Why tech billionaires are buying luxury doomsday bunkers in New Zealand

When the zombies come, when the bombs fall, or when biological warfare breaks, where will you go? If you’re a wealthy tech executive in Silicon Valley, odds are it’s New Zealand.


When the zombies come, when the bombs fall, or when biological warfare breaks, where will you go?

If you’re a wealthy tech executive in Silicon Valley, odds are it’s New Zealand.

In recent years, the island nation of 4.8 million people has become a go-to spot for Americans plotting elaborate and expensive plan Bs in the event of world disaster. It’s an investment that begins to make sense once you reach a certain echelon of wealth.

“It’s known as the last bus stop on the planet before you hit Antarctica,” former Prime Minister John Key told Bloomberg. “We live in a world where some people have extraordinary amounts of wealth and there comes a point at which, when you have so much money, allocating a very tiny amount of that for ‘Plan B’ is not as crazy as it sounds.”

Some wealthy doomsday preppers keep helicopters or private gassed up and ready to go, or go-bags stuffed with gear, gold coins and medicine. Steve Huffman, the co-founder of reddit, told The New Yorker he keeps guns and a motorcycle at the ready. Why? A traffic scene from the movie ‘Deep Impact’.

“Everybody’s trying to get out, and they’re stuck in traffic,” Huffman said. “That scene happened to be filmed near my high school. Every time I drove through that stretch of road, I would think, I need to own a motorcycle because everybody else is screwed.”

More recently, some Silicon Valley doomsday preppers have begun building elaborate bunkers in New Zealand, an island that’s desirable for its lax regulations, remote location and status as a neutral territory in the event of world war.


Rising S. Co.

It’s become something of an industry. Some bunkers are reported to fit 300 people, costing about $35,000 a head. But other bunkers, which are constructed in the U.S. and shipped to New Zealand to be buried secretly, without a trace, can cost up to $8 million.

One deluxe bunker from the manufacturer Rising S. Co, which has recently supplied several Silicon Valley preppers, comes with garden rooms, a games room and a gun range, in addition to bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens.

But New Zealand might soon be a less viable option for wealthy doomsday preppers. In August, the government passed a law banning the sale of homes to non-residents, meaning anyone looking to ride out Armageddon on the island of 4.8 million people would need to first obtain citizenship.

Not all in Silicon Valley believe it’s worth the effort, however.

“The world is so interconnected now that if anything was to happen, we would all be in pretty bad shape, unfortunately,” Sam Altman, president of Silicon Valley startup incubator Y Combinator, told Bloomberg. “I don’t think you can just run away and try to hide in a corner of the Earth.”

Tesla introduces new Model 3 at $45,000

The new version's battery has a shorter range and a price $4,000 lower than the previous starting price.

Tesla Model 3 (Photo: Tesla)
Technology & Innovation
  • Tesla's new version of the Model 3 costs $45,000 and can travel 260 miles on one charge.
  • The Model 3 is the best-selling luxury car in the U.S.
  • Tesla still has yet to introduce a fully self-driving car, even though it once offered the capability as an option to be installed at a future date.
Keep reading Show less

The surprising psychology of sex with your ex

We all know sleeping with your ex is a bad idea, or is it?

Shutterstock
Sex & Relationships
  • In the first study of its kind, researchers have found sex with an ex didn't prevent people from getting over their relationship.
  • Instead of feeling worse about their breakup after a hookup, the new singles who attempted sexual contact with their ex reported feeling better afterwards.
  • The findings suggest that not every piece of relationship advice is to be taken at face value.
Keep reading Show less

Relationship hack: Why class clowns make better partners

Want a happy, satisfying relationship? Psychologists say the best way is to learn to take a joke.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
Sex & Relationships
  • New research looks at how partners' attitudes toward humor affects the overall quality of a relationship.
  • Out of the three basic types of people, people who love to be laughed at made for better partners.
  • Fine-tuning your sense of humor might be the secret to a healthy, happy, and committed relationship.
Keep reading Show less

Single algae cells can help deliver targeted medicine

Tiny and efficient, these biodegradable single cells show promise as a way to target hard-to-reach cancers.

Credit: O. Yasa et al./Adv. Mater.
Surprising Science
  • Scientists in Germany have found a potential improvement on the idea of bacteria delivering medicine.
  • This kind of microtargeting could be useful in cancer treatments.
  • The microswimmers are biodegradable and easy to produce.

Metin Sitti and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute in Germany recently demonstrated that tiny drugs could be attached to individual algae cells and that those algae cells could then be directed through body-like fluid by a magnetic field.

The results were recently published in Advanced Materials, and the paper as a whole offers up a striking portrait of precision and usefulness, perhaps loosely comparable in overall quality to recent work done by The Yale Quantum Institute. It begins by noting that medicine has been attached to bacteria cells before, but bacteria can multiply and end up causing more harm than good.

A potential solution to the problem seems to have been found in an algal cell: the intended object of delivery is given a different electrical charge than the algal cell, which helps attach the object to the cell. The movement of the algae was then tested in 2D and 3D. (The study calls this cell a 'microswimmer.') It would later be found that "3D mean swimming speed of the algal microswimmers increased more than twofold compared to their 2D mean swimming speed." The study continues —

More interestingly, 3D mean swimming speed of the algal microswimmers in the presence of a uniform magnetic field in the x-direction was approximately threefolds higher than their 2D mean swimming speed.

After the 2D and 3D speed of the algal was examined, it was then tested in something made to approximate human fluid, including what they call 'human tubal fluid' (think of the fallopian tubes), plasma, and blood. They then moved to test the compatibility of the microswimmer with cervical cancer cells, ovarian cancer cells, and healthy cells. They found that the microswimmer didn't follow the path of bacteria cells and create something toxic.

The next logical steps from the study include testing this inside a living organism in order to assess the safety of the procedure. Potential future research could include examining how effective this method of drug delivery could be in targeting "diseases in deep body locations," as in, the reproductive and gastrointestinal tracts.

Yes, Mega Millions just passed $1 billion. What does that look like?

It's hard to imagine such a number. But these images will help you try.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Megamillions_tickets.jpg
News/Social

The Mega Millions lottery just passed $1 billion for tonight's drawing.

What does that even look like, when represented by various currencies?

It takes just 6 numbers to win. You can only, however, purchase tickets up until 10:45 ET tonight.

Keep reading Show less

Gary Shteyngart: reality catches up to dystopian fiction

Our modern-day Kafka on his new novel Lake Success and the dark comedy that in 2018 pretty much writes itself

Technology & Innovation
  • riding the Greyhounds of hell, from New York to El Paso
  • the alternate reality of hedge fund traders
Keep reading Show less

How lifelong learning makes you shine in the job market

Here's why the school you went to is less relevant than ever.

Videos
  • Learning agility is the ability to learn new things quickly and be aware of the trends that are emerging in your industry. It's the most important job skill hiring managers should be looking for and job seekers should be putting forward, says Kelly Palmer.
  • Want to test your learning agility? Answer this practice interview question: "What did you learn last week?"
  • Hiring people based on the school they went to is less relevant than ever. Why? Palmer explains: "If I asked you, "Tell me about your health," and you told me you ran a marathon 10 years ago, does that really tell me what your health is like? Not really." It's what you can offer now and how agile you are that matters.
  • Kelly Palmer is the author of The Expertise Economy.

Inside China's plan to put an 'artificial moon' in orbit

By 2022, there may be as many as three artificial moons floating above the city of Chengdu.

Photo by Schubert Ciencia via Flickr/Big Think
Technology & Innovation
  • Chinese state media announced plans to put an artificial moon in orbit by 2020.
  • Just like the real moon, the artificial moon will reflect sunlight onto the Earth in order to cut down on electricity consumption.
  • If the mission is a success, there are plans to launch three other artificial moons in 2022.
Keep reading Show less