Difficulty in thinking about big numbers

I read Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational. It is a book about irrational actions, the psychology behind it and how predictable they are.

In “The Context of Our Character, Part I: Why We Are Dishonest, and What We Can Do about It” chapter, it says that the total costs of all robberies in USA per year is $525 million, averaging $1.3 thousand per robbery. Now, here’s another fact, employee theft and fraud at workplace is about $600 billion per year. Take $525 million of bank robbery costs, and add in burglary, automobile theft, it totalled to $16 billion, still much less than $600 billion. How bad do we feel about theft at workplace? People probably feel nothing, or some may support it (it’s our rights! The company oppresses us!).

Also, $350 billion is lost to tax underreporting, $24 billion to bogus insurance claim. The white collar crime seems to get less penalty than “blue collar” crimes. Not to mention the few billions lost to corruption.

How big are 1 million, 1 billion, etc? Let’s imagine it using time. If you have to wait 1 million seconds, 1 million seconds is 11 days, 13 hours 46 minutes and 40 seconds. How about 1 billion seconds? Around 31 years. Let’s go one thousand higher, how long is 1 trillion seconds? 31,709.8 years. A millionaire is nothing compared to a billionaire, and a billionaire is nothing compared to a trillionaire.

Some people even find corrupt politician “cute” and dear to heart because they see politicians on the TV dressing in suits, looking professional, posts personal Facebook posts, and giving out aids! Which amounts to at most 2 thousands per year. If you care to count, 2 thousand seconds is 33 minutes, poof, gone at an instant.

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