Billionaires bracing for apocalypse: Zuckerberg, Altman, and wealthy YouTubers build bunkers /…

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Billionaires bracing for apocalypse: Zuckerberg, Altman, and wealthy YouTubers build bunkers / An underground shelter in Romania costs 70,000 euros / Psychologists explain the phenomenon

Amid the pandemic, the wars in Russia and the Middle East, and the looming threat of climate change, the world’s powerful and wealthy are investing in underground bunkers to protect themselves against nuclear war or climate catastrophes. Those with fewer financial means are merely stockpiling supplies. In Romania, specialized companies are constructing bunkers with prices reaching up to 70,000 euros. These companies sell a few units per year, mainly to businesspeople in the construction sector. Psychologist Cristian Staicu explained to G4Media.ro that the phenomenon is primarily driven by „anxiety about the uncertainty of the future.”

Mark Zuckerberg, the head of Meta, which owns the social networks Facebook and Instagram, is building a bunker half a square kilometer in size under his property on the island of Kauai in Hawaii.

The owner of a company that builds such structures, Atlas Survival Shelters, told Hollywood Reporter that news of Zuckerberg’s project has prompted other very wealthy individuals to follow his lead. Zuckerberg’s bunker has caused a „buying frenzy” in the field, according to Ron Hubbard, the company’s CEO.

„Nothing will save us if general artificial intelligence goes rogue”

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, the company developing ChatGPT, believes that human civilization could be destroyed by a synthetic virus, an artificial intelligence attack, or a nuclear war. He is preparing for such a scenario. „I try not to think too much about it. But I have guns, gold, potassium iodide, antibiotics, batteries, water, gas masks from the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces), and a large piece of land in Big Sur,” he said in 2016.

Sam Altman is a pilot and even has a landing strip on his property in the mountainous area of California’s coast. However, he does not have a bunker. „I have some structures, but I wouldn’t call it a bunker,” he said at the WSJ Tech Live event. „Nothing will save us if general artificial intelligence (AGI) goes rogue,” he added. AGI refers to highly autonomous systems – currently hypothetical – that could surpass human work in the most economically valuable manner, according to the SAP company.

Another billionaire interested in bunkers is Peter Thiel, former CEO of PayPal. He attempted to build a large one in New Zealand in 2022 but did not receive the necessary permissions. According to sources, Bill Gates, one of the founders of Microsoft, has such structures under all his homes.

Millionaires who can afford it invest in such projects too. Zack Nelson, owner of the technology-focused YouTube account JerryRigEverything, with over 8.46 million subscribers, built his own bunker in his backyard. He showcased the stages on his channel.

Robert Vicino, a bunker seller in California, told Financial Times that the number of orders increased by 500% in 2020 compared to 2019, and the number of people who contacted his company Vivos to inquire about products increased by 2,000%.

Few people in Romania can afford a bunker

There are also companies in Romania that build bunkers. The price for one, with a surface area of 16 square meters and without furnishings or sanitary fittings, reaches 70,000 euros at Smits Industry. The executive director, Sorin Bălan, stated that these are purchased by people with above-average incomes. „Most come from the business sector, and most are entrepreneurs in construction,” he told G4Media.

The company, which offers many other services besides bunkers, sells 6-7 units a year. People with financial means in large cities, such as Bucharest, are interested in bunkers, but they cannot build them because they do not have space in their yards. Usually, these are placed on new properties, on the edge or outside of cities.

Those who cannot afford bunkers stockpile supplies

There is also another category of people who prepare for a potential apocalypse but do not necessarily have a bunker or an underground shelter because they cannot afford one. They stockpile supplies and equipment in basements and pantries to survive as long as possible in case a new pandemic or a world war breaks out. They are the „preppers” or survivalists. Their number has rapidly increased during the pandemic and will probably continue to grow amid the two major ongoing wars.

In Romania, there are online groups where these people communicate and exchange ideas and information. The Preppers Romania group on Facebook has 3,300 members. Additionally, the Romania Preppers Official page on Facebook has 764 likes and nearly 800 followers, but it seems to have been inactive since 2020.

Why are some people concerned about preparing for the „apocalypse,” while others are not? The psychologist’s explanation

Faced with the increasing threats of wars, pandemics, and global warming, some people feel a strong need to prepare for a potential apocalypse, while others seem to ignore these risks. In light of psychological theories, this phenomenon can be understood as the result of a complex interaction between deep psychological factors and external influences, explains psychologist Cristian Staicu.

„A central factor in the motivation to prepare for the apocalypse is anxiety related to the uncertainty of the future and human vulnerability. Individuals who feel this anxiety may seek to gain a sense of control over the situation by building bunkers or stockpiling supplies. Thus, preparation becomes an adaptation mechanism, meant to reduce the fear and uncertainty associated with apocalyptic prospects,” he says.

Culture and social environment also have a significant impact on how people react to apocalyptic threats, adds Staicu: „Media messages, apocalyptic movies, and other forms of entertainment can fuel anxiety and concerns about the future, leading some people to place increased importance on preparation. At the same time, social norms and group pressure can play a role in shaping individual behavior in the face of threats.”

Individual differences in temperament, personality, and personal experiences also contribute to the observed variability in people’s responses to apocalyptic threats. Individuals who have gone through traumas or previous disasters may be more likely to be vulnerable and adopt proactive measures to cope with future presumed challenges, says the source.

„In conclusion, the motivation to prepare for the apocalypse can be understood in the context of a complex interaction between anxiety related to the uncertainty of the future, cultural and social influences, and individual differences. In a world marked by uncertainty and imminent threats, preparation often becomes a natural response for those seeking to ensure their safety and survival in the face of a perceived uncertain and threatening future,” concluded Cristian Staicu.

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