"We need to be ready for a world with trillionaires in it," says Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, the tech industry's largest and most well-respected incubator for start-ups. "And that's always going to feel deeply unfair. It feels unfair to ...and more »
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With an estimated net worth of $75 billion, Bill
Gates, the richest person on Earth, would need to add another
$925 billion to his fortune before becoming the first
trillionaire in history.
As implausible as it may sound, one Silicon Valley entrepreneur
believes such an achievement isn't just doable, but over the next
several decades, inevitable â€” and it won't necessarily
beÂ Gates who gets there.
"We need to be ready for a world with trillionaires in it,"
says Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, the tech
industry's largest and most well-respected incubator for
start-ups. "And that's always going to feel deeply unfair. It
feels unfair to me. But to drive society forward, you've got to
let that happen."
Altman's hunch is a solid one.Â
Bob Lord, an inequality analyst and tax attorney, believesÂ the
shift in wealth could happen as early as 25 to 30 years from now.
But it probably won't be someone like Gates who makes it to 13
digits first â€” Gates is far too preoccupied with giving his money
away, Lord says.Â
"I think it's going to take someone less like Gates and more like
Rockefeller," he tells Tech Insider.
Elon Musk, the world's
John D. Rockefeller, who wasÂ lucky enough to fall into the
money-making oil industry, largely preferredÂ to sit on
hisÂ wealth rather than pay it forward. At his richest, the
worth the equivalent of $350 billion in today's money.
The first billionaireÂ could be a total unknown, Lord says,
or it could be someone like Elon Musk "who hits four or five home
runs rather than one."
"Someone is going to create something that no one has conceived
of before," he says. And chances are, that something will produce
unprecedented levels of wealth for one person at the tippy top.
Altman, for his part, believes technological innovation will
increase exponentially to the point where the people behind those
innovations will make hundreds of billions of dollars a year.
He believes theÂ more money that companies like Y
Combinator put behind niche industriesÂ like driverless
vehicles and virtual reality, the more popular they will become
and the more likely it is that theyÂ can transform
"The first trillionaire will be
an inventor, someone who creates something world-changing, like
Bill Gates did with the PC," Oliver Williams, of the London-based
consultants Wealth Insight,
told The TimesÂ of London
Driverless vehicles could become the trillionaire's
According to Credit Suisse's
2013 Global Wealth Report, global wealth has more than
doubled since 2000, reaching an all-time high of $241
trillion.Â The analysis found there could be more than a
billion millionaires globally, or roughly 20% of the adult
population, within just two generations.
"If this scenario unfolds," the authors write, "then billionaires
will be commonplace, and there is likely to be a few
trillionaires too â€” eleven according to our best estimate."
That's right: There could be as many as 11 trillionaires walking
the planet within the next 50 years.
"I think we just have to accept that there are going to be people
who have wildly more money than others," AltmanÂ says. "The
tradeoff of that is that I think we should guarantee a pretty
good standard of living for everybody, but this socialism ideal
that everyone should be totally equal â€” I don't think that's
going to work."
If the world is overflowing with money, most people will receive
a small portion of that wealth, ideally enough to create a
stableÂ life should they choose to work or not, Altman
believes. And atÂ the other end will be the
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