There is a new fad in Silicon Valley and Wall Street: Some of America’s richest and smartest people have become survivalists.
“Anyone who’s in this community knows people who are worried that America is heading toward something like the Russian Revolution,” hedge fund investor Robert H. Dugger told The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos.
Osnos profiled a wide variety of wealthy people who believe American civilization is about to crack up.
“When society loses a healthy founding myth, it descends into chaos,” Facebook Executive Antonio García Martínez said. Martínez put his money where his mouth is: He bought five acres on an island in the Pacific Northwest for a survival retreat, stockpiled thousands of rounds of ammo and installed generators and solar panels.
“All these dudes think that one guy alone could somehow withstand the roving mob,” he said. “No, you’re going to need to form a local militia. You just need so many things to actually ride out the apocalypse.”
Martínez was surprised by how many of his colleagues shared his fears and interest in prepping.
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“It runs the gamut, from a lot of people stocking up on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, to figuring out how to get second passports if they need it, to having vacation homes in other countries that could be escape havens,” Venture capitalist Tim Chang said of Silicon Valley survivalists.
One unnamed investment executive told Osnos, “I keep a helicopter gassed up all the time, and I have an underground bunker with an air-filtration system. A lot of my friends do the guns and the motorcycles and the gold coins. That’s not too rare anymore.”
Marvin Liao, a former Yahoo executive, admitted to stockpiling food and water and studying archery for self-defense. Reddit CEO and cofounder Steve Huffman got laser eye surgery to eliminate the need for glasses during survival.
“If the world ends—and not even if the world ends, but if we have trouble—getting contacts or glasses is going to be a huge pain in the a–,” Huffman said.
Former Reddit CEO Yishan Wong told Osnos that “most people just assume improbable events don’t happen,” but “technical people tend to view risk very mathematically.”
“The tech preppers do not necessarily think a collapse is likely,” Wong said “They consider it a remote event, but one with a very severe downside, so, given how much money they have, spending a fraction of their net worth to hedge against this . . . is a logical thing to do.”
Around 50 percent of Silicon Valley billionaires have some sort of “apocalypse insurance,” LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman said. The insurance can range from an elaborate bunker to a farm in New Zealand.
“I’ve heard this theme from a bunch of people,” Hoffman said. “Is the country going to turn against the wealthy? Is it going to turn against technological innovation? Is it going to turn into civil disorder?”
Like everyday preppers, wealthy survivalists face the stigma of being labeled crazy. Yet more and more of them are going public.
“They don’t put tinfoil on your head if you’re the President and you go to Camp David,” Tyler Allen, a Florida real-estate developer, said. “But they do put tinfoil on your head if you have the means and you take steps to protect your family should a problem occur.”
Allen recently paid $3 million for a “survival condo” in a hardened missile silo in Kansas.
Some of America’s best-informed people have become survivalists. Everyone else needs to ask: What do they know?
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