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Silicon Valley billionaires are ‘prepping’ to survive in underground bunkers

Some in the prepper movement are afraid that AI will lead to a revolt against the wealthy.

Northern Irish Government To Sell Off It's Nuclear Bunker Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

One of the more peculiar hobbies popular among the Silicon Valley elite is an obsession with preparing to survive for end times; its adherents are commonly called “preppers.”

It’s the topic of an essay in the New Yorker this week, “Survival of the Richest” by Evan Osnos, which delves into why tech billionaires are particularly attracted to the idea.

According to Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, the prepper movement among tech-made billionaires is largely inspired by fear that artificial intelligence will one day displace so many jobs that there will be a revolt against those behind the technology.

The disruptive effects of automation and AI on workers and their livelihoods is a future that even President Obama warned of last week.

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, Sam Altman of Y Combinator, Trump-loving Peter Thiel — the list goes on — are all preppers. Hoffman estimates that “50-plus percent” of other tech billionaires have a home to escape to.

But the instinct to run, hide and survive is only one approach to a future that may see social order tumble into chaos as a result of extreme inequity.

“It’s one of the few things about Silicon Valley that I actively dislike — the sense that we are superior giants who move the needle and, even if it’s our own failure, must be spared,” Max Levchin, a founder of PayPal, told Osnos.

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