Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires

My Medium piece Survival of the Richest has grown into a whole book

Douglas Rushkoff
4 min readMay 9, 2022

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https://wwnorton.com/books/9780393881066

We always knew but now we know. The tech elite mean to leave us all behind.

I learned this when I traveled to a remote resort to deliver what was supposed to be a talk for a group of tech investors. It turned out to be something of a “consult” to five ultra-wealthy men on their apocalypse survival strategies.

The experience led to a much-circulated piece here on Medium and an option for a movie. But it also set me off on a multi-year journey to understand “The Mindset” leading the wealthy to believe that as long they have enough money and the right technology, they can break the laws of physics, economics, and morality to escape a disaster of their own making. They are preparing for a digital future that has less to do with making the world a better place than transcending the human condition altogether.

These billionaires once showered the world with optimistic business plans for how tech might benefit human society. Now they’ve reduced technological progress to a video game that one of them wins by finding the escape hatch. Will it be Bezos migrating to space, Thiel to his New Zealand compound, or Zuckerberg to his Metaverse?

This “out of sight, out of mind” externalization of poverty and poison trickles down through the Mindset to the rest of us; but the collateral damage doesn’t go away just because we’ve covered our eyes with VR goggles. The longer we ignore the social, economic, and environmental repercussions of our actions, the more of a problem they become. This, in turn, motivates even more withdrawal, isolationism, and apocalyptic fantasy.

The Mindset is based in a staunchly atheistic and materialist scientism, a faith in technology to solve problems, an adherence to biases of digital code, an understanding of human relationships as market phenomena, a fear of nature and women, a need to see one’s contributions as utterly unique innovations without precedent, and an urge to neutralize the unknown by dominating and de-animating it.

The technosolutionist future climaxes by uploading our economy to the blockchain and our minds to the cloud. We “level up” in the ultimate exit…

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Douglas Rushkoff

Author of Survival of the Richest, Team Human, Program or Be Programmed, and host of the Team Human podcast http://teamhuman.fm