Graham Duncan, the co-founder of East Rock Capital, appeared on the Tim Ferris podcast in March 2019. He spoke of an interesting concept during that conversation that is the subject of today’s post — the idea of “time billionaires.”
Tim Ferriss: So time billionaires. What does that refer to?
Graham Duncan: I was listening to a guy introduced a speaker a while ago. And he was saying people don’t really understand the difference between billionaires and millionaires. He said a million seconds is like 11 days. A billion seconds is 31 years. And I remember that …
Tim Ferriss: Oh, shit. That’s a hell of a way to think about it.
Graham Duncan: Right?
Tim Ferriss: Wait. Can you say that one more time?
Graham Duncan: A million seconds is 11 days. A billion seconds is slightly over 31 years. And I was thinking about – Tyler Cowen has a thing about cultural billionaires –
Tim Ferriss: Marginal Revolution?
Graham Duncan: Yeah. In one of his books, he talks about cultural billionaires. I feel like in our culture, we’re so obsessed, as a culture, with money. And we deify dollar billionaires in a way that – it’d be nice to co-opt that term the way Tyler Cowen did with cultural billionaires. And I was thinking of time billionaires that when I see, sometimes, 20-year-olds – the thought I had was they probably have two billion seconds left. But they aren’t relating to themselves as time billionaires. And I was thinking about how if you could – what would Rupert Murdoch, who’s worth $20 billion – he’s 87 years old. What would he pay if he could take the next five years of someone’s 20-year-old healthy body, mind, etc.? And for that 20-year-old, how would they price it? Because I was thinking at various points of my career, I might have sold the next five years for something.
And over time, my pricing has gone vertical because the next five years, if I were to lose – and the key to this question is that you can’t sell the five at the end of your life. You gotta sell them right now. I don’t know how I’d price it because my kids are of a certain age that they’ll never be again. But I don’t know that I live every day that way. But I aspire to. So I was trying to capture – I heard Tim Urban on your podcast. And I started reading his stuff. And I find his writing style and the topics he is interested in just amazing. He has this concept of life calendar. And I bought his life calendar. He sells it as a poster. And what he does is he puts a week – he does a circle for each week. So he has 52 circles on the horizontal and then 90 rows so that you can see a 90-year life in weeks. And what’s startling about the picture – again, to this question of how long is a billion seconds – is how short it actually is.