I read an interesting article yesterday entitled “Survival of the Richest”. The author (Douglas Rushkoff) is a futurist/technologist who was recently invited to give a keynote speech for some investment bankers. The bankers paid him exorbitantly well for the speech, but instead of giving a keynote, Rushkoff found himself instead in a meeting with five of the bankers who peppered him with questions about the future: cryptocurrencies, quantum computing, and other topics.
But here’s what I found most interesting:
Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked, “How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?”
The Event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus, or Mr. Robot hack that takes everything down.
This single question occupied us for the rest of the hour. They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from the angry mobs. But how would they pay the guards once money was worthless? What would stop the guards from choosing their own leader? The billionaires considered using special combination locks on the food supply that only they knew.
Sounds fantastical, right? In any other instance, I would be highly skeptical that this took place, but it turned out that last year I’d read through one of Rushkoff’s books (Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus), given to me last year at the Black Hat convention. He’s well-known in his field, so I’m willing to believe this happened.
For whatever reason, there’s been a ton of reporting coming out on the “doomsday” warnings and preparations from the uber wealthy. I remember in 2014 watching a TED Talk from venture capitalist and billionaire Nick Hanauer who warned that “the pitchforks are coming” for America’s wealthy during a coming period of civil unrest. Elon Musk said that he started the space exploration company Space X because NASA was not preparing for an extinction-level event on earth. Musk wants to colonize Mars because it’s statistically probable that some event will threaten human existence on earth. And then there was the slew of “billionaire prepper” articles published over the past few years reporting that Bay Area (California) tech billionaires were buying properties in Montana, Wyoming, and other places as survival retreats. This is a thing.
Back to Rushkoff, he’s somewhat more hopeful about the future, but he writes:
They were amused by my optimism, but they didn’t really buy it. They were not interested in how to avoid a calamity; they’re convinced we are too far gone. For all their wealth and power, they don’t believe they can affect the future. They are simply accepting the darkest of all scenarios and then bringing whatever money and technology they can employ to insulate themselves — especially if they can’t get a seat on the rocket to Mars.
My conclusion is this: yes, this might feed confirmation bias at some level, but I look at it as another indicator that preparedness is not just a trend for Middle America. That tells us something greater about our fears of the future, if not the future itself. These are individuals with much greater access to critical information and early warning than the average American. That tells me that if you’re preparing for “collapse“, then you’re probably on the right track.
Always Out Front,