Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Economic complexity

From useless to keystone

Technological innovation seems to be dominated by chance. But a new mathematical analysis suggests we might be able to anticipate when seemingly useless technologies become keystones of more complex environments.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Fink, T. et al. Nat. Commun. 8, 2002 (2017).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Solow, R. M. Q. J. Econ. 70, 65–94 (1956).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Romer, P. M. J. Econ. Perspect. 8, 3–22 (1994).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Hidalgo, C. A. & Hausmann, R. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 106, 10570–10575 (2009).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Weitzman, M. L. Q. J. Econ. 113, 331–360 (1998).

    MathSciNet  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Hidalgo, C. A., Klinger, B., Barabási, A.-L. & Hausmann, R. Science 317, 482–487 (2007).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Neffke, F., Henning, M. & Boschma, R. Econ. Geogr. 87, 237–265 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Zhu, S., He, C. & Zhou, Y. J. Econ. Geogr. 17, 521–545 (2017).

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Boschma, R., Balland, P.-A. & Kogler, D. F. Ind. Corp. Change 24, 223–250 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Guevara, M. R., Hartmann, D., Aristarán, M., Mendoza, M. & Hidalgo, C. A. Scientometrics 109, 1695–1709 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Bustos, S., Gomez, C., Hausmann, R. & Hidalgo, C. A. PLOS ONE 7, e49393 (2012).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to César A. Hidalgo.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hidalgo, C. From useless to keystone. Nature Phys 14, 9–10 (2018).

Download citation

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing