Silicon Valley centillionaires and billionaires, the new feudal lords, are apparently big time preppers. It’s understandable. They enjoy the spoils of their deal with the work machine and want to save what they can of the high life. Of course, with all that clout they could save the whole world.
But no, here’s how they plan to leave us, and their dignity, to perish.
10. Larry Page’s desert island hideout
One of many tech titans frightened of dying is Google co-founder Larry Page. His Calico Labs is hard at work on a quixotic fight against death. In the meantime, though, he still has to weather the storm.
His survival plan, at least in the case of a pandemic, is to hide on his island in Fiji. That’s what he did during COVID-19. Under the pretext of delivering medical supplies – and by virtue of being a billionaire – he was allowed to enter the isolated (and therefore otherwise safe) country when it was closed to everyone else, flying in on his jet from Hawaii.
Understandably, he tried to keep it a secret by getting the state-owned media to pull their story on the visit, as well as hiding all traces on Google. But no amount of influence could silence a disgruntled sailor, who spilled the beans to the rest of the world.
9. Marvin Liao’s medieval armory
Citing the example of Ukraine, tech investor Marvin Liao says there’s always a conqueror at the gate. He also worries about a pandemic and the impending financial collapse. But he’s prepared. Apparently, he’s “amassed an arsenal of non-firearm weapons and taken archery classes” so he won’t have to rely on ammunition.
He also insists on martial arts, knife fighting, and fitness in general. Being able to run without getting winded is vital, he says. But so is financial freedom. Like Jesse Eisenberg in Zombieland, Liao has a number of slogans that he hopes will keep him alive. “Physically Fit & Financially Lit” is one. There’s also “Don’t Be Sorry, Be Better” and, encouragingly for a centillionaire survivalist, “No (wo)Man is an Island,”
Liao is, unlike many on this list, a believer in banding together – at least in a fight post-apocalypse. “There is power in the collective,” he notes, “and three people will almost always take out one … no matter how well trained they are.”
8. Sam Altman’s “manifest destiny”
Sam Altman, the centillionaire head of OpenAI (the company responsible for the monstrous GPT-3 chatbot), has been a proud prepper for a years. He told The New York Times back in 2016 that he was stockpiling “guns, gold, potassium iodide, antibiotics, batteries, water, gas masks from the Israeli Defense Force, and a big patch of land in Big Sur.”
Another article – entitled “Sam Altman’s manifest destiny” – describes “his utter lack of interest in ineffective people, which unfortunately includes most of us.” It also lists some of the scenarios he’s prepared for: homicidal AI; nuclear war over resources; and the release of a synthetic virus.
Societal collapse is another one. When that happens he’ll flee to New Zealand with his friend Peter Thiel.
7. Peter Thiel’s New Zealand eyesore
“Yanks, get this in your heads. Aotearoa NZ is not your little last resort safe haven,” said a post on the prepper website the Modern Survivalist. It’s a growing sentiment in New Zealand. The island nation’s self-sufficiency, temperate climate, lack of enemies, and arable terrain endear it to anxious Americans. That it’s also where The Lord of the Rings was shot is a bonus for Peter Thiel, who named his companies after the trilogy.
An investor in anti-ageing and cryogenics research, Thiel is afraid of dying – which is pretty understandable given his belief in Hell. Not only does he want to vampirize children, he supports authoritarianism and hoped Trump would become a dictator. He also bankrupted Gawker for outing him. He is, as the Guardian put it, the “human emblem of the moral vortex at the centre of the market.”
Naturally, he wants to keep going. So he lied and bribed his way into New Zealand and bought a city-sized chunk of the South Island. When the story broke in the press, locals were scandalized. Despite Thiel’s promises to invest in the country, they all knew what he was there for: to survive the collapse of Western civilization. Fortunately, his plans for a fortress – which included a spa and theater – were deemed an “eyesore” by Kiwis and rejected.
6. Bill Gates’s crawlspace hideyholes
Bill Gates is, as Ice Cube said, a “bunker bitch.” He’s among the many panicked rich Americans flocking to companies like Vivos – specialists in taking money from billionaires in exchange for apocalypse bunkers. According to Vivos founder Robert Vicino, “Gates has huge shelters under every one of his homes, in Rancho Santa Fe and Washington.”
He joins the ranks of other many narcissists – bankers, movie stars, athletes – who, according to The Hollywood Reporter, are shelling out millions for protection. They’re not just worried about World War III, though; what they really want to hide from is us. Among their chief concerns are the riots arising from economic collapse. This tells us all we need to know about their sense of civic duty – as well as their outlook for the future. The CFO of Ultimate Bunker, another elite survival firm, said “everyone [in these circles] thinks we are doomed, no matter who is elected.”
But really they’re doomed no matter how much they spend. Bunkers aren’t magic. All it would take is a hungry mob of veteran marines with high-level bunker-busting skills.
5. Mark Zuckerberg’s re-colonization of Kauai
Mark Zuckerberg’s proud of his Kauai estate but he doesn’t want you knowing how he got it. It wasn’t always 750 acres. The original lot was apparently too small for his ironic obsession with privacy, so he forced his neighbors to sell – just as he had before in San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Lake Tahoe. Except this time his “neighbors” were native Hawaiians and their lots were kuleana land promised by colonists in the past. Those who resisted Zuckerberg’s land grab were sued. And, adding insult to injury, his land encompassed burial sites – forcing locals to ask permission to visit.
He said he wants to “plant roots” here, but some think that just means building a bolthole “in case society collapses.” He clearly doesn’t care about friending the locals; he’s built walls around his land and surrounds himself with henchmen.
He’s also done significantly less than nothing for the island’s many unsheltered people.
4. Larry Ellison’s super secret master plan
Larry Ellison is – according to Bob Sutton, author of The No A**hole Rule – “25 to 30 times more a**holy” than Steve Jobs. Not only has the aging software billionaire been a political megadonor, he’s also conquered an entire Hawaiian island for himself. His personal mantra, which he stole from Genghis Khan, is: “It is not sufficient that I succeed—all others must fail.”
For just $300 million of his hundred-plus billions, he bought 98% of the 90,000-acre Lanai. As for the people who lived there, in true colonial fashion he pretty much enslaved them overnight – becoming everyone’s boss, landlord (on strictly 30-day leases), or both. But that isn’t the point. Since the start of COVID-19, when he moved to the island himself, changes have been gathering pace. These include Lanai’s first “longevity spa”.
Ellison claims to be working toward sustainability, but the locals call waha (“bullsh**”) on that. So far, he’s done nothing for the wildlife and ecology. There is, however, some indication that he wants to make the island self-sufficient. He’s got scientists tracking rainfall and plans for a desalination plant and hydroponic farm. They won’t be for the island’s rightful owners, though. Secret visits from the likes of Tom Cruise and Benjamin Netanyahu suggest Ellison’s building a refuge for the rich. We may never know. As Bloomberg notes, Ellison “hasn’t offered the public many details of his master plan.”
3. Elon Musk’s mad dash for Mars
Elon Musk is worried about everything: climate change, artificial intelligence, population collapse, WWIII… So it should come as no surprise that, of all the (rational) doomsday contingency plans on this list, his is the most ambitious: Migrating into space via Mars.
To be fair to the billionaire, he’s not just trying to save himself – he’s trying to save the species. In fact, he plans to land one million humans on the Red Planet, 100 per ship, within decades. He even plans to bring the cost down, from $10 billion to $200,000 a ticket. And while this is still too much for most to afford, he denies it’s an “escape hatch for rich people.” There’s a “good chance you’ll die” on a mission to Mars, he says, but “excitement for those who … survive.”
Among other things, he envisions “pizza joints,” “great bars,” and, with 38% the gravity of Earth, the illusion of super strength. “Mars is gonna be a great place to go,” he says, “the planet of opportunity.” Veteran astronauts disagree. Stanley Love, who’s spent over 300 hours in space and lived on a base in Antarctica, insists that life on Mars would be “horrible.” Everything would have to be rationed. People would get claustrophobic. And the low Martian gravity would also decrease their muscle mass and bone density, making colonists weaker and more prone to fractures. Even if they did find their way back to Earth, they wouldn’t return to their lives.
2. Jeff Bezos’s outer space pipe dream
Like many billionaires, especially in tech, Jeff Bezos is big into life extension. One of his major investments since stepping down as Amazon’s CEO in 2021 was Altos Labs – a(nother) longevity research lab. He seems to be obsessed with time running out, having also dumped millions on a “10,000-year clock” inside a mountain (which some suspect is a doomsday clock).
But, like Elon Musk, he hopes to save the planet – not just himself. Expecting humans to drain every last viable energy source on Earth within the next couple of centuries, Bezos intends to shoot us into space. In a mad speech based on the ideas of physicist Gerard K. O’Neill, he envisioned settlements aboard cylinders spinning through the solar system. Each colony (of the millions he dreams of) would be built by robots with materials from the Moon and shot into space by a catapult. They’d be miles on end to house a million people each and have alternating stripes of land and window – as well as mirrors and solar panels for energy. Different colonies could have their own themes and functions, he said, such as replicas of ancient cities, wilderness areas, zero G recreational colonies, and so on.
Fortunately, the obstacles are many (technology, cost, social organization, etc.); because the ultimate problem is Bezos himself. His own contributions to climate change and individualist consumerism aside, his treatment of workers as Amazon’s CEO suggests he doesn’t really care about people. In fact, there’s good reason to think his “colonies” will be no more than glorified prisons – or “captive labor towns in space” as NBC put it.
1. Dmitry Itskov’s escape into the Matrix
Dmitry Itskov, “the “godfather” of the Russian Internet,” wants to celebrate his 10,000th birthday. Needless to say, the odds are stacked against him. As his manifesto says, “civilization stands on the threshold of a series of global crises … threatening the environment where human beings live, and their existence as a species.” His solution, however, is not as you might expect to follow Musk and Bezos into space; it’s to jettison his body instead.
By 2045, he hopes to transition to a holographic nanobot avatar – or at least to a life in the metaverse. This will of course be a gradual process. For example, he thinks we’ll see the first generation of basic robot avatars deployed in dangerous environments (for example by the emergency services, miners, etc.). Then they’ll be used as replacement bodies for the physically disabled (paraplegics, the terminally ill, etc.). According to Itskov’s schedule, we should be at this stage by 2025. Next would be the transfer of individual consciousness to these bodies. In other words, by 2035 if we get back on schedule, everyone would have “the possibility of cybernetic immortality.” In the decade after that we’ll effectively become a new species, with “bodies consisting of nanorobots … and capable of taking any form.”
Clearly Itskov’s a bit behind schedule, so the emphasis now is on the metaverse – or eternal life in the Matrix.