It’s Just a Number or Is it?

As an Indian if somebody says, “X got a funding of Rs. 6 million”, as a listener what is the first thought that comes to your mind?

Well, as an Indian I would say jealousy (just kidding) but the first thing we do unconsciously is convert 6 million in to lakhs. That is 60 lakhs rupees and only then do we realize the magnitude of it.

But why do we do that? Why do we convert millions to lakhs to fully comprehend the value of it? After all both are the same.

I realized its because as humans we don’t perceive numbers as numbers, rather we compare it with the value of an entity that we are familiar with and comprehend in terms of that.

Like, we know that a decent car costs around 6 lakhs. A 2 BHK flat in hyderabad costs around 50 lakhs. A chocolate costs around 30 rupees. A bike would cost in the range of 50k to 1 lakh rupees. It is the accumulation of knowledge about the costs of all these products that helps us understand the true value of a certain amount of money. So, no wonder we don’t understand millions and billions because we never think in terms of these.

And the same applies to miles and kilometers, pounds and kilograms, Rupees and Dollars. Before Aryabhatta invented zero, people only counted with fingers and toes or they drew lines on walls, each line indicating a single entity. There we also Roman numbers, Greek numbers and Chinese had their own representation of it.

A computer understands binary or hexadecimal number. Even a good programmer is very comfortable with hexadecimal numbers. So, the point is its not the representation that matters, but rather the our experience and familiarity with it.

Just an interesting thought. What do you think?

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