Why billionaires dont give a damn

Why billionaires dont give a damn

It takes more than imagination to understand how big a billion is. A million is in the grasp of the average mind; This is 10 lakhs. Six zeros one after the other. Add three more notes and you get a billion. These three zeros may sound like three zeros more, but if a million is an ant, then a billion is a gigantosaurus.

I always thought that a billion was a little over a million, and millionaires and billionaires were more or less interchangeable. they are not. If you save Rs 100 a day, it will take you about 27,397 years to reach Rs 1 billion.

You’re wondering why I’m talking so much about Arabs. Honest truth: The word has come up too many times to my liking in recent times, buzzing around my ears like a mosquito after sunset.

First we all heard that Amazon boss Jeff Bezos blew $5.5 billion to spend 11 minutes in outer space.

I recently read that Mark

Zuckerberg, the man who built his wealth by selling your personal details to others, lost $20 billion to his virtual reality platform Meta in just one year. It had invested $10 billion in it, and plans to invest tens of billions more.

The clinic was last week. We’ve all heard that the world’s (current) richest man, Elon Musk, invested $44 billion to buy the world’s most influential social media platform- Twitter. To put this in perspective, NASA is sending humans to the Moon in its Artemis program for $6.68 billion.

In the name of preserving freedom of expression, Musk has already fired half of Twitter’s staff, sacking nearly all of its fact-checking and moderation teams, and plans to reward any customers who Pays $8 per month with blue-ticks attesting to your credibility. Advertisers are on the run and politicians are in panic, conspiracy theories, hate speech and election lines suddenly going unchecked on Twitter.

But for Elon Musk, $44 billion is a sideshow. He now has a shiny toy. He’s having fun.

I use a party game to demonstrate the value of money. Imagine you’re about to buy a Rolex watch—about $5,000. As you’re reaching for your wallet, I tap your shoulder and whisper that same watch is available a block away at another store for $350 less. Would you go for the bargain? I doubt you’d say it’s too much walking.

Now imagine that you were buying an Aston Martin Vulcan at a cost of $2.3 million. I tap you again, same shoulder, to let you know that this $350 low is going a block away. I guess this time you will tell me to leave your shoulder alone.

The reason why $350 seems less important when part of a few millions rather than a few thousands is because humans set a price for something based on how much it is available. It’s that easy. The more money you have, the less it matters.

For an unskilled Maharashtrian worker who earns 466.42 ($5.6) a day and eats five mouthfuls, 100 rupees is worth 10,000 rupees. For Mukesh Ambani, who earns Rs 90 crore an hour, that amount would be an invisible speck of dust in the evening sun.

The billionaires named here share many traits. None of them know what it feels like to be deprived and struggle to survive. Three of them were born brats, though devilishly clever and inventive. But here is what binds them all—in the way of their billions, they all lose empathy, the ability to see other human beings and feel their pain. No matter how many hospitals they fund and scholarships for corporate social responsibility, billionaires are inevitably blinded by their money.

In 2012, psychologists from the University of California at Berkeley showed college students two videos—one showing how to build a patio and the other about the difficult lives of children with cancer. They found that wealthy participants were less likely to report feeling compassion for the children and their families in the second video.

An earlier study led by a psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco found that rich people are less able to read other people’s emotions than poor people.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman argues that if those with more power cannot ‘see’ the wealthy who have less, there is an empathy gap. Without addressing that first, there’s not much you can do about the money gap.

Elon Musk doesn’t care about lies, truth and hate speech. The money Bezos flew into space in 11 minutes would have quenched the world’s hunger. And Zuckerberg, whose first step toward Facebook was an app to help boys rate girls based on their breasts and bottoms, is blowing up billions on meta because he’s expecting trillions to come back.

If there is a lesson in all of this, it may be in the words of my favorite revolutionary mystic, Steve Jobs. “Stay hungry. Be a fool.”

I would add- “Stay poor.”

You can reach out to CY Gopinath at cygopi@gmail.com

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The views expressed in this column are those of the individual and do not represent the views of the paper



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