The Silicon Valley elite may be among the most active — and potentially successful — doomsday preppers, according to a riveting new essay in The New Yorker.
Leaders of industry from Silicon Valley to Wall Street are joining the survivalism movement, The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos writes. That list includes Steve Huffman, cofounder and CEO of Reddit; Marvin Liao, a former Yahoo executive and a partner at 500 Startups; and Robert A. Johnson, a managing director of hedge fund Soros Fund Management.
Reid Hoffman, the cofounder of LinkedIn and a notable venture capitalist, told the New Yorker he estimates more than 50% of Silicon Valley billionaires have bought some level of “apocalypse insurance,” like an underground bunker.
Fortified shelters, built to withstand catastrophic events from viral epidemic to nuclear war, seem to be experiencing a wave of interest in general as hints of a new Cold War ramp up.
But billionaires are channeling their inner Bear Grylls for a number of reasons. Hoffman told The New Yorker that some rich people fear a backlash against Silicon Valley as artificial intelligence takes away an increasing number of jobs from humans. The CEO of a large tech company cited Russian cyberattacks as evidence of risk that the US might fall into disorder.
Some members of the Silicon Valley elite are wasting no time in preparing for the apocalypse.
Huffman, the Reddit CEO, who lives in San Francisco, bought a couple of motorcycles, guns, and ammo, so that he can “hole up in my house for some amount of time” in case of a disaster. In 2015, he had laser eye surgery because he thought it would improve his odds of surviving.
Antonio García Martínez, a former Facebook product manager who also lives in San Francisco, shelled out for five wooded acres on an island in the Pacific Northwest where he can ride out Armageddon in peace. His island home features generators, solar panels, and weaponry.
Liao, of 500 Startups, took archery lessons so he could protect his family.
In an interview with The New Yorker, Hoffman, the billionaire LinkedIn cofounder, recalled a time when he thought of visiting New Zealand, and a friend asked him if he planned to buy apocalypse insurance. The small island nation has become a top destination for preppers.
“Saying you’re ‘buying a house in New Zealand’ is kind of a wink, wink, say no more. Once you’ve done the Masonic handshake, they’ll be, like, ‘Oh, you know, I have a broker who sells old ICBM silos, and they’re nuclear-hardened, and they kind of look like they would be interesting to live in,'” Hoffman told The New Yorker.
The New Yorker’s Osnos writes that private Facebook groups serve as forums where wealthy survivalists trade tips on the best equipment to buy and locations to hide out in.
“The tech preppers do not necessarily think a collapse is likely,” Yishan Wong, an early Facebook employee and the former CEO of Reddit, told The New Yorker. “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.”