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Prepping for the Apocalypse

By Michelle Konstantinovsky

Early last year, New Yorker writer Evan Osnos penned a now-infamous article titled “Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich.” The journalist explored the ways in which Silicon Valley’s biggest successes are prepping for what they say is a looming apocalypse. One of the most fascinating insights was the revelation that Reddit co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman first began harboring a fear of apocalyptic aftermath following the release of the 1998 movie Deep Impact. As he told Osnos, the on-screen visual of a comet-induced tsunami causing an inescapable traffic jam freaked him out. It didn’t help that the scene was filmed near his high school. “Every time I drove through that stretch of road, I would think, I need to own a motorcycle because everybody else is screwed,” he said. Huffman certainly isn’t alone in his doomsday anxiety. There are a variety of reasons tech giants predict the end is nigh, but there’s also a slew of strategies they have for coping with the (allegedly) impending apocalypse. Here’s a brief survival guide…

Disaster scenario #1: A pandemic or natural disaster is on its way.

Illustration by Daniel Sulzberg

An epic earthquake, an uncontrollable disease — pick your poison, but many believe some sort of earth-ending catastrophe is headed our way. One potential solution? The Survival Condo Project, a 20-unit luxury underground apartment complex near Wichita, Kan., that’s designed to be self-sustaining. Its founder, Larry Hall, told Osnos he suspects Ebola was intentionally introduced into the country to weaken the population. “He realized that there was a certain kind of buyer out there,” Osnos told NPR, “who would be willing to spend, in this case, about $3 million for an apartment underground, or $1.5 million for half an apartment. Larry Hall has sold every unit in it except one for himself.” Of course the Survival Condo Project isn’t the only option for big spenders looking for incomparable security: Companies like Vivos build and manage high-end global annihilation shelters around the world.

Disaster scenario #2: Robots will take our jobs … and also maybe kill us?

Illustration by Daniel Sulzberg

Our cars drive for us, our phones answer our questions and our “smart” home devices do everything from dim the lights to adjust the thermostat. Could an artificial intelligence takeover really be that far off? Elon Musk certainly doesn’t think so. After all, the magnate, investor and engineer told the audience at the 2014 MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium, “with artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon.” That’s just one reason Musk is set on colonizing Mars, he once explained to Vanity Fair magazine— so that if and when A.I. goes rogue, he and whoever else can afford a ride on the SpaceX rocket will have an easy escape. But that’s not Musk’s only anti-A.I. plan — in the same interview, he also described how an injectable mesh known as “neural lace” could effectively enable humans to communicate directly with computers. “We’re already cyborgs,” he said, suggesting that a “meaningful partial-brain interface” could be just four or five years away. So, start saving now?

Disaster scenario #3: The economy will implode, and the only salvation is in New Zealand.

Illustration by Daniel Sulzberg

According to recent reports, billionaire tech giants have their sights set on one idyllic destination for when the world comes crashing down: New Zealand. Gary Lynch, the general manager of Rising S Co., told Bloomberg his company has sold bunkers to seven Silicon Valley entrepreneurs that were later planted Down Under because “New Zealand is an enemy of no one. It’s not a nuclear target. It’s not a target for war. It’s a place where people seek refuge.” And while the remote location of the island nation has historically impeded its economic success, that isolation is precisely what makes it attractive to techies looking to escape the possible implosion of our current society. “If you’re the sort of person that says, ‘I’m going to have an alternative plan when Armageddon strikes,’ then you would pick the farthest location and the safest environment — and that equals New Zealand if you Google it,” former Prime Minister John Key told Bloomberg.

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