with Japan second, Switzerland third and the UK fourth, at the bottom of the rankings are Pakistan, Vietnam and Kazakhstan.
In 2011 the UK was the nation most focused on 2012 in comparison to 2010, as the country prepared for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Poland and Ukraine also ranked higher in 2011, in the lead up to their joint hosting of the European Football Championships in 2012, but fell 11 and 13 places each in 2012. Germany’s rise up the charts in 2012 may be driven by a focus on their upcoming general elections, scheduled for this year.
Nigeria was the biggest climber in 2012, moving up 15 places and despite its economy entering its fifth recession in 15 years, Japan also made a big leap up the Future-Orientation Index, rising nine to third.
“In general we find a strong tendency for countries in which Google users enquire more about the future to exhibit a larger per capita GDP. There seems to be a relationship with the economic success of a country and the information seeking behavior of its citizens online,” said lead author Prof Tobias Preis of Warwick Business School.
“We see two leading explanations for this relationship between search activity and GDP. Firstly, these findings may reflect international differences in attention to the future and the past, where a focus on the future supports economic success. Secondly, these findings may reflect international differences in the type of information sought online, perhaps due to economic influences on available Internet infrastructure,” said co-author Dr Helen Susannah Moat of University College London.
Bibliographic information: Tobias Preis et al. 2012. Quantifying the Advantage of Looking Forward. Scientific Reports 2, article number: 350; doi: 10.1038/srep00350