Whatever apocalypse prep you might be making these days, however drastic, it's probably quaint in comparison to what certain members of America's one percent are busy undertaking. Doomsday "preppers," a category of paranoiacs most commonly associated with rural Americans digging bunkers and stockpiling weaponry, has now come to include elites from Silicon Valley to Wall Street, some of whom spill to the New Yorker this week all the hottest high-end prepping trends for an article titled "Doomsday Prep For The Super Rich."
Apocalypse compounds are the new vacation homes (the 2010s version of atomic bomb bunkers) and for the piece, the New Yorker travels to such destinations as "the Survival Condo Project" in Kansas, "a fifteen-story luxury apartment complex built in an underground Atlas missile silo" where, for example, one room's interior is imported from the owner's Connecticut home and features nine-foot ceilings and a gas fireplace. But If the midwest is a bit too close to home for your comfort, you might consider a different continent. "The first seven days after Donald Trump’s election, 13,401 Americans registered with New Zealand’s immigration authorities," the magazine writes. "Much as Switzerland once drew Americans with the promise of secrecy, and Uruguay tempted them with private banks, New Zealand offers security and distance."
As Reid Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn, tells the magazine, “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.’ ” After explaining that his recent laser eye surgery was actually to keep him from fumbling for glasses in a doomsday scenario, he adds that “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."
(Not mentioned here is Tesla's innovation, just out two years ago from local billionaire Elon Musk, is a bioweapon filtration system in the new Model X.)
It all just gets more ridiculous from there:
In private Facebook groups, wealthy survivalists swap tips on gas masks, bunkers, and locations safe from the effects of climate change. “I keep a helicopter gassed up all the time, and I have an underground bunker with an air-filtration system," said a member of one such group identified only as the head of an investment firm. That was "extreme," he said: “A lot of my friends do the guns and the motorcycles and the gold coins. That’s not too rare anymore.”
Tim Chang the 44-year-old managing director of the venture capital firm Mayfield Fund, told the magazine:
“There’s a bunch of us in the Valley... We meet up and have these financial-hacking dinners and talk about backup plans people are doing. 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.” He said, “I’ll be candid: I’m stockpiling now on real estate to generate passive income but also to have havens to go to.”
The form this hypothetical apocalypse might take is a point of disagreement for wealthy preppers. As Reddit co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman asks, “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?” The Reddit CEO, who attributes his prepping inclinations to a formative viewing of Deep Impact and experiences at Burning Man, isn't sure. But whatever the coming disaster might be, instead of trying to use their finances to avert it, the super rich are busy fending for themselves, and no one is surprised. I mean, why fight a war on the rich by redistributing wealth when you just use that wealth to buy an expensive escape hatch?
This month, at a literary event held at the Mission District bar the Make Out Room, I was in the audience when Antonio García Martínez read a scene from his early Facebook employee tell-all memoir, Chaos Monkeys. As a New York Times review of the book makes mention, García Martínez lives on a 40-foot sailboat in the San Francisco Bay. Surprise surprise, turns out he's in the prepper crew, too. “I think people who are particularly attuned to the levers by which society actually works understand that we are skating on really thin cultural ice right now," García Martínez told the New Yorker to explain his purchase of five remote acres on an island in the Pacific Northwest where he's stocked generators, solar panels, and "thousands of rounds of ammunition." He's ready, it seems, to set sail at any moment. Bon voyage!