In our lifetimes, we could see the first trillionaire.
And, most likely, that first trillionaire would be Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
That's according to research by Oxfam, an international network of organisations collectively working to alleviate global poverty. Its recently published report finds that eight billionaires from around the globe have as much money as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world's population.
The report also finds that, given the exponential growth of existing wealth, the world could have its first trillionaire in the next 25 years, when Gates would be 86.
When Gates left Microsoft in 2006, his net worth was US$50 billion (S$70.83 billion), according to Oxfam. By 2016, his wealth had increased to US$75 billion, "despite his commendable attempts to give it away through his Foundation," the report says.
In addition to the charitable work Gates does through his personal foundation, he is one of the founding members of The Giving Pledge, a commitment from some of the richest individuals in the world to give away more than half of their worth.
For the hypothetical analysis, Oxfam researchers apply the rate of growth he has been enjoying, 11 per cent per year since 2009, to Gates' current levels of wealth (over US$84 billion, according to Forbes). If his investments keep doing as well as they have been, the 61-year-old Gates could indeed become the world's first trillionaire.
"In such an environment, if you are already rich, you have to try hard not to keep getting a lot richer," Oxfam notes.