The who’s who in Silicon Valley may be quite prolific in their doomsday preparations, according to a new essay in The New Yorker.
The survivalism movement can count the ultra-wealthy from Silicon Valley to Wall Street among its staunch members, and the list likely includes Reddit CEO and cofounder Steve Huffman, former Yahoo executive Marvin Liao, and Soros Fund Management managing director Robert A. Johnson.
The Rich Are Getting Ready
The 36-year-old Huffman, valued today at $600 million, underwent laser eye surgery back in November 2015 — not really because he was nearsighted, but because he wants to be well-equipped for a natural or man-made disaster.
“I own a couple of motorcycles. I have a bunch of guns and ammo. Food. I figure that, with that, I can hole up in my house for some amount of time,” Huffman told The New Yorker, proving to be less concerned about a specific threat like a bomb or volcanic eruption than the aftermath.
Huffman said he realized that looking for his eyeglasses could be a major issue once society falls into utmost chaos.
The chief exec isn’t the only one among leading entrepreneurs who are making doomsday preps.
Liao has bought weapons and started taking archery classes, while former Facebook executive Antonio Garcia Martinez has acquired 5 acres on an island, equipping it with generators and rounds of ammunition by the thousands. LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman deems New Zealand the tech elite’s favored refuge in the face of disaster, part of what is dubbed “apocalypse insurance.”
Hedge fund manager Johnson, a 59-year-old with a Ph.D. from Princeton and who became the head of think tank Institute for New Economic Thinking after the onset of the 2008 global financial crisis, has also started seeing signs of the rich’s anxiety.
“I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway,” he said before the audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Johnson pointed to some things affecting civil anxiety, such as the unequal distribution of income, less money being channeled into public schools, and less attention and funding for parks, recreation, and the arts.
Always On The Lookout For The Big One
All these talks of apocalypse insurance, however, are no longer a novel idea. During the height of the Cold War, U.S. president John F. Kennedy encouraged the public to build bomb shelters, while 1999 was marked by a brief panic over computers being improperly programmed for the shift to year 2000.
Today, though, people are already heavily reliant on technology and maximizing its use for their survivalist projects. The CEO of a large tech firm told The New Yorker, for instance, that the food system depends on GPS, logistics, and weather forecasting — systems generally relying on the internet. In turn, the internet depends on DNS, the system managing domain names.
Another sign of survivalism’s rapid spread: an expression of dislike. PayPal founder Max Levchin, for instance, said he actively dislikes the idea fueled by the sense that they are “superior giants who move the needle and, even if it’s [their] own failure, must be spared.”