Grim Meathook Thinktanking

Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked, "How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?"

The Event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus, or Mr. Robot hack that takes everything down.

This single question occupied us for the rest of the hour. They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from the angry mobs. But how would they pay the guards once money was worthless? What would stop the guards from choosing their own leader? The billionaires considered using special combination locks on the food supply that only they knew. Or making guards wear disciplinary collars of some kind in return for their survival. Or maybe building robots to serve as guards and workers -- if that technology could be developed in time. [...]

When the hedge funders asked me the best way to maintain authority over their security forces after "the event," I suggested that their best bet would be to treat those people really well, right now. They should be engaging with their security staffs as if they were members of their own family. And the more they can expand this ethos of inclusivity to the rest of their business practices, supply chain management, sustainability efforts, and wealth distribution, the less chance there will be of an "event" in the first place. All this technological wizardry could be applied toward less romantic but entirely more collective interests right now.

They were amused by my optimism, but they didn't really buy it.

They were not interested in how to avoid a calamity; they're convinced we are too far gone. For all their wealth and power, they don't believe they can affect the future. They are simply accepting the darkest of all scenarios and then bringing whatever money and technology they can employ to insulate themselves  --  especially if they can't get a seat on the rocket to Mars.

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23 Responses:

  1. This sure is bleak. Imagine having that much money at your disposal and deciding that effecting change to try to help the other 99% is impossible and it's easier to build a bunker and turn your employees into slaves. I hope every one of these guys goes up against the wall if a revolution happens.

    • NT says:

      That's not what the article said. The rich guys paid Rushkoff to come talk to them about a tail risk that they are trying to prepare for, not for an inspirational talk about how they should just invest in world peace instead. Just because these guys are unimaginably rich by our standards doesn't make them gods, or some philanthropist would have wiped out hunger and disease by now. They are correct that it is cheaper to build a bunker and hide than it is to stop the threats they are asking about, and it seems like it wouldn't hurt Rushkoff to acknowledge this.

      Almost certainly the same people engage in something they think of as philanthropy. One might or might not like their choice of causes, but either way it makes sense that you don't go to Douglas Rushkoff for charitable giving advice. His area of expertise is apparently Media Theory, so it's more like he was brought in as an authority on meathooks.

      • Thank you for setting the record straight. Why can't people understand?
        Billionaire overlords are people too. An MRE still tastes like an MRE, even if you're eating it in Gucci slippers. And no matter how rich you are, you can only occupy one remote island survival bunker at a time--just everyone else. What if they chose the wrong one?

        Hang up the class warfare people, and try some sympathy for a change.

        • NT says:

          Some of us are more worried about the smart/stupid axis than the left/right axis. The problem with snark is that it makes you stupid.

      • Wil E. Coyote says:

        Not that I want to be an apologist for tech millionaires, but the above poster has a point. Most of the intractable problems in our society are political problems (in the sense of different group with different interests battling it out), not technical ones. Thinking that you can solve those political problems just with money is the same kind of naive thinking that makes so many Silicon Valley millionaires try to "hack education" or "solve healthcare" in the first place.

      • Elusis says:

        I read recently that it would cost about $55 million to fix Flint's water crisis. Bezos is worth about $140.9 billion and can't think of what to do with his money other than SPAAAAACE. He could put in sewer systems for all the homes in America not connected to sewer systems, pay bail for all the people unable to work to support their families because they're incarcerated for minor offenses while awaiting trial, or pay off 10% of all higher education debt held by Americans, and it would barely be a rounding or decimal point error on his spreadsheets.

  2. Jieves says:

    These folks need to move somewhere more chill near more laid-back neighbors. There’s not going to be An Event, at least not one that’s both sudden and world-wide (barring Skynet).

  3. Lloyd says:

    Do we have any other evidence that this conversation happened as described?

    The panel of billionaires that I consult for has pointed out that Rushkoff is suspiciously interested in engineering viral memes, and in self-publicity.

    I don't know about The Event, but this event seems fictitious.

  4. Lloyd says:

    Also worth adding that self-publishing on Medium exempts you from editorial oversight and factchecking by disaffected underpaid liberal arts graduates, who can ask awkward questions like 'When did this happen? Where? If you can't name the billionaires, who set up the meeting? Oh, there's a nondisclosure? So, what does it cover, because this article seems to be a disclosure of sorts.'

    That Rushkoff didn't get e.g. Wired to take this piece is interesting. If it's on Medium, it's not well done.

    On the other hand, getting paid by the billionaires and then paid by e.g. Wired to write about it would be a double-dipping conflict of interest, so kudos to Rushkoff for his principled sacrifice and thought leadership here.

  5. onetwothreemikechecka says:

    a special combination on the food locker? how could that fail? the guards take your family hostage or torture them while making you watch until you spill the combo. if you're tougher than all that then they can always just kill you and trade a bullet or starvation for a lifetime of slavery. bomb-collars on the armed guards? go on strike and spend all day hanging around the heating oil tank, the refrigerator compressor, or air-filter. if your boss blows you up he gets to pick shrapnel and brains out of any one of those fragile machines. somehow i don't think the post-apocalyptic world is going to have the industrial sophistication to fix any of those things if they get perforated by his fancy bomb-collars. if the author of this is for real then kudos to him for extracting a speaking fee from these stupid, wealthy people. i wish him much future success.

  6. Kyle Huff says:

    Get your ass to Mars.

  7. Joe Luser says:

    b ark

  8. > "Is Google really building Ray Kurzweil a home for his brain?"

    Oh yes, please, let's start that rumor. It will never be debunked.

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