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Somewhat inspired by this question, I was wondering what kind of jobs Superman would pursue if he had an agent. He would obviously become the orbital delivery vehicle of choice for basically everyone, but I have to wonder what kinds of things he would end up doing on a daily basis for maximal profit.

Assuming Superman exists, but that he doesn't have to deal with supervillains on a regular basis, what jobs would Superman pursue for maximal gain and therefore maximal giving to charity?

For the purpose of this question, assume we can't really learn much by studying Superman since all we can really measure is what he does, not how he does it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Relevant SMBC. $\endgroup$ – Psylent Jul 22 '16 at 0:09
  • $\begingroup$ Since he can turn back time, I'm guessing rich people/nations would pay a lot to travel back in time and evacuate the area before a natural disaster occurs. scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/43161/… $\endgroup$ – James Jul 22 '16 at 12:34
  • $\begingroup$ I think addressing what Superman would do with time-travel capabilities is probably not very answerable - there's too many variables. $\endgroup$ – placeholder Jul 23 '16 at 8:51
  • $\begingroup$ You assume that Supes needs to earn money to give to charities. Why? He's a super genius and benevolent, so he'd simply solve world's problems. Money is one of the problems. $\endgroup$ – Reinstate Monica - M. Schröder Jul 24 '16 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSchröder It's not so much that Supes needs to earn money, it's that he can't be everywhere at once. Supes can't feed all the hungry orphans in the world, but he can almost certainly earn the money to pay others to make it happen. $\endgroup$ – placeholder Aug 1 '16 at 21:51
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I think he stops being Superman. This question is more "if a guy had the abilities of Superman...what would he do if he weren't a hero." See, that's part of Superman's cachet. All of us look at him and think about what we'd do if we had all those abilities. And we stand in awe that he's chosen not the practical or selfish thing, but the hero thing.

Had to say that. But, to answer the question. The most money he could likely make would be for NASA or some such. Near space exploration in this solar system. They could pay him a boatload, strap on a modified go pro, give him a little air and huzzah. The amount of money that goes into space stuff is huge. He would still be very wealthy, but it would save space exploration lots of money. He could be the cheapest way to build a base on the moon. Just have him haul a bunch of stuff up there and start construction.

Now, I wouldn't want to give him a job that can be accomplished by an ordinary person--thief, or, uh food delivery was on the list of the link. Same thing with first response or bomb squad--he might do it better, but the job's not a unique one. I can't see the city paying him what a space program would.

There is something, that seems ordinary that he could do that would, in fact likely do something terrible to the world economy. Assembly line work. Basically he teams up with an entrepreneur/agent who figures out how fast Supes can work. He's stronger, faster and more precise than most machines and can get hours of work done in seconds. So his pay might be less than all those factory workers who would have done in a year what he accomplishes in a month--or less (his rate of speed and precision is pretty darn ridiculous). The agent would just have to pick the right project for max profitability.

Going to say no on drilling for oil (too many regulations, who would stop him, sure, but there will be fines) and to diamond making. He could crush coal into diamonds but...the diamond market is actually artificial. We have a lot of diamonds on this planet, it's just that most of them come from one place, and they create an artificial scarcity. I'm not going to go into the politics of it, however, making lots of diamonds would de-value diamonds. If he just makes one whopper of a diamond and sells it--that would be unique.

An agent would smartly diversify his portfolio of things he does, because, quite honestly, his skills could completely toppel economies, and turn public opinion against him. If I were his agent, he'd be saving people from burning buildings periodically, just to keep his image untarnished.

You talked about maximum giving for charities. Well, he could do one day of work for a specific charity. If he has celebrity status (which I think he would) he could bank on that. A lot of what he would do would be celebrity-type stuff.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't think improving his economic contribution is outside of the domain of being a hero. Also, I can't imagine him having that much effect with a manufacturing job; there is only one Superman and a whole lot of other people. I don't think assembly work would maximize his economic potential. $\endgroup$ – placeholder Jul 23 '16 at 8:36
  • $\begingroup$ @placeholder yeah, that's why I think it would have to be chosen very carefully to have the max amount of value. Yes, ordinary folks can do assembly line work, but think of all the people needed to be paid and the cost of machinery for say, a car factory. It's a lot of money over a year and very labor intensive. As his agent, I would team with a car manufacturer to design the Superman Maximum. Supes would do it all. For things such as food delivery--the amount of money involved is too small per job. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Jul 23 '16 at 22:38
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Take over the world (effectively) by threat of force.

With realistic modern day technology we don't have a hope of stopping Superman. We know this. He knows this. It's a done deal.

Now we also don't want to give up our freedom, Superman might have a tough time forming a dogmatic following, and there's just lots of complications down that route that frankly Superman doesn't need to worry about. He doesn't need to worry about these things because he doesn't need to get his power from others, and nobody can take away what power he has.

Superman just has to put an open threat to each nation of the world:

"I demand 20% of all gathered tax and tariff revenue, or I'll travel close to the speed of light and ram myself into your largest city."

...And then carry through with it.

Now somebody else can calculate how fast he can actually go, and how fast he'd need to go to ensure the destruction of the city, so the threat might be a little over-the-top, but still as soon as he starts to make examples, the nations of Earth have to start to comply.

After all, they have no other option but to comply.

...And I mean it's all for charity, right?

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    $\begingroup$ I think taking over the world is not something Superman would see as properly benevolent. Carrying through with the threat of demolishing a city is also extremely non-heroic. I feel like this answer therefore doesn't fall within the scope of the question. $\endgroup$ – placeholder Jul 23 '16 at 8:43
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This question is easy to answer.

He could grab the asteroid named 2011 UW158. This asteroid is worth $5.4 trillion dollars. Why? is It believed to be carrying up to 90 million tons of platinum in its core.

But that is mere pocket change.

He could grab 55 Cancri e, which is a planet made of diamond. It is worth $26.9 nonillion. That is 26,900,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.00 US dollars, if you wanted it written out.

No other answer given comes close to the value of these objects.

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    $\begingroup$ On the other hand, World Budget of Platinum, Takane Usui, October 23, 2010 estimates 700M oz (about 2.2e7 kg) of platinum on Earth down to a depth of 2 km. Assuming you mean metric tons, you are talking about 9e10 kg. So for orders of magnitude, we have 1e7 kg on Earth and you propose bringing in 1e11 kg, dwarfing the estimate of Earth's reasonably accessible platinum deposits by at least three orders of magnitude. And all at once, bringing in far more than demand. I doubt that doing so wouldn't cause the price to crash. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jul 24 '16 at 8:59
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling so skip the asteroid and take the planet $\endgroup$ – Keltari Jul 25 '16 at 3:47
  • $\begingroup$ I cover diamonds in my answer above. Devaluation is a thing. Whatever you think it's worth, it will be worth less than that, and the effects of bringing either of those into our solar system would be crazy. If you're talking about him doing back and forth, he still does need air, and consider that he needs solar radiation from a specific type of sun. Diamonds are only expensive because they don't release all the diamonds out on to the market. The asteroid passes close enough that it would be possible for him to mine it, but...the planet is 40 light years away. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Jul 26 '16 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ @ErinThursby superman does not need air and has traveled further than that in seconds. $\endgroup$ – Keltari Jul 26 '16 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ Really depends on the version you are talking about. There's the one that can bend/space time from the movies and actually turn back time. Is he faster than the speed of light? Some comics say yes. Even if he doesn't breathe, the hand-wave in the comics is that he uses energy from a yellow sun and converts it to oxygen. Which version we are talking about becomes especially important when we are talking about 40 light years. I stuck to near space because of the disparity in the different versions. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Jul 26 '16 at 18:07
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Another take, expanding upon @James's idea...

  1. Superman uses his super intelligence and speed to memorize the designs and descriptions of various technologies.
  2. He goes back in time X years.
  3. He sells the technology.
  4. Wait for the technology to be adopted and innovated on.
  5. Rinse.
  6. Repeat.

Eventually the technology he sells will be so valuable that he can make a killing on it while launching technology forward and thus probabilistically increasing the efficiency of spent charity money. Also eventually technology won't increase any more drastically, because there needs to be an adoption time for the technology. At this point he should wait a longer-than-normal time to allow this hyper advanced technology to be adopted, and then only repeat the cycle traveling to the point in time where the technology was adopted.

So not only is he leveraging the collective scientific society to generate revenue, but he's (as mentioned before) making charity money go farther because society will be more technologically adept.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think if we're bringing time travel into the question, Superman would probably try to "fix" things like World War 2 rather than simply giving to charity. Fixing some part of our past and then moving forward from there would most likely be even better than just trying to help out now. $\endgroup$ – placeholder Jul 23 '16 at 8:54
  • $\begingroup$ @placeholder changing the past could be disastrous for the future. He could stop WW2, but in doing so cause a worse war. His parents might die, lois might never exist, etc... $\endgroup$ – Keltari Jul 24 '16 at 7:28

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