Quantifying the unquantifiable

60 trillion

2.5 billion years

$121/day

Lately, there has been some interesting takes on quantifying the unquantifable, on a variety of topics. We always like to see things quantified, but sometimes the result of quantifying things that can’t really be quantified doesn’t really get the desired results. For example the above numbers, they’re very hard to relate to.

First, $60 trillion. This is, according to a new study in Nature, an estimate of the cost of all the methane gas that will be released from a melting Arctic. To put this in context, this is almost the size of the world economy (the GDP of the world is approximately $70 trillion per year, nominal). This of course hinges on tons of assumptions, some of which people are already saying is wrong, but regardless, the amount is just…staggering. It should make anyone realize that our economy and life will be irreversibly changed in a not-too-far future.

Second, 2.5 billion years. This is the aggregate amount of life lost in China due to pollution. It’s a simple calculation, just 5 years per each of the 500 million people in Northern China. But when you arrive at 2.5 billion years, again, you arrive at a staggering number. That’s almost 60% of the entire life span of the earth, just by taking a fraction of the lives of half of the now living Chinese. Even if that saying about more people living on earth now would be larger than the number who’s ever lived turned out to be wrong, it still shows what an extraordinary amount of lives are on earth right now.

Third, $121/day. This is a fun one, apparently the going rate for putting an ad on your thigh. Of course, this is in Japan, where advertising has always moved leaps and bounds ahead of advertising in the rest of the world. Hard to know how they arrived at that number, it’s not really a question you can put to your average focus group. As wrong as this is overall, it also seems illogical that it is in one of the world’s richest countries that people literally “sell their bodies”, versus in poorer countries, where you could see a larger opportunity for it. Hey, Nestle! One to consider.

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