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When Can $300 Billion Get You?

Imagine land without roads, houses, humans or technology. You probably see beasts roam forests, birds soar through skies and predators hunt prey. Nature in control. Now strip away animals and trees until everything is silent. Boring, isn’t it? Welcome to Earth 1.15 billion years ago. Why are we here? Because if a dollar was a day, that’s how far $420 billion would get us (1 150 684 931.5 years exactly). Simple, multicellular life, recovering from a mass extinction a billion years before, roamed the seas. Space radiation from lack of Ozone refused land of animals and plants, but in 550 million years, that would change. They say time is money, which I have proven, but let’s discuss shorter periods we understand.


A billion dollars is enough for a lifetime, but $420 billion will serve generations. If Elon grew no richer, and gave himself a heft, billion dollar yearly allowance, it would last until 2441. AI may control everything (in a good way), and, fingers-crossed, renewable technologies will power the world. Quantum computing will advance civilisation beyond recognition and loading times will be absent. Imagine gaming and impossibly fast internet. What universal secrets will be uncovered? Humans will never know climate or pandemic struggles, but they’ll complain about something. It’s difficult, but fun, to predict the future, but history is different. People lived, and wrote it, sometimes inaccurately, but let’s explore bygone times.

Welcome to 1601. Columbus “discovered” America nine years ago, and in five years, Willem Janszoon will stumble across Australia. Queen Elizabeth I, near the end of her 45 year reign over Britain, squashed a rebellion, while Shakespeare wrote Hamlet and Twelfth Night. The Tsardom of Russia (Russia before the Russian Empire), was the biggest, baddest, Empire of the day, but the early 1600s was messy. Times of Trouble, a transition from the Rurik Dynasty to the Romanovs, devastated the country. Uprisings and famine plagued the lands, with six leaders taking taking the throne between 1598 and 1613. Australia has competition, but Russia sorted itself out.


Let’s dive into real salaries. Elon Musk is worth $420, but that’s shares (Musk wasn’t paid a salary last year, but received a heft $6.6 billion award). 2020s highest paid CEO, Chad Richison, earned a massive $211.13 million (I assume that’s US dollars, so let’s switch to AUD. $295 994 548.02). A mighty salary. Let’s give our mate Elon, Chad’s 2020 earnings. It’ll last until 3 439 (God knows the advancements we’d make), or we could travel back to 603.

An amazing, yet terrible, era. China exploited farmers, slaves, and criminals, to build their Grand Canal. Great for the country, not the builders. Around that time, Muhammad started preaching the words of Allah in Mecca (the Saudi Arabian city, not the body-care store) and founded Islam. The Scots moved from Northern Ireland to Scotland early in the 600s, while Persia claimed Jerusalem and massacred innocent Christians. People loved killing and conquering.


That’s enough of big bucks. Let’s move to average salaries. Income varies significantly depending on your location. First world countries earn more than third world countries, and because this difference is so large, I’ll compare how far we go with the highest average salary, and the lowest. Get ready for the existential crisis of realising you have it good. Luxembourg usually tops the highest earners lists, but wage averages range between $53 000 to $68 000. Apparently, nobody has bothered checking with Luxembourg what they pay people. The medium between those figures is $60 500 USD, or $84 351.70 AUD (I have to move to Luxembourg). Mr Musk could stretch that for 4 979 152.76 years. Bipedalism was new, or upcoming, while an unknown ancient ancestor created new branches in the tree of evolutionary life to separate us from chimps and bonobos. Animals grazed, hunted, slept, and had babies. No extinction inducing species bothered the peaceful creatures roaming the lands. All was well.

Finding the lowest average wage is much harder than the highest wages. Countries wouldn’t want others knowing they have lower wages, but knowing helps this article. At the bottom, we have a country so poor, you’ll feel rich. Burundi (a country in East Africa), see average annual wages hit $353.72. That’s $6.8 a week, or 97 cents a day. That’ll last 1 187 279 848 years, or 36 694 917 years more than a dollar a day. 36 million years extra sounds massive, but above a billion years, it’s nothing. It’s comparing 36 years to a thousand. Little happened between 1.187 billion and 1.150 billion years, but now I’m grateful for my wage. It’s hard to complain when others suffer.

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