YANSS 242 – The psychology behind the apocalyptic anxieties creating a surge of billionaire preppers

In this episode we sit down with Douglas Rushkoff, a media scholar, journalist, and professor of digital economics who has a new fire in his belly when it comes to the world of billionaire preppers, which comes across in his new book Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires – inspired by his invitation to consult a group of the world’s richest people on how to spend their money now to survive an apocalypse they fear is coming within their lifetimes.

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Five mysterious billionaires summoned theorist Douglas Rushkoff to a desert resort for a private talk. The topic? How to survive the “Event”: the societal catastrophe they know is coming. Rushkoff came to understand that these men were under the influence of The Mindset, a Silicon Valley–style certainty that they and their cohort can break the laws of physics, economics, and morality to escape a disaster of their own making—as long as they have enough money and the right technology.

Douglas Rushkoff

In Survival of the Richest, Rushkoff traces the origins of The Mindset in science and technology through its current expression in missions to Mars, island bunkers, AI futurism, and the metaverse. In a dozen urgent, electrifying chapters, he confronts tech utopianism, the datafication of all human interaction, and the exploitation of that data by corporations. Through fascinating characters—master programmers who want to remake the world from scratch as if redesigning a video game and bankers who return from Burning Man convinced that incentivized capitalism is the solution to environmental disasters—Rushkoff explains why those with the most power to change our current trajectory have no interest in doing so. And he shows how recent forms of anti-mainstream rebellion—QAnon, for example, or meme stocks—reinforce the same destructive order.

Named one of the “world’s ten most influential intellectuals” by MIT, Douglas Rushkoff is a professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at the City University of New York, he is one of the original cyberpunks, a friend of Timothy Leary’s and a titan of technology journalism who coined the terms viral media, digital native, and social currency. His bestsellers include Coercion, Present Shock, Throwing Rocks and the Google Bus, Program or Be Programmed, Life Inc, and Media Virus, and his famed PBS Frontline documentaries include Generation Like, The Persuaders, and Merchants of Cool. He is also the host of the Team Human podcast.

Links and Sources

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Douglas Rushkoff’s Website