2018-10-09  沙龙国际游戏登入

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If you have 1 trillion dollars, how are you going to spend it? Like a local tyrant to buy a private plane, live in a villa, or enjoy a gold plated toilet? Or are you going to burn with a bunch of bills?


Some money is too much. They can't imagine: one trillion dollars is only equivalent to Mexico's gross domestic product. So, in a way, if you don't spend anything, it will take more than 16,000 years to accumulate a billion dollars on a median American household income of less than $60,000. Earning one trillion will take 16 million years.


Apple recently became the first US-listed company with a market value of $1 trillion. So how long will it be before an individual passes the same milestone, and what will they have to do to get so filthy rich?


Been there, done that: maybe we’ve already had the first trillionaire


Hyperinflation produced plenty of trillionaires in Zimbabwe 10 years ago, but in a currency so worthless that a Z$100 billion note would cover just one trip on a public bus it’s probably fair to say they don’t count.


There’s a better case, however, for ancient kings, financiers and kleptocrats. Estimating their wealth is very tricky, but a few consistently make the list. Malian king Mansa Musa possessed so much gold that his wealth was simply beyond comprehension.

也有更适合的例子,譬如国王、金融家,还有窃贼。估算他们的身家不太容易,但也有几位一直排在万亿富豪之列。14世纪马里帝国的国王穆萨(Mansa Musa)黄金多到无法想象。

Other rulers, both in the middle ages and in antiquity had enormous wealth, but it’s tough to gauge exactly how much. Stanford historian Ian Morris estimated Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar’s fortune at about $4.6 trillion, although he admits these estimates need to be taken with a fistful of salt.

其他中世纪和古代统治者们也是家财万贯,但很难算清到底有多少。美国斯坦福大学的历史学家莫里斯(Ian Morris)估计,罗马凯撒大帝(Augustus Caesar)的财富大概有4万6千亿美元,不过他也承认里面可能有水分。

“Today even people like you and me can watch TV, use the Internet or wander into Boots or Walgreens and buy drugs like Viagra or Prozac that Roman emperors would have given their hind teeth for. In a way, we're richer than Augustus, and yet in other ways he was rich on a scale that makes Donald Trump look like he's on minimum wage,” he says.

莫里斯说:'如今,你我这样的普通人也能看电视、上网、去博姿公司(Boots)或是沃尔格林药房(Walgreens)买上一盒伟哥(壮阳药)或者百忧解(抗抑郁药),这可都是罗马帝王们愿意用全部身家来交换的。某种程度而言,我们比凯撒大帝还富有,但从另一角度看,跟凯撒大帝相比,美国总统特朗普(Donald Trump)领的都是最低工资。'

Putting people out of work with machines


Many futurists think the first trillionaire will make their fortune from innovations that make today’s technology seem a little ancient. Artificial intelligence (AI) has progressed in leaps and bounds in recent years, and its potential applications could touch almost every corner of our lives. Businesses are investing heavily, and at least one billionaire think it’s a solid bet.


'I am telling you, the world's first trillionaires are going to come from somebody who masters AI and all its derivatives and applies it in ways we never thought of,' businessman and Shark Tank host Mark Cuban told the SXSW Conference last year.

库班(Mark Cuban)是名商人,也是美国发明类真人秀节目《创智赢家》(Shark Tank)的主持人。他在去年的西南偏南大会(SXSW Conference,每年在美国举行的大型音乐节)上表示:'全球首批万亿富豪一定是掌握了AI及其衍生品的人,而且他们使用AI的方式出乎我们意料。'

But how exactly will AI create tycoons? There are many possibilities. “Machine learning is already being used for drug discovery and design. Imagine a new AI-engineered drug that can significantly prolong human lifespan or cure Alzheimer's... that would surely result in massive wealth,” says futurist Martin Ford, the author of Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future.

但AI如何造就大亨?可能性有很多。马丁·福特(Martin Ford)是个未来主义者,著有《机器人崛起:科技与未来失业的威胁》(Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future)。他说:'机器学习已经用于药品的研究和设计,试想有一种由AI开发的新药能大大延长人类寿命,或是能治愈老年痴呆症,那肯定能赚到金银满屋。'

The danger, though, is that there’s a trillion-dollar fortune in killing off jobs. Why hire a human if a machine can do the same work without demanding pay, holidays or health insurance? A smaller workforce doing the same work could mean that even more money floats to the top. The consultancy McKinsey estimates that AI could eliminate as many as 800 million jobs.


These fears and challenges have certain parallels in the 19th Century. Like today’s era of digital transformation, the industrial revolution fuelled a massive shift in the economy and made some people enormously rich. Cornelius Vanderbilt made a fortune from railway and shipping, while John D Rockefeller made his fortune in oil and was possibly America's first billionaire (although this is disputed) while car maker Henry Ford was the second. Adjusting for inflation, all were arguably wealthier than Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos is today (but again, comparisons need to be treated with caution).

类似的担忧以及挑战在19世纪时也都出现过。当时的工业革命带来了经济的巨大变革,让一部分人富到流油,跟当今的数字化转型如出一辙。范德比尔特(Cornelius Vanderbilt)从铁路和航运大捞一笔,而洛克菲勒(John D Rockefeller)靠的是石油,他还很可能是美国第一位十亿富豪(虽然有争议),第二位则是制造汽车的亨利·福特(Henry Ford)。放到今天,根据通货膨胀调整之后,这三个人的财富也都超过了亚马逊公司的创始人兼CEO贝索斯(Jeff Bezos)(但这种比较得非常小心)。

Exactly how this century’s potentially wrenching economic transformation will play out is up for debate. Some believe that it will simply shift the focus of work (much like the industrial revolution before it) and we’ll simply end up doing different types of jobs. Others feel the shift might be more fundamental, and it might leave some workers permanently jobless as AI improves and takes over an increasing number of roles. And it’s difficult to predict how quickly things will change.


“That is definitely a strong possibility if the AI is leveraged for job automation (something that seems inevitable),” says Martin Ford. “On the other hand, if the wealth generation results primarily from leveraging AI in financial markets or in biotechnology, then the impact on labour markets might be less immediate – but probably still inevitable once the technology scales across other industries.”




The crypto world is full of bloviating evangelists and pump-and-dump scammers. But it has made a diverse group of people rich in a very short time. Forbes compiled a list in early February, which suggested there were at least a few potential billionaires, including the Winklevoss twins and the founder of Ripple (XRP), Chris Larsen – who, at the peak of the crypto craze, briefly became one of the world’s richest men, according to the New York Times and other US media.

加密货币领域多是夸夸其谈的大忽悠和将股票恶性拉高再卖出的大骗子,但也让很多人一夜暴富。今年二月初,福布斯(Forbes)统计了一份身家十亿的富豪名单,在《纽约时报》和其他美国媒体眼中,这几个人都是趁着加密货币的势头,一跃成为全球富豪榜的暴发户,譬如著名的加密货币投资人文克莱沃斯(Winklevoss)双胞胎兄弟,以及网络货币瑞波币(Ripple)的创始人拉森(Chris Larsen)。

“There’s a lot of creative people figuring out how to monetise this, in lots of ways we never anticipated in the past,” says Thomas Frey, a futurist who has written extensively about the industries that will create the first trillionaire. “There’s so much activity in that space right now. And there’s so many people involved, that there’s potential for it to scale quickly.”

未来主义者弗雷(Thomas Frey)就加密货币这个将诞生首个万亿富豪的行业写了大量文章。他认为:'很多有想法的人正在设法从这些行业中赚钱,很多方法过去绝对想不到。加密货币现在非常活跃,参与者很多,很可能会急速发展。'

Bitcoin made the most headlines, with growth of 1,318% during 2017, but it wasn't even near the top of the list when it comes to rapid growth. Other well-known cryptocurrencies like Litecoin and Ethereum grew faster, while Ripple (XRP) grew 36,018% in the same period meaning $100 invested in Ripple in January 2017 would have grown to over $36,000 by the start of 2018. With such strong returns, it's easy to see how investors could get rich very quickly if they cashed out.


Any victory could be fleeting though. Cryptocurrencies have been shown to be exceptionally volatile. When Forbes created its list earlier this year, it was out of date before it went to print, with many of the wealthiest (like the Winklevosses) slipping below the billion-dollar line before publication.


So, the first trillionaire could be a rich and reckless tycoon making a huge casino-style bet on a cryptocurrency and getting lucky. But Thomas Frey says anyone who reaches the twelve-figures threshold this way might only stay in the stratosphere for a day or two before gravity teaches them a lesson.


Moon rock tycoons


The world has limited natural resources such as oil or diamonds but our appetite for them seems to be ever-increasing. That’s particularly true for some metals that are found in electronic components. And if we can’t find what we need on earth, maybe someone could make a fortune finding them elsewhere.


According to website Asterank, which estimates the mineral and profit potential of known asteroids, there are many fortunes to be won out in space. The most valuable asteroids could hide deposits worth more than $100 trillion.


“The space resources market is an untapped market and it will certainly be a lucrative one, so a large opportunity exists, especially for early investors,' according to Takeshi Hakamada, the founder and CEO of ispace, a company that hopes to settle on the moon and eventually profit from it too.

太空创业公司ispace打算进军月球,从中获利,其创始人兼CEO袴田(Takeshi Hakamada)表示:'太空资源市场还未开发,收益可观,机会很多,对早期投资者尤其如此。'

The problem, of course, is that it’s extremely expensive to recover these riches. Plenty of companies have gone broke digging for gold here on earth, so the financial risk of trying the same in space is clear. But Hakamada says there’s a longer game. Resource extraction is just the first step in creating an entire economy in space.


'Resource utilisation will just be the starting point to open up other market opportunities in space. Once resources are identified – enabling people to live and work on the Moon – industries will be able to consider the Moon as an extension of their business on Earth,” he says.


The fountain of youth


Immortality has long been a human dream, and it has been the subject of any number of experiments, both mainstream and eccentric. A few people have had themselves cryogenically frozen, in case medical science catches up with whatever killed them.


Big players are already looking into other solutions. Google has funded a billion-dollar research group called Calico, which studies the ageing process and focuses on “moonshot” life-extending solutions.


The demand is fairly obvious, and Thomas Frey says it’s easy to see how a cost-effective solution that offers immortality would scale-up in a very short time. Frey points out that if everyone on earth spent $10 a day on a pill to keep them alive, and continuing to take the pill was effectively a life-or-death decision, whoever made the pill would become astonishingly rich.


But the science is so new, and so untested that it’s difficult to figure out which techniques show promise and which ones don’t.


“It’s really hard to sort through all the junk out there, so to speak,” he says.


We’ve met the first trillionaire, but they’re not there yet


Let’s just say it: there’s a good chance the first trillionaire will be Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. He has a fortune of more than $150bn, which means he has a $50bn head start over the next richest man, Bill Gates, who’s too busy giving away his money to catch up.

可以这么说,首位万亿富豪很可能是亚马逊公司的创始人贝索斯。他现在身家超过1500亿美元,比排在第二的盖茨(Bill Gates)多了500亿。盖茨到处捐款,资产是不会超过贝索斯了。

The business world is always fickle, and a bad week on the stock exchange could wipe out a lot of that money overnight. But at the moment, Amazon seems to be getting stronger. Entire sectors now tremble when Amazon announces it might move in on their turf. And its profits, for a long time far more modest than its colossal revenues, are improving.


Also, nothing is as effective at creating wealth as wealth itself. And one estimate suggests that Jeff Bezos would have to spend $28 million a day in order to avoid accumulating more wealth. Research by Oxfam has found that the wealth held by the super-rich since 2009 has increased by an average of 11% per year. If billionaires continue to secure these returns, we could see the world’s first trillionaire in 25 years. Not everyone buys this estimate, but the world’s wealthiest person would have to be a contender regardless.


Should we have trillionaires?


The argument in favour of massive wealth is that it’s a reward for innovators who fundamentally change the way we live, and usually for the better. A trillion-dollar fortune might come on the back of a large, efficient company that creates jobs and provides essential products and services. But will it really happen that way?


“Sure, wealth rewards to a certain extent talent and hard work. But to a large extent it doesn’t,” says Ana Caistor Arendar, the head of Oxfam’s inequality campaign.

在乐施会负责社会不公运动的安连达(Ana CaistorArendar)表示:'某种程度而言,财富当然是对才华和努力的奖励,但很多情况下并非如此。'

Not every fortune is won off the back of innovation. Some of the rich inherit their wealth while others at least inherit a head-start. They have the means to avoid taxes more easily than the rest of us. Their companies sometimes pay low wages to people in developing countries. In short, she argues a trillion-dollar fortune could come at the expense of everyone else.


But it’s tricky to rein in massive wealth. In the middle of last century, the top marginal tax bracket reached 90% in the US, but in practice very few paid it because it focused on income rather than investments. And the rich hire good accountants who help them clutch onto as much of their money as they legally can.


Few governments have shown any real recent interest in revisiting these policies. Then again, the tremendous disparities of wealth of the gilded age spurred governments into action. Maybe governments will feel compelled to act as the super-rich claim an ever-larger share of the pie.


But if they don’t, then the first trillionaire might only be a matter of time.


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