Fans of cheesy 1970s TV shows will remember “The Six Million Dollar Man,” the story of Steve Austin, a critically injured astronaut who is rebuilt with bionic parts. Austin, played by Lee Majors, goes on to become a special agent who uses his superhuman abilities to help the government. Of course there's a remake in the works, but this time Austin's price tag has undergone a bit of inflation … to $6 billion.
The economics nerds on National Public Radio's Planet Money didn't think that made sense.
“Come on, $6 billion? It is hard to think of anything that gets a thousand times more expensive, even over 40 years, even in science fiction because basically, we live in an age of low inflation,” Planet Money's Robert Smith said on NPR's Morning Edition.
Anwar Shaikh, an economics professor at New York's New School university, told Smith that it's more likely the technology today would cost $12,000, although figuring in medical costs elevates that price substantially.
“The annual salary of surgeons has gone up about five-and-a half times since 1973, so if you took (that) as an index of a cost of the medical-care component, you're back to a $33 million man,” Shaikh told Smith.
Hmmm. “The 33 Million Dollar Man” doesn't have much of a ring to it. But Outliers knows who the real Six Billion Dollar Man is. In fact, there are two such men—and they're even in the medical-device business.
Carl Cook, CEO of the Cook Group, is worth $6.7 billion, according to Forbes' World's Billionaires site. His fortune comes from his father's company, which specializes in stents and catheters.
Hansjoerg Wyss can claim only a net worth of $6.1 billion, according to Forbes. His assets stem from the $20.2 billion sale of medical-device company Synthes in 2012 to Johnson & Johnson. Synthes' products are a little more in Steve Austin's line, since the company specializes in orthopedic and neuro products and services, as well as advanced biomaterials.
Outliers senses a product placement opportunity.