I will probably be in charge, or at least not a slave, when push comes to shove. Over the years, Huffman has become increasingly concerned about basic American political stability and the risk of large-scale unrest.
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In building Reddit, a community of thousands of discussion threads, into one of the most frequently visited sites in the world, Huffman has grown aware of the way that technology alters our relations with one another, for better and for worse. He has witnessed how social media can magnify public fear. Long before the financial crisis became front-page news, early signs appeared in user comments on Reddit.
They were worried about student debt. They were worried about debt in general. Those impulses are not as contradictory as they seem. Technology rewards the ability to imagine wildly different futures, Roy Bahat, the head of Bloomberg Beta, a San Francisco-based venture-capital firm, told me. It can inspire radical optimism—such as the cryonics movement, which calls for freezing bodies at death in the hope that science will one day revive them—or bleak scenarios.
In recent years, survivalism has been edging deeper into mainstream culture. A survey commissioned by National Geographic found that forty per cent of Americans believed that stocking up on supplies or building a bomb shelter was a wiser investment than a k. Conservative devotees, who accused Obama of stoking racial tensions, restricting gun rights, and expanding the national debt, loaded up on the types of freeze-dried cottage cheese and beef stroganoff promoted by commentators like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.
The fears were different in Silicon Valley. Around the same time that Huffman, on Reddit, was watching the advance of the financial crisis, Justin Kan heard the first inklings of survivalism among his peers. Kan co-founded Twitch, a gaming network that was later sold to Amazon for nearly a billion dollars. But then we got a couple of bags of rice and five cans of tomatoes. We would have been dead if there was actually a real problem. Yishan Wong, an early Facebook employee, was the C.
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. How many wealthy Americans are really making preparations for a catastrophe? Sometimes the topic emerges in unexpected ways.
Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn and a prominent investor, recalls telling a friend that he was thinking of visiting New Zealand.
New Zealand, he discovered, is a favored refuge in the event of a cataclysm. Southwestern Connecticut is first. Is it going to turn against technological innovation? Is it going to turn into civil disorder? The C.
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How much money have you donated to your local homeless shelter? All the other forms of fear that people bring up are artificial. When the economy heads south, you will have a bunch of people that are in really bad shape. What do we expect then? On the opposite side of the country, similar awkward conversations have been unfolding in some financial circles.
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Robert H. Dugger worked as a lobbyist for the financial industry before he became a partner at the global hedge fund Tudor Investment Corporation, in After seventeen years, he retired to focus on philanthropy and his investments. To manage that fear, Dugger said, he has seen two very different responses. And what about the maintenance guys? If revolutionaries are kicking in doors, how many of the people in your life will you have to take with you?
Even financiers who supported Trump for President, hoping that he would cut taxes and regulations, have been unnerved at the ways his insurgent campaign seems to have hastened a collapse of respect for established institutions. They wonder, Is the court system next? For people whose existence depends on enforceable contracts, this is life or death. Robert A. At fifty-nine, Johnson has tousled silver hair and a soft-spoken, avuncular composure. He earned degrees in electrical engineering and economics at M.
He became a managing director at the hedge fund Soros Fund Management. In , after the onset of the financial crisis, he was named head of a think tank, the Institute for New Economic Thinking. When I visited Johnson, not long ago, at his office on Park Avenue South, he described himself as an accidental student of civic anxiety. I used to live in Belle Haven, in Greenwich, Connecticut. From my own career, I would just talk to people.
They have to be on the plane. That gap is comparable to the gap between average incomes in the U. On a cool evening in early November, I rented a car in Wichita, Kansas, and drove north from the city through slanting sunlight, across the suburbs and out beyond the last shopping center, where the horizon settles into farmland. After a couple of hours, just before the town of Concordia, I headed west, down a dirt track flanked by corn and soybean fields, winding through darkness until my lights settled on a large steel gate.
follow url A guard, dressed in camouflage, held a semiautomatic rifle. Read classic New Yorker stories, curated by our archivists and editors. He ushered me through, and, in the darkness, I could see the outline of a vast concrete dome, with a metal blast door partly ajar. I was greeted by Larry Hall, the C.
The facility housed a nuclear warhead from to , when it was decommissioned. At a site conceived for the Soviet nuclear threat, Hall has erected a defense against the fears of a new era. The kids can run around.
Hall got the idea for the project about a decade ago, when he read that the federal government was reinvesting in catastrophe planning, which had languished after the Cold War. Bush ordered a renewed focus on continuity plans, and FEMA launched annual government-wide exercises. The most recent, Eagle Horizon, in , simulated hurricanes, improvised nuclear devices, earthquakes, and cyberattacks. In , he paid three hundred thousand dollars for the silo and finished construction in December, , at a cost of nearly twenty million dollars.
He created twelve private apartments: full-floor units were advertised at three million dollars; a half-floor was half the price. He has sold every unit, except one for himself, he said. The interior can support a total of seventy-five people. It has enough food and fuel for five years off the grid; by raising tilapia in fish tanks, and hydroponic vegetables under grow lamps, with renewable power, it could function indefinitely, Hall said.
Residents with private planes can land in Salina, about thirty miles away. In his view, the Army Corps did the hardest work by choosing the location. Hall, in his late fifties, is barrel-chested and talkative. He studied business and computers at the Florida Institute of Technology and went on to specialize in networks and data centers for Northrop Grumman, Harris Corporation, and other defense contractors.
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He now goes back and forth between the Kansas silo and a home in the Denver suburbs, where his wife, a paralegal, lives with their twelve-year-old son. Hall led me through the garage, down a ramp, and into a lounge, with a stone fireplace, a dining area, and a kitchen to one side. It had the feel of a ski condo without windows: pool table, stainless-steel appliances, leather couches.
To maximize space, Hall took ideas from cruise-ship design. We were accompanied by Mark Menosky, an engineer who manages day-to-day operations. While they fixed dinner—steak, baked potatoes, and salad—Hall said that the hardest part of the project was sustaining life underground. He studied how to avoid depression add more lights , prevent cliques rotate chores , and simulate life aboveground. The condo walls are fitted with L. Owners can opt instead for pine forests or other vistas. Some survivalists disparage Hall for creating an exclusive refuge for the wealthy and have threatened to seize his bunker in a crisis.
Hall waved away this possibility when I raised it with him over dinner. These days, when North Korea tests a bomb, Hall can expect an uptick in phone inquiries about space in the complex. He suspects that the Ebola virus was allowed to enter the country in order to weaken the population. Ten years ago, this just seemed crazy that all this was going to happen: the social unrest and the cultural divide in the country, the race-baiting and the hate-mongering.
Allen told me that, in his view, taking precautions is unfairly stigmatized. Why do our dystopian urges emerge at certain moments and not others? Doomsday—as a prophecy, a literary genre, and a business opportunity—is never static; it evolves with our anxieties. The earliest Puritan settlers saw in the awe-inspiring bounty of the American wilderness the prospect of both apocalypse and paradise.
When, in May of , sudden darkness settled on New England, farmers perceived it as a cataclysm heralding the return of Christ. In fact, the darkness was caused by enormous wildfires in Ontario. Lawrence diagnosed a specific strain of American dread. Historically, our fascination with the End has flourished at moments of political insecurity and rapid technological change. There was a huge inequity in wealth, a stirring of working classes. Life spans were getting shorter. Business titans grew uncomfortable. Rockefeller founded the University of Chicago. During the Cold War, Armageddon became a matter for government policymakers.
Hidden beneath the Greenbrier Resort, in White Sulphur Springs, for more than thirty years, it maintained separate chambers-in-waiting for the House and the Senate. Congress now plans to shelter at undisclosed locations. There was also a secret plan to whisk away the Gettysburg Address, from the Library of Congress, and the Declaration of Independence, from the National Archives.
But in John F. What is the impact on the community if you have to shut down the area around the incident for an extended period? Asking these hard questions can help all affected prepare in advance for an incident. Developing a culture of preparedness does not start in D. Everyone needs to question how prepared they are and how they will respond in an incident. Just as importantly, you need to share your plan with your response partners to reduce redundancies and improve the effectiveness of a response.
Corporate secrets are one thing, but response to an incident should be an all-hands evolution. Seconds matter. Part of community preparedness is a willingness to have an open dialog with the community and educating them on your response plans. Do you have pre-indicated evacuation plans or routes? How will you communicate updates? Simple planning such as this can help reduce public concern, as well as frontloading them with information so they know how to behave during an incident.
Having a partially built plan in advance will enable all responders to work more quickly, operating under an existing but evolving plan, instead of waiting for a plan to be created from scratch.