“Survival of the Richest”: More Billionaires Preparing for a National Disaster

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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,

Samuel Culper




 

 

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4 Comments
  1. Aesop says

    “Hired security force”??
    Idiot savants.
    Money ╪ Brains.

    The term for a hired security force after “The Event”, is mercenaries.
    Power at that point will flow from the barrel of a gun.
    Some billionaire bozo thinks he’s going to “maintain control” by withholding the combination to the food locker will find out what “enhanced interrogation” does to jog his memory, one body part at a time.

    They’ll probably start with his family, just for S&G.

    Either way, they’ll be sacrificed by their hired security, if they haven’t got a band around them with much stronger bonds of loyalty than merely taking scraps from the billionaires’ tables.

    Those idiots are merrily marching into the land of Unknown Unknowns: they don’t know what they don’t know.
    And the animals there are higher than billionaires on the food chain.

    Hitchcock made a great movie called Lifeboat. It should be required viewing, Along with films like The Wild Geese, The Grey, and The Edge, with freewheeling discussion afterwards, to anyone who thinks they’re ready for “The Event” just because they’ve stocked a distant shelter to which they hope to flee, and think they’ll end up running their mercenaries like they do their boardrooms. Besides “because the writers wrote it that way”, the reason Anthony Hopkins and Lam Neeson maintained control over their respective groups was because they both brought knowledge and skills to the group that the group didn’t have. If all you’re bringing is stuff, somebody who can’t see the need for you once that day arrives will get rid of you, and your stuff will become his stuff.

    When they arrive at their chosen ark of safety, they may be made hostages by the exact security force they’ve in place, five seconds after the gates close.

    Bonds of common interest and blood will be what matters, and even those will be trumped by those with necessary and irreplaceable knowledge and skills, not who has the most toys. I believe Mosby’s term is “frith“.

    Thus endeth the lesson.

    P.S. Glad you had a nice break, and more so that you’re back at it.

    1. Samuel Culper says

      Thank you for the warm welcome. It’s good to be back. Podcast with you as a guest soon, I mean it.

      1. Aesop says

        You’re a busy man with a lot going on; it’ll happen when it happens.
        Ready when you are.

  2. Goose says

    As someone who had a business catering to those rich one level under the “Billionaires” I would say this. Their (the rich) loyalty to the help is effectively zero. So logically the loyalty of the help ends at their paycheck. All of us help understand that what we are worth is defined by the size of that paycheck. So who out there is willing to give up their lives for the rich especially knowing that if you die your family is likely to be declared surplus and kicked out to the wolves. Besides if you have prepared you will go home and take care of those in your “in group” first and your employer, arrogant that he/she is will never be in your “in group”.
    No matter how magnificent the rich fortress is some one has to know how to maintain it, resupply it and the more complex that it is the more difficult the task. So for a short term the fortress may work but after that the leader of a tribe who is followed out of “in group” loyalty will prevail and the rich will feed that group. Any questions read r/K Selection Theory. WWG1WGA

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