It's estimated that by the year 2015, there will be a worldwide numbers crisis.
Arabic numbers were invented by the Arabs, and they have controlled production ever since. And the charge for them was modest, never interfering with commerce. But starting in the early 20th century, number consumption in the West started to increase. For example, in the early 1930's, the US enacted Social Security and with that the problematic Social Security Number, 9 extra digits per person at first and then every time the number is used, 9 more numbers.
Local efforts to make more numbers were stifled by Arab refusal to sell to areas that made their own. No place was able to gear itself up enough to meet all its own needs, so they woudl always cave.
But production in the Arab world increased enough to cover ssn's and other new uses.
But then in the late 50's came broader use of computers. Computers use lots of numbers, especially with the barbaric practice of "dumping memory".
In the 80's the rise of Lotto and Pick-3 and of home computers in North America and Western Europe strained production but production was able to keep pace.
But now with computers all over the rest of the world, and printers and memory dumps, which aren't as common as they use to be on a percentage basis, but there are far more users, production cannot meet demand. And the price is rising. It's already driven poor people out of the numbers market and middle income people are suffering.
Is there nothing that can be done about this now, or do we have to wait until the rich feel the crunch too?
UNICON, the United Nations International Council on Numbers recommends doing arrithmetic by hand, on paper, until the crisis is averted. Hand writing numbers is the only effective way to make new ones, and to avoid imports.