What is Wealth?

What is wealth? Let me try a slightly non-standard answer to that question. Wealth is a measure of your ability to do what you would like to do, when you would like to do it - a measure of your breadth of immediately available choice. Therefore your wealth is determined by the resources you presently own, as everything requires resources.

For the sake of argument, let us say that your resources presently amount to a leather bag containing a hundred unmarked silver coins. Interestingly enough, by the "what would you like to do" measure, you are fantastically more wealthy than any given ancestor put in the same position of ownership. You have immensely greater choice. Clearly there is more to wealth-as-choice than present property. We must also consider the historical investment made into increasing choice, and into lowering the cost of specific - usually popular - choices. The engines of technology and open, free markets are turned by people to create new, better, cheaper choices. The choice to fly, the choice to remain alive with heart disease, the choice to avoid that heart disease.

Where do silver coins - or indeed, any other resources you might own - come from? Where does investment come from? After all, we don't come into this world with the proverbial silver implement between the teeth. No, we worked for those coins. We spent time and negotiated payment for that time. Why? Because time is valuable.

But time spent alive, measured in the ticking of heartbeats, is more than valuable - it is wealth itself, the source of all other measures of wealth. All property was created by someone, somewhere, taking their time. The creation and exchange of property is a way to make time fungible, transferrable, a more valuable resource. Time spent alive is the root of all property, all human action, and thus all wealth - both the silver in your pocket that provides for present choice, and the wealth of possible choices created by past investment.

Time is everything. How much have time you spent reading this far? Could you have been doing something more useful, more optimal from your perspective? We make these small evaluations constantly, because time is the most valuable thing we have.

We all go through engineering our cycles of property and time; how can we best optimize time to generate property that can be used to make our time more effective? We do this in small ways and large, but everyone does it. Some people do it so effectively they launch themselves into property escape velocity, exponentially increasing the effectiveness of their time and exploring the outer limits of what it means to maintain ownership of a great deal of property.

Interestingly, despite the grand importance of time as the absolute foundation of wealth, very little progress has been made in the most obvious optimization of all: creating property that can create more time. More heartbeats, more health, more time spent alive and active. Rejuvenation medicine, capable of repairing the damage of aging. Tissue engineering to generate replacements for worn organs. The cure for cancer. If you could do all that, then the much more productive form of escape velocity becomes possible - longevity escape velocity. Why strive to maintain an empire of property that will crumble to dust when the degenerations of age catch up with you when you could be that fit-looking guy having a blast swimming in the breakers every other Sunday for as long as you like?

Wealth is exactly time, and here we are, bordering the era of biotechnology for the repair of aging. Planning ahead for the best possible personal future starts with investment now. Think about it.


Excellent post. I wish I had written it myself.

It is indeed sad to see that many people, including those who are very interested in increasing their wealth, totally miss the investment that would have the highest return of them all: longevity research.

Keep up the good work spreading the word!

Posted by: Michael G.R. at February 20th, 2008 10:40 AM

This sounds really cool, did you just invent 'property escape velocity'? It sounds cool, something I'd like to experience.

Longevity research won't necessarily have the 'highest return', like many things, there'd probably be an optimum amount you could invest. With more money, it can give diminishing returns. For example, if you spent all income on longevity research and you had none left, you might not be able to afford the new drugs produced by it to actually benefit yourself. Similarly, not investing anything is not wise becuase someone has to get the ball rolling, you can't just hope everyone else will fund the research.

I think the best form would be to buy stock in companies doing this research. This way, you help the research, but you also get monetary reward as a stockhold for doing so. Hopefully this will be possible in the future with companies specializing in longevity drugs.

Posted by: Tyciol at March 14th, 2008 3:57 PM

I think the best form would be to buy stock in companies doing this research. This way, you help the research, but you also get monetary reward as a stockhold for doing so. Hopefully this will be possible in the future with companies specializing in longevity drugs. and such productivity in companies main while, everyone has to be carefully in such company.
{posted by Austin udoh at january 2009}

Posted by: Augustine Udoh at January 28th, 2009 6:50 AM

I want to create wealth, how can I do it?

Posted by: Koranteng Emmanuel at February 17th, 2009 7:18 AM

What is wealth creation cycle

Posted by: Sisanda at March 11th, 2009 8:16 AM

Jez these replies are so sado. Everyone sounds terrified of death. The author talks about Wealth is Time. Theres a lot of old people gagging to 'exit' because their lack of creature comfort (bought with money or by aquaintance with friends) or mobility makes continued life hell. Wealth is measured by pleasure. Life is about hedonism in its many forms. If you are 199 and miserable coz you havent a friend left on planet earth and are bedridden; time is not wealth, its torture. What makes me laugh is that we are all brought up with the promise of a better after life.......but no one is keen to get there? Live for the moment, it may be you last.....if theres something better on the other side, hurry up. If not, well all this time was pretty pointless coz your aims, hopes and ambitions will be reduced to worm fodder. Still thats recycling for the next generation.

Posted by: arun Arris at September 2nd, 2011 1:38 PM

Awesome post. Too bad many people just don't get it (and then they post about it!). The whole idea of repairing the damage of aging is to live a long and - healthy - life. I wish the wealthy would get on board with this idea, but failing that, if enough middle class people donate modest amounts to the SENS foundation, there still could be plenty of money available for the necessary research.

Posted by: MJ at February 13th, 2012 4:07 PM

Wealth is the well being of ones self and family. Wealth is the love and relations one has around them, which bring each other together. It is not always income, assets, possessions or those toys that one buys for their kids or gran kids. Thus live long and strive to be with those around.

On the other hand one can be wealth with a low income, demanding on how much one has saved. Investments.

Wealth is truly the resources and those around that make it and you what it is.

Posted by: fe at March 19th, 2012 11:12 PM

the vital question here have not been answered.. in my view if we are exchnaging time to gain wealth, then in order for it to be considered a good deal, we then should be able to buy back that time with the wealth gained. now remember time is differnet in quality, teenage years, 20s and 30s are the golden age. and if we for example be able to afford a life machine in a hospital at the age of 80. that would buy us some time, but the quality and our abiliy to use that time has be dimished.

Posted by: Nemat at November 27th, 2012 8:20 AM
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