What Would You Do With Twenty Trillion Dollars?

I’ve heard estimates that the total cost of Covid-19 to date (26 Jan 2022) is about 20 trillion dollars. I expect the real number is higher.

The Economist puts the death total at 20 million lives (about 3.5x the official estimate).

Reuters reports a 24 trillion dollar increase in global debt.

Last October, JAMA was saying 16 trillion in costs and Carl Shulman was saying 10 trillion.

woman leaning against door while holding her cheek I’m going to call it 20 trillion, but substitute whatever number you think is more accurate and pretend I had picked that number.

Now some questions to think about.

First, what should we have been spending on preparedness for global pandemics? How much could proper preparation have reduced that 20 trillion dollars and 20 million lives?

Second, presuming someone is to blame, I don’t care who, and they were required to have had a 20 trillion dollar insurance policy, who could have underwritten it?

Third, since it is clearly possible for us to meet an unexpected 20 trillion dollar bill, what impossibly expensive things could be solved for 20 trillion dollars? Would that be enough to permanently end global poverty? Climate change? Terrorism? Global Catastrophic Risk? Social Media? Global literacy?

Fourth, scale this down to medium size war, and consider the same questions.

Once you have done this or realized that you can’t usefully do so, it’s time to listen to Carl Shulman on the Common Sense Case Existential Risks on The 80,000 Hours Podcast with Rob Wiblin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings

Written by Russell Brand

Russell has started three successful companies, one of which helped agencies of the federal government become very early adopters of open source software, long before that term was coined. His first project saved The American taxpayer 250 million dollars. In his work within federal agency, he was often called, “the arbiter of truth,” facilitating historically hostile groups and factions to effectively work together towards common goals


FI 50 – Founder Institute's Fastest Growing Companies of 2022 (


SA on-demand startup Prim-U is connecting beauty entrepreneurs with customers – Disrupt Africa (