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The Silicon Valley wealthy have become super doomsday preppers by buying remote New Zealand properties, getting eye surgeries, and stockpiling ammo and food




peter thiel new zealand
peter thiel new zealand  
  • Some of Silicon Valley's wealthiest have developed a penchant for prepping for the apocalypse.

  • They're turning to Lasik eye surgery and multimillion-dollar real-estate investments in New Zealand.

  • Investing for the end of the world has been embraced by the uber-rich, many of whom exist in Silicon Valley.

The so-called doomsday prepper community has been preparing for disaster, especially since the pandemic hit in March 2020.

A divisive political climate has also contributed to what has become increasingly uncertain times. A Texas bunker producer, who makes millions selling doomsday shelters, said his pro-Trump clients often bring up their political views, citing President Joe Biden's administration as a reason for wanting to prepare for disaster.

The wealthiest in society, from Silicon Valley to Wall Street and beyond, take it to a whole other level, perhaps simply because they can afford to.

From buying up land in New Zealand to getting Lasik eye surgery, here's how and why some of the biggest names in tech have invested in doomsday prepping.

Survivalism is a movement whose participants actively prepare for a political, social, or natural global emergency by stockpiling food, weaponry, and other supplies.

reuters us families doomsday preppers 28
reuters us families doomsday preppers 28  

It's more commonly referred to as "doomsday prepping."

reuters us families doomsday preppers 21
reuters us families doomsday preppers 21  

Source: The New Yorker

There are subreddits and Facebook groups devoted to the community, and it's perforated pop culture in recent years, with TV programs like National Geographic Channel's "Doomsday Preppers" series that kicked off in 2012.

reuters us families doomsday preppers 16
reuters us families doomsday preppers 16  

Source: The New Yorker

There's an entire "doom boom" industry consisting of companies that sell emergency prep equipment.

reuters us families doomsday preppers 23
reuters us families doomsday preppers 23  

Source: NPR

An estimated 20% of Americans participate in some sort of doomsday prepping, according to a survey by Finder, which tracks spending habits.

reuters us families doomsday preppers 14
reuters us families doomsday preppers 14  

Source: Finder

But how the average American prepares is going to look a lot different from how the wealthiest in society will go about it.

reuters us families doomsday preppers 10
reuters us families doomsday preppers 10  

Investing in insurance for the end of the world has infiltrated the global elite lifestyle, and Silicon Valley's most notable figures are no exception.

Sam Altman
Sam Altman  

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman told The New Yorker in 2017 that he bought motorcycles, guns, and ammo for his San Francisco home in the event of a disaster.

san francisco
san francisco  

Source: The New Yorker

He said he became inspired to take precautions for potential disaster scenarios after seeing the movie "Deep Impact."

deep impact tsunami tidal wave
deep impact tsunami tidal wave  

Source: The New Yorker

And while most have at least motorcycles, guns, and gold coins stocked up in case of a catastrophe, that's at the tame end of the spectrum.

reuters us families doomsday preppers 27
reuters us families doomsday preppers 27  

Source: The New Yorker

Huffman got Lasik eye surgery to increase his odds of surviving some kind of world disaster. Yishan Wong, who served as CEO of Reddit from 2012 to 2014, did the same.

Steve Huffman Reddit CEO
Steve Huffman Reddit CEO  

Source: The New Yorker

The head of an investment firm told The New Yorker that he keeps a gassed-up helicopter on standby at all times and has an underground bunker with an air-filtration system.

underground bunker
underground bunker  

Source: The New Yorker

Tim Chang, managing director at the venture capital firm Mayfield Fund, told The New Yorker that he keeps a set of bags packed for him and his family in case of a disaster. He also invests in real estate for passive income and to have safehouses in place.

luggage
luggage  

Source: The New Yorker

Ex-Yahoo exec and current 500 Startups partner Marvin Liao said he took archery classes to be able to protect his family in the event that all hell broke loose.

Cirque Beserk acrobat bow and arrow
Cirque Beserk acrobat bow and arrow  

Source: The New Yorker

Doomsday real estate purchases have also become a trend.

Survival Condo Project Mono Dome Cap.JPG
Survival Condo Project Mono Dome Cap.JPG  

LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman told The New Yorker he estimated that more than 50% of his "fellow Silicon Valley billionaires" have acquired some kind of doomsday hideaway spot in the US or elsewhere in the world.

reid hoffman linkedin
reid hoffman linkedin  

Source: The New Yorker

Antonio García Martínez, an ex-Facebook product manager who lives in San Francisco, bought five acres on an island in the Pacific Northwest. His island home features generators, solar panels, and weaponry.

pacific northwest
pacific northwest  

Source: The New Yorker

There could be many reasons why those with money in the Valley opt to invest in doomsday preparations.

Peter Thiel Casual
Peter Thiel Casual  

One, as Huffman told The New Yorker, could be that Silicon Valley needs an exit strategy for when the angry masses retaliate against them for building the kind of automated technology that is replacing human workers.

cafex san francisco robot cafe coffee bar robotic 4
cafex san francisco robot cafe coffee bar robotic 4  

Source: The New Yorker

Political unrest is another potential factor.

protest new york palantir ice
protest new york palantir ice  

Source: The New Yorker

But their mere wealth and circumstances could also be the simplest explanation, as well as the experience that comes with operating in the risk-heavy venture capital industry.

peter thiel
peter thiel  

As Wong, the former Reddit CEO, told The New Yorker, "The tech preppers do not necessarily think a collapse is likely. 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."

peter thiel
peter thiel  

The most popular location for buying up apocalypse land has become New Zealand.

new zealand
new zealand  

"New Zealand is already utopia," Silicon Valley billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel told Business Insider in 2011.

new zealand
new zealand  

Source: Business Insider

Thiel owns two New Zealand properties and became a citizen in 2011.

donald trump peter thiel handshake
donald trump peter thiel handshake  

Source: Business Insider

Ex-president of famed accelerator Y Combinator Sam Altman said he also has his eyes trained on New Zealand in case of a disaster.

Sam Altman Sun Valley
Sam Altman Sun Valley  

Source: The New Yorker

He told The New Yorker that he and Thiel had an escape route to New Zealand planned in case of some kind of cataclysmic collapse, like a nuclear war or a viral outbreak.

sam altman
sam altman  

Source: The New Yorker

The fixation on New Zealand could stem from one of Thiel's favorite books.

new zealand
new zealand  

According to the Guardian's Mark O'Connell, Thiel has long cited "The Sovereign Individual: How to Survive and Thrive During the Collapse of the Welfare State" as one of the most influential in his life.

peter thiel
peter thiel  

Source: The Guardian

At its core, the book essentially details how a civilizational collapse would give way to the rise of the surviving "cognitive elite" who would then rebuild a new world after idling standing by - and hiding - as the existing way of life crumbled to pieces.

Survival Condo Project Garage 2.JPG
Survival Condo Project Garage 2.JPG  

Source: The Guardian

Thiel passed the book on through the Valley grapevine, spreading the concept to his colleagues in the tech community, according to The Guardian.

sam altman
sam altman  

Source: The Guardian

The book's authors also pinpointed New Zealand as the prime spot to hole up until the dust settled following a fallout.

new zealand
new zealand  

That fact, coupled with Thiel's longtime fanaticism of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy - which was filmed in the country - is how Thiel and the rest of the tech elite made New Zealand their target apocalyptic hideout.

peter thiel new zealand
peter thiel new zealand  

Source: Business Insider

According to The New Zealand Herald, Thiel bought a Queenstown mansion in 2011. He turned one of the home's walk-in closets into a panic room.

queenstown new zealand
queenstown new zealand  

Source: Business Insider

Thiel obtained private citizenship of New Zealand in 2011 as well, despite only having spent 12 days in the country.

peter thiel
peter thiel  

Source: The Guardian and The Guardian

And in 2015, he bought an estate on Lake Wanaka valued at around $10 million.

lake wanaka new zealand
lake wanaka new zealand  

Source: The New Zealand Herald

Buying up New Zealand real estate became so popular among execs in the Valley that purchasing a house in New Zealand became Silicon Valley code for getting "apocalypse insurance," as Business Insider's Melia Russell reported in 2017.

new zealand
new zealand  

Source: Business Insider

Some tech execs have even reportedly already flocked to their bunkers in the country to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic.

new zealand man autumn
new zealand man autumn  

Source: Business Insider

And some in New Zealand resent that so much of the nation's property has gone to wealthy foreign buyers who don't live there permanently.

peter thiel
peter thiel  

Source: The New Yorker

So in 2018, the New Zealand Parliament passed a law barring most foreign visitors from purchasing homes or land within the country, which had begun exacerbating a nationwide housing crisis.

new zealand
new zealand  

Source: Business Insider

"If you've got the right to live in New Zealand permanently, you've got the right to buy here. But otherwise it's not a right, it's a privilege," New Zealand's minister for economic development and trade David Parker said in 2018.

new zealand david parker
new zealand david parker  

Source: Business Insider

The country of New Zealand requires foreigners who purchase land there to be "of good character," a clause that affected former NBC host Matt Lauer when sexual-misconduct allegations arose in 2017.

Matt Lauer
Matt Lauer  

Source: Business Insider

Lauer purchased a 16,000-acre ranch valued at $9.1 million in early 2017 before the allegations were made public. New Zealand ultimately allowed the former TV host to keep his land.

matt lauer
matt lauer  

Source: Business Insider and The New York Times

The clause still applies to all New Zealand property owners - good character is "actively confirmed" throughout ownership periods.

new zealand
new zealand  

Source: The New York Times and Business Insider

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