The Tale of In­cal­cu­la­ble Losses


Special Focus - - Contents - Zhou Hail­iang 周海亮

Ilost my smart phone, which I won in an es­say com­pe­ti­tion; and it was a big-time brand to boot. The day I won it I checked the price on­line: it was worth around USD 1,200. Los­ing it was about the same as los­ing USD 1,200. You can imag­ine how much that hurt.

I told my friends about this last night at a party. One of them told me I hadn’t lost twelve hun­dred bucks, but ac­tu­ally around six hun­dred. He said the twelve­hun­dred- dol­lar price was for when it was new, but now it had de­pre­ci­ated to six hun­dred.

He was right ac­tu­ally. I didn’t lose my phone when it was new; I lost it now, two years after it was launched onto the mar­ket.

Right after that, an­other friend told me that I hadn’t ac­tu­ally lost six hun­dred, but three hun­dred. When I asked him the rea­son, he said it was be­cause I had used the phone for two years. It was go­ing for six hun­dred bucks new, but was only go­ing for three hun­dred used, and so the phone was only worth the de­pre­ci­ated amount for a sec­ond-hand phone.

I thought about it and it re­ally made sense.

So then, an­other friend chimed in and said that I hadn’t ac­tu­ally lost three hun­dred bucks, but just one hun­dred. In his opin­ion, that phone was a lux­ury for me. He pointed out that, were I to go buy a smart phone my­self, I would spend no more than around one hun­dred.

I have to ad­mit, he hit the nail right on the head. To me, a cell phone is just for calling, tex­ting, play­ing around on WeChat, or oc­ca­sion­ally check­ing the time. That’s it.

An­other com­ment came after that say­ing, I hadn’t lost one hun­dred, and that I hadn’t even lost a sin­gle penny, be­cause my phone hadn’t cost me any­thing. I had got it free.

What can I say? He had a point there. It had been do­nated; the one who had picked up the tab was the spon­sor­ing firm, and in spite of the fact that it was lost, it could be chalked up to a loss for that com­pany, not for me.

Op­po­site to that was an­other one com­ment­ing that I had lost a ton of money. Maybe it was hard to say ex­actly how much, but my losses were pos­si­bly even in­nu­mer­able. He pro­posed the idea that, just sup­pos­ing I had sold the phone at that time for around a thou­sand and in­vested the money into the stock mar­ket, per­haps I would right now have five thou­sand, seven thou­sand or even more in my pocket.

I lost my cell phone and ev­ery­one’s es­ti­ma­tion of my losses yielded a dif­fer­ent amount. At the end of the day, I have no idea how much I ac­tu­ally lost. When think­ing any­thing over too much it’s easy to pick holes in ev­ery ar­gu­ment, es­pe­cially in work­ing out how much I “lost” with the loss of my phone.

(From Win­dow of Knowl­edge , March 2018. Trans­la­tion: Chase Coul­son)

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