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### What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 2:46 am UTC
What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

To be a bit of an anti-joke chicken, probably the best bet is that eventually there will be a hyperinflation of the dollar (or just slow inflation with below-inflation interest rates) which makes that sum worthless.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 3:35 am UTC
I'm a little disappointed that Randall didn't get compounding interest involved in some way, especially since exponential growth figures into several other What Ifs. All you'd need to do is invest a few bucks in China, and wait umm..

Spoiler:
Trying to mind my sig figs, can't be bothered to go look it up.
Using double precision floats in Python for the calculations.
n = log( 2e36/20 ) / log( 1.099 )
n = log( 1e35 ) / log( 1.099 )
n = 850

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical ... ent_status
http://www.mathsisfun.com/money/compound-interest.html

About 850 years.. Doesn't seem all that crazy among the alternatives Randall suggests. I guess it just wasn't crazy-insane enough!

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 4:01 am UTC
I think he is off by a factor of 1,000 in the calculation of the value of all the humans on the planet. There are about 7 billion of us, and at \$8.7 million a pop, we'd be worth a total of \$60 quadrillion, not \$60 trillion.

I wonder if this changes the answer for whether we are worth more than the oil.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 4:14 am UTC
If I did my calculations right, the sphere of pennies would still by larger than its Schwarzschild radius, but I figure the result would still be a black hole.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 4:35 am UTC
Himself wrote:If I did my calculations right, the sphere of pennies would still by larger than its Schwarzschild radius, but I figure the result would still be a black hole.

The Schwarzschild radius doesn't have to do with whether something collapses into a black hole, it describes where the event horizon is at for something with a radius less than its Schwarzschild. Since pennies are made of mostly zinc and some copper, which do not give off energy when fused, and the sphere has a mass 25000 times the mass of our sun, it would collapse into a black hole.

I don't know whether or not Mercury would actually hit the sphere; I'm sure the sphere would collapse faster than Mercury fell, but the planet would fall inside it's Roche limit at least, meaning Mercury would be destroyed.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 4:57 am UTC
SMS text messages are 1120 bits, and retail for as much as a dime. Landauer claims that (at perfect thermodynamic efficiency) a bit costs kT ln(2), 18 milli-electron volts of energy at room temperature. That is 2.9E-21 joules, so a dollar's worth of texts is in some sense worth 3.2E-17 joules, thus a joule is worth 3.1E16 dollars. A 16 megaton nuclear explosion is 6.7E16 joules, so the blast is worth 2.1E33 dollars, \$2.1 Undecillion, in an information theoretic sense.

I suggest Au Bon Pain find a surplus Soviet H bomb, strap the plaintiff to it, and ask him if he still wants \$2 Undecillion. He can even keep the change.

Alternatively, he can get a front row seat for a relativistic baseball game.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 6:35 am UTC
Hmm.. what about if the energy isn't stored as texts made of quantum single-bit energy, but regular home electric power at ~3 cents per megajoule? Hmm.. your Soviet nuke would be pretty worthless, just a hair above \$2 billion (come to think of it, those things are pretty efficient, we should make some kind of power plant with them....). The sun would give us about \$1.15 sextillion per second, which means we need something like 5 million years to pay off this debt using the Sun's fusion power. If we sent a swarm of nanites to Eta Carinae and corrected it's entire output, it would pay off in just 5 years, but would take at least 12000 to begin reaching us if both the nanites and the totally harmless ultra dense energy beam targetted at the solar system that could literally vaporize Earth in under a second (although Earth would actually take longer than that to fly apart) were traveling at nearly lightspeed. For reasons, I think it is best to assume that all of this energy is going directly into the plaintiff's laptop charger. (Also for reasons, his laptop battery will appear to have gained about 11% of an Earth mass when fully charged). Yeah, okay, so we're pretty sure that the most practical way to pay this guy off within his lifetime would be by finding a Mercury-sized chunk of antimatter and choosing it with mercury, preferably while he is there.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 6:44 am UTC
whiskeytown79 wrote:I think he is off by a factor of 1,000 in the calculation of the value of all the humans on the planet. There are about 7 billion of us, and at \$8.7 million a pop, we'd be worth a total of \$60 quadrillion, not \$60 trillion.

Same little disappointment here while reading the article.

whiskeytown79 wrote:I wonder if this changes the answer for whether we are worth more than the oil.

According to xkcd's "Money" chart (xkcd 980), the world's oil represents about \$132 trillion... which is more than \$60 trillion, but far less than \$60 quadrillion. Pity, I liked the "Come to think of it, that explains a lot."

But then, if there's \$132 trillion worth of oil, I wonder why there should be only \$77 trillion worth of "sellable stuff in the world" (second image)... The "Money" chart mentions \$77 trillion worth of liquid assets, but (afaik) liquid assets are only cash and things close to cash like checking accounts, gold... I don't know a lot about finance, but for instance I'm pretty sure real estate is not considered in liquid assets but is still some "sellable stuff", no? Am I getting something wrong?

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 7:24 am UTC
pds314 wrote:your Soviet nuke would be pretty worthless
OK, you're right, I'm wrong. So what am I supposed to do with this damned thing, if Au Bon Pain isn't going to buy it? Cost me only \$27 on eBay, but it takes up most of the living room, and the leaking tritium keeps setting off the smoke detector. Shipping was free, but it will cost a bundle to fill in the crater the delivery made in the back yard.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 8:38 am UTC
i get that some crazy people demand fantastic amounts of money for perceived slights. what i don't get is how a lawyer would actually support this.
also, the source mentions "attempted murder". wouldn't that be a criminal charge?

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 9:07 am UTC
"If the Earth's weight were entirely postage stamps..."

As the Earth is in freefall around the sun, it weighs next to nothing*. That's not a lot of postage stamps...

Of course, we know that Randall meant mass - unlike him to make such a fundamental mistake, though...

T.

*Asimov, The Stars in Their Courses [ISBN-13: 978-0586041222], "The Man who Massed the Earth”

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 10:29 am UTC
TheTomahawk wrote:"If the Earth's weight were entirely postage stamps..."

As the Earth is in freefall around the sun, it weighs next to nothing*. That's not a lot of postage stamps...

If we use the fairly standard definition that "weight" is mass times local gravitational acceleration, then the weight of the Earth is F= GMm/r^2 or about 3.7x10^22 N (assuming the figures I just googled are all accurate). Not that I'm calling it fat or anything.

At the same distance from the Sun, you'd need the same mass of postage stamps to get the same figure, which would be a heck of a lot of postage stamps. Of course, nearer the Sun, you'd need a lot fewer…

Of course, you're right that it's also "weightless". Physics and language don't play very nicely, do they.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 11:49 am UTC
Time to ruin everyones fun with the actual answer to the whatif.

What if Au Bon Pain lost this lawsuit and had to pay the plaintiff \$2 undecillion?

Au Bon Pain is a legal company with limited liability. The company would file for liquidation, have all its assets sold off, then the plaintiff would hop in the back of the line to collect his share of the approx \$30000 or so behind all other creditors, including: employees owed wages, tax department, secured creditors, lawyers fees... Plaintiff would get a few thousand and then the company would cease to exist, while the shareholders whinge about their failed investments.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 1:36 pm UTC
origimbo wrote:If we use the fairly standard definition that "weight" is mass times local gravitational acceleration, then the weight of the Earth is F= GMm/r^2 or about 3.7x10^22 N (assuming the figures I just googled are all accurate). Not that I'm calling it fat or anything.

Are you measuring local gravitational acceleration from the Earth's gravity, or the Sun's, or the Milky Way's, or what?

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 1:52 pm UTC
teelo wrote:Time to ruin everyones fun with the actual answer to the whatif.

What if Au Bon Pain lost this lawsuit and had to pay the plaintiff \$2 undecillion?

Au Bon Pain is a legal company with limited liability. The company would file for liquidation, have all its assets sold off, then the plaintiff would hop in the back of the line to collect his share of the approx \$30000 or so behind all other creditors, including: employees owed wages, tax department, secured creditors, lawyers fees... Plaintiff would get a few thousand and then the company would cease to exist, while the shareholders whinge about their failed investments.

But the question was

What if Au Bon Pain lost this lawsuit and had to pay the plaintiff \$2 undecillion?

The fact that in the real world there is no causal connection between the two does not invalidate the question.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 2:24 pm UTC
origimbo wrote:
TheTomahawk wrote:"If the Earth's weight were entirely postage stamps..."

As the Earth is in freefall around the sun, it weighs next to nothing*. That's not a lot of postage stamps...

If we use the fairly standard definition that "weight" is mass times local gravitational acceleration, then the weight of the Earth is F= GMm/r^2 or about 3.7x10^22 N (assuming the figures I just googled are all accurate). Not that I'm calling it fat or anything.

It bulges out at the Equator. If that's not planetary love handles, I don't know what is.

Scientists not only agree, they say it's a healthy bulge...

It's not fat, it's just big-cored.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 3:04 pm UTC
Oh. My. Goodness.
The article refers to this arxiv.org paper: Why do Earth satellites stay up?

We stumble across new factors in the extended Drake equation (computing the probability of spacefaring intelligence) more than once a year, and the probability of spacefaring alien intelligence keeps dropping because of all the many factors that must line up for this to happen. This is yet another factor, though it is a weak one since spinning planets with stable moons has already been added. Read astrobiologist David Waltham's Lucky Planet to learn about how the earth-moon system is precisely tuned for very long term climate stability, a prerequisite for the development of large intelligent animals.

So we may find life out there. We may even find an extremely rare planet with other intelligent life a few hundred galaxies away, a very long time from now. But they may not be able to orbit stable satellites, and start their own journey from "halfway to anywhere".

Or they may be too busy, working to pay off an enormously expensive lawsuit.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 3:10 pm UTC
meh.
the bulge is caused by the rotation, and that is pretty much a given for any remotely earth-type planet.
but the existence of the mechanism at all is yet another fine-tuning argument.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 3:17 pm UTC
snowyowl wrote:Are you measuring local gravitational acceleration from the Earth's gravity, or the Sun's, or the Milky Way's, or what?

The figure I gave only includes the contribution from the Earth's interaction with the Sun, as it'll be the largest by a long way. The same way that for a 1kg mass of something on the surface of the Earth, the weight due to the Earth is 9.8N vs 6mN caused by the Sun. I'll stop here before this turns into a "yo mama" joke.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 3:34 pm UTC
I'm almost certain that by weight, the most valuable thing that's ever been sold on the open market is a human egg cell.

Price: Up to \$10,000

Weight: 3.6 micrograms

(I can't seem to link to the appropriate websites to justify the above prices and weights without having my post flagged as spam, but you can google them)

Cost per pound: \$150,000,000,000 (Unless I've moved a decimal place somewhere. Still, much more than any stamp.

I'll leave it up to y'all to determine whether this discovered value changes the final evaluation of the lawsuit.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 3:39 pm UTC
keithl wrote:SMS text messages are 1120 bits, and retail for as much as a dime. Landauer claims that (at perfect thermodynamic efficiency) a bit costs kT ln(2), 18 milli-electron volts of energy at room temperature. That is 2.9E-21 joules, so a dollar's worth of texts is in some sense worth 3.2E-17 joules, thus a joule is worth 3.1E16 dollars. A 16 megaton nuclear explosion is 6.7E16 joules, so the blast is worth 2.1E33 dollars, \$2.1 Undecillion, in an information theoretic sense.

I suggest Au Bon Pain find a surplus Soviet H bomb, strap the plaintiff to it, and ask him if he still wants \$2 Undecillion. He can even keep the change.

Alternatively, he can get a front row seat for a relativistic baseball game.

a blast worth 2.1E33 dollars is only \$2.1 Decillion. You'd need another 999 of those to reach \$2.1 Undecillion. Or in other words, about 4 times the output of all nuclear testing as of 1996

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 3:59 pm UTC
thoughtfully wrote:I'm a little disappointed that Randall didn't get compounding interest involved in some way, especially since exponential growth figures into several other What Ifs. All you'd need to do is invest a few bucks in China, and wait umm..

Spoiler:
Trying to mind my sig figs, can't be bothered to go look it up.
Using double precision floats in Python for the calculations.
n = log( 2e36/20 ) / log( 1.099 )
n = log( 1e35 ) / log( 1.099 )
n = 850

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical ... ent_status
http://www.mathsisfun.com/money/compound-interest.html

About 850 years.. Doesn't seem all that crazy among the alternatives Randall suggests. I guess it just wasn't crazy-insane enough!

No, compound interest isn't the way to do it - we're working with (more than) macroeconomic scale numbers, so lets use a macroeconomic solution: devalue the currency!

Zimbabwe's hyperinflation peaked at 79,600,000,000% inflation per month, and the largest bill they printed was \$100 trillion. If it isn't specified that the fee has to be in USD, all Au Bon Pain has to do is get Zimbabwe to start printing money at that rate again, wait 1.32 months, and then they can pay the lawsuit off in 2 Undecillion Zimbabwe dollars - which would be about \$5 USD - nearly enough to buy one of Au Bon Pain's signature sandwiches.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 5:38 pm UTC
I find it hard to believe that the world only has \$77 trillion worth of sellable 'stuff'. Is this 'stuff' only physical 'stuff'?

According to the obviously reputable usdebtclock.org, the total US debt is over \$60 trillion dollars. That puts things in perspective...

(Note that this is total debt, including private debt)

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 6:45 pm UTC
There should be a rule that if you fail a lawsuit, you pay a small percentage of the damages you were seeking. That would curb these ridiculous demands, and the over the top suing culture in general.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 6:48 pm UTC
Negotiation wrote:I find it hard to believe that the world only has \$77 trillion worth of sellable 'stuff'. Is this 'stuff' only physical 'stuff'?

According to the obviously reputable usdebtclock.org, the total US debt is over \$60 trillion dollars. That puts things in perspective...

(Note that this is total debt, including private debt)

Presumably that debt is owed to other humans, and thus not contributing positively or negatively to the Earth's net worth? Or are you proposing all nations return to the gold standard?

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 7:03 pm UTC
Cos wrote:But then, if there's \$132 trillion worth of oil, I wonder why there should be only \$77 trillion worth of "sellable stuff in the world" (second image)... The "Money" chart mentions \$77 trillion worth of liquid assets, but (afaik) liquid assets are only cash and things close to cash like checking accounts, gold... I don't know a lot about finance, but for instance I'm pretty sure real estate is not considered in liquid assets but is still some "sellable stuff", no? Am I getting something wrong?

I'm guessing the \$132 trillion worth of oil is the total reserves, i.e. how much oil we think is in the planet as a whole. The "sellable stuff" would presumably only include oil that had already been harvested and was sitting in a tank somewhere.

origimbo wrote:Presumably that debt is owed to other humans, and thus not contributing positively or negatively to the Earth's net worth?

Short answer: yes. (Actually, a large portion of the government's debt is owed to itself, because of reasons.)

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 8:01 pm UTC
Odds that John-Theodor: Anderson is a "sovereign citizen"?

The weirdly-punctuated name is a common thing for them.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 8:04 pm UTC
HES wrote:There should be a rule that if you fail a lawsuit, you pay a small percentage of the damages you were seeking. That would curb these ridiculous demands, and the over the top suing culture in general.

What an utterly nonsensical idea.

There are plenty of cases that might lose but nevertheless are legitimate questions that deserve to be resolved in court one way or another. All what you're proposing would do, is discourage people who lack resources from bringing such cases.

"Loser pays" might have a certain intuitive appeal, but only if your thinking stops at the most superficial level.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 8:42 pm UTC
speising wrote:what i don't get is how a lawyer would actually support this.
also, the source mentions "attempted murder". wouldn't that be a criminal charge?

You've overlooked the magic words "pro se" in the description of the lawsuit in Lowering the Bar. That means he didn't have a lawyer. The interesting bit is that lawyers are officially officers of the court, and there are certain sorts of abuse of legal process that they're not allowed to do -- but people representing themselves can do.

I believe that one can sue for damages resulting from criminal acts by another. I don't think that one can sue simply because of the criminal act, but one can sue for compensation for damages. But now that various sorts of mental suffering are considered damages, the sky's the limit...

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 8:54 pm UTC
Euphonium wrote:
HES wrote:There should be a rule that if you fail a lawsuit, you pay a small percentage of the damages you were seeking. That would curb these ridiculous demands, and the over the top suing culture in general.

What an utterly nonsensical idea.

There are plenty of cases that might lose but nevertheless are legitimate questions that deserve to be resolved in court one way or another. All what you're proposing would do, is discourage people who lack resources from bringing such cases.

"Loser pays" might have a certain intuitive appeal, but only if your thinking stops at the most superficial level.

Exactly - this rule would make it so poor people/small corporations could never afford to sue anyone, regardless of how egregious the offense was, because they wouldn't have enough money to pay even a small percent if they lost. On the other hand, rich people/corporations could afford to sue poor people, because it would cost them nothing in comparison if they lost. This rule therefore wouldn't punish frivolous lawsuits, it would punish lawsuits from poor people/small corporations.

Extremely frivolous lawsuits like this one sound stupid, but they aren't really a problem, because they just get thrown out of court immediately. The problem is really *mostly* frivolous lawsuits, because those take time and money to take care of. Citation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Please_be_a_giant_dick,_so_we_can_ban_you

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Fri May 16, 2014 3:57 am UTC
mcdigman wrote:
Euphonium wrote:
HES wrote:There should be a rule that if you fail a lawsuit, you pay a small percentage of the damages you were seeking. That would curb these ridiculous demands, and the over the top suing culture in general.

What an utterly nonsensical idea.

There are plenty of cases that might lose but nevertheless are legitimate questions that deserve to be resolved in court one way or another. All what you're proposing would do, is discourage people who lack resources from bringing such cases.

"Loser pays" might have a certain intuitive appeal, but only if your thinking stops at the most superficial level.

Exactly - this rule would make it so poor people/small corporations could never afford to sue anyone, regardless of how egregious the offense was, because they wouldn't have enough money to pay even a small percent if they lost. On the other hand, rich people/corporations could afford to sue poor people, because it would cost them nothing in comparison if they lost. This rule therefore wouldn't punish frivolous lawsuits, it would punish lawsuits from poor people/small corporations.

That may be true for a typical understanding of "even a small percent", sure. But the lawsuit in question here is for such an absurd amount that the amount the loser pays could be something like 0.0001%. The plaintiff here would need to pay \$10^30, whereas the plaintiff in a more typical million dollar suit would just have to pay \$1.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Fri May 16, 2014 5:31 am UTC
pds314 wrote:Hmm.. what about if the energy isn't stored as texts made of quantum single-bit energy, but regular home electric power at ~3 cents per megajoule? [...]

Using some fairly slapdash math and the first figures I could find for each of \$/kWh*, energy/mass**, and the mass of the Earth***. I figured if they simply converted the planet to pure energy... they still couldn't afford it. But it would be enough to hire a galaxy of top notch lawyers for 30,000 generations.

*A generous \$0.20 per kWh
** 25kWh/µg
*** 6^24 (I rounded up)

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Fri May 16, 2014 6:16 am UTC
ManaUser wrote:
pds314 wrote:Hmm.. what about if the energy isn't stored as texts made of quantum single-bit energy, but regular home electric power at ~3 cents per megajoule? [...]

Using some fairly slapdash math and the first figures I could find for each of \$/kWh*, energy/mass**, and the mass of the Earth***. I figured if they simply converted the planet to pure energy... they still couldn't afford it. But it would be enough to hire a galaxy of top notch lawyers for 30,000 generations.

*A generous \$0.20 per kWh
** 25kWh/µg
*** 6^24 (I rounded up)

Energy is indeed cheap - so cheap that we waste a hell of a lot it, making it a not-very-good proxy for wealth. Few kilowatt-hours will pass through your smart phone through its life, or even into the materials it is made from; there's a far more energy in the clever machinery that made it. That's why I talked about texts and bits - not as quanta, but thermodynamic events and tiny energy assets. Google buys lots of electricity - and turns it into revenues around \$20 per kilowatt-hour consumed. 21st century wealth is information. Indeed, the easiest way to give the plaintiff his 2 undecillion dollars is to rewrite his brain so he thinks he got it - and had a good time spending it. He already demonstrates a propensity for delusion.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Fri May 16, 2014 11:00 am UTC
Does the lawsuit specify US dollars?

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Fri May 16, 2014 12:53 pm UTC
Just a heads up: the "world's most famous stamp" is due to be sold at auction in a couple months, and Sotheby's estimates that it could sell for as much as \$20M.

EDIT: Link, because for some reason embedding the URL got my post flagged for spam- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Guiana_1c_magenta

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Fri May 16, 2014 1:11 pm UTC
pullarius1 wrote:Just a heads up: the "world's most famous stamp" is due to be sold at auction in a couple months, and Sotheby's estimates that it could sell for as much as \$20M.

I'm intrigued that "world's most famous stamp" is assumed to be a title awarded by philatelists, rather than the public at large. Although on that basis, should the chaps from myth busters be "the worlds most famous scientists"? If you'd asked me to name a famous stamp, I'd have said the penny black, which says more about my nationality and culture than anything else.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Fri May 16, 2014 2:28 pm UTC
I wrote an alternative answer to the same question. I know I am not going to be believed but I wrote all of this before I read this thread. Surprized and pleased to see other people also thinking along the same lines. Although I am a regular reader of the comic, what-if and blag I am hardly on the forums. I wrote a blog about it but since I am new I can not post about it without being marked as Spam. Not wanting to post unnecessarily just to take my post count over 5, here is the text (for the one without images)-

As the xkcd article suggests 2 undecillion dollars is comfortably higher by magnitudes to the sum total of the money that exists in the world. In modern times though, the sum total of money in the world is not such a clear concept. This is because day by day the world is becoming a more credit based system than a cash based one. When you have a cash based system the sum total of money in the world is a finite. While things are more flexible when it comes to credit at this diagram illustrates -

In case the Au Bon Pain Store did lose this lawsuit to Anton Purisima - in a cash based system Au Bon Pain simply could not pay. The best they can do is surrender all the cash that they have and everything that they own to Anton. Anton would be rich but not be the undecillionaire which he hopes to be with this lawsuit. However, in the credit based system there is still hope for Anton. All he has to do is convince a bank to loan 2 undecillion dollars to Au Bon Pain so that Au Bon Pain can pay him.

Why would a bank sanction such a sub-prime loan? For a bank to make such a loan it must see a profit. The bank takes on risk when it gives out a loan and they like to bundle in the cost associated with this risk into the loan agreement via the interest rate or an insurance. To offset the risk associated with a 2 undecillion dollar loan there needs to be a massive payment as an incentive to make the loan. There is not enough money to make this payment but the bank knows that soon there will be one person who will be rich enough to pay. If you are not with me - we are talking about Anton here. Anton is not going to be rich if the bank does not make a loan and the bank is not going to make a loan if Anton is not going to make the bank rich.

They strike a deal. Bank will make the loan to Au Bon Pain (with everything Au Bon Pain owns as mortgage), the court will send the money to Anton. In return Anton must become a 'hyper-premiere' customer of the bank for which the bank will charge a modest one time fee of 1.9 undecillion dollars. Anton will agree because it's better than nothing and still he will have more money than he can possibly spend.

This leaves 2 ridiculously rich entities in the world - this bank and Anton. They can buy anything and still have almost the same money left over. Anton can do what he pleases with the money. The bank has an agenda though, it still has to make the other 0.1 undecillion dollars to balance its sheets. It made a loan against everything that Au Bon Pain has which is worthless compared to the loaned amount. It must raise the value of everything Au Bon Pain owns in that case, it has more than all the money in the world to do this.

If Au Bon Pain owned all its stores then the bank can buy property around the stores at ridiculously high pricing driving the price of the property up. Not only has the price of the property gone up but the neighbours of the store are now suddenly ridiculously rich and Au Bon Pain can start charging astronomical prices because people don't know where to spend.

People will spend because everyone suddenly has a lot of money and the value of this money is falling fast. As more people have access to preposterous sums of money other people want some of it as well and prices will go up. Moreover, the government will be collecting huge taxes on all these transactions so the government which means that the government will get spending and the inflation will spread like wild fire. The bank and Anton will have a gala time for a short while when they can buy anything they want. If they are fast enough, they can be the 'king / corporate entity of the world'.

Something similar has actually happened before. This is the inflation chart of the Zimbabwean Dollar (If that looks steep then look again and find the logarithmic scale) -

Then the Zimbabwean dollar was introduced it was arbitrarily valued greater than the American Dollar, which was highly optimistic. The Zimbabwean economy was not in good shape and the exchange rate immediately went into freefall. People lost complete faith in the currency and dumped all the Zimbabwean dollars they had, making the fall worse. What eventually happened was that the country moved to using foreign currencies and cell phone talk-time as trading units.

So Anton and the bank will plunge the value of the American Dollar and the country will be forced to move to a foreign currency like the British Pound? Hold on. The banks would have thought of this, they will quickly realise that the USD will fall and will invest in a foreign currency. They will buy out all of it and take the foreign currency down with the dollar. This will go on until a new steady state is reached and the money new crazy sum of money is significantly distributed. The world will temporarily move to barter before a new cash based (or limited credit) economy is set up.

The people who were opportunistic during this turmoil will become the new rich and the people who went on a tech detox vacation in the middle of a desert will be the new poor. There will be a complete redistribution reshuffling of the world’s wealth. There is a good chance Anton and the bank will end up on the rich side of the new world. If you were a bank would you sanction this loan? I bet some bank would.

Side-note: The bank as per law will have to maintain minimum reserve, but it has to do that only at the end of the day. It can do this in two ways - act so fast that all the turmoil will happen in one day and they own enough barter at the end of it or they can also meet the minimum reserve with a deposit at the central bank which it can make the central bank panic and look for reserve.

The version with images is on my blog on the website - mahekmody (with a com suffix)
Let me know what you think.

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Fri May 16, 2014 3:54 pm UTC
Sigh. Am I the only one who is still annoyed that Randall doesn't understand the difference between weight and mass, and believes a kilogram is a unit of weight? What does "the Earth's weight" even mean? Isn't the Earth in free fall orbit? (Something I would expect him to know. Well, at least most of the time.)

This wouldn't bother me if the article and series weren't advertised as being about "physics". (Huh, I guess the banner no longer says that ... but it's still clearly supposed to be science-y.)

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Fri May 16, 2014 4:17 pm UTC
origimbo wrote:
pullarius1 wrote:Just a heads up: the "world's most famous stamp" is due to be sold at auction in a couple months, and Sotheby's estimates that it could sell for as much as \$20M.

I'm intrigued that "world's most famous stamp" is assumed to be a title awarded by philatelists, rather than the public at large. Although on that basis, should the chaps from myth busters be "the worlds most famous scientists"? If you'd asked me to name a famous stamp, I'd have said the penny black, which says more about my nationality and culture than anything else.

Can we agree it's "arguably one of the world's most famous stamps"?

### Re: What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit"

Posted: Fri May 16, 2014 4:46 pm UTC
Not going to help in the question, but a pretty Famous lawyer(Barrista) in Hong Kong charged HK\$150,000 a day in court back in 2009(likely somewhere at least over 180k now, but I'll still use 150k), with 6 underlings each getting their own pay by the client separately. A full day in a HK court of law is usually 8 hours(minus lunch hour) for anyone working in there, but usually only 7 hours for the Bars, and when I interpreted for this court case back then, the 2 days case lasted only about 10 hours in total. Even if I calculate the full 8 hours, using a 1:8 exchange rate, the hourly rate is still well over US\$2.3k. So asking for US\$1.8k/h is not really likely the highest pay lawyer out there.