The latest billionaire trend? Doomsday bunkers with a flammable moat (2024)

What’s your plan for the apocalypse? I’ll tell you what mine is: death. I am not really built for battle – I need five cups of coffee just to function and I have terrible allergies. My body can’t even handle pollen, it’s not going to do well with nuclear war. Plus, even if I was hardier – who wants to live a few extra months in a completely destroyed world?

Billionaires. Billionaires do. As you have probably noticed bunkers have become the ultimate status symbol among the 1%. The bunker craze, accelerated by the pandemic, has been going on for a while now. However I’m starting to think that bunker-fever is getting out of hand. The rich are no longer content with run-of-the-mill $500,000 survival shelters, they’re taking things to the next level: a development which should probably worry us all.

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Look, for example, at Mark Zuckerberg. In December Wired published an in-depth report detailing how the Meta CEO has been constructing a 5,000-sq-ft underground shelter on his 1,400-acre compound in Hawaii. Very normal! Very cool! According to planning documents reviewed by Wired, the compound will be completely self-sufficient with its own food and water supplies. The price tag for the entire project is over $270m. It’s also shrouded in secrecy and people involved with the project are bound by non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). “The only other time you see that is when you’re doing secure military installations,” one local construction industry official affiliated with the site told Wired. “For a private project to have an NDA attached to it is very rare.”

Because of all the secrecy around Zuckerberg’s shelter it’s not clear exactly what sort of dystopian mechanisms are in place to ensure that plebs can’t break in. However, Al Corbi, president of Strategically Armored & Fortified Environments (Safe), a Virginia-based bunker company, recently told The Hollywood Reporter (THR) that his clients have been coming up with cunning way to ensure their luxury apocalypse retreats can’t be breached by the great unwashed. One of the projects Corbi is working on (for an unnamed business mogul) is an island fortress with a flammable moat. Try and breach it and it bursts into flames.

“We wound up literally building a 30-ft-deep lake [around the compound] skimmed with a lighter-than-water flammable liquid that can transform into a ring of fire,” Corbi explained to THR. “The only access to the island is a swing bridge.” And, of course, there are also backup water cannons to keep the poors out. Corbi enthusiastically noted that the cannons can also be used for recreation as well as water-boarding invaders: they can generate waves for a fun game of flag football on jet skis.

Is all this bunker-building a sign the 1% know something we don’t and are preparing for end times? Podcaster Christina Randall, who has over 1.58 million subscribers, thinks so. Randall recently observed that Zuckerberg’s reported bunker is one of approximately 15 end-of-days projects being undertaken by billionaires worldwide and said the Biblical Book of Revelation, which predicts the end of the world, is being fulfilled. “Revelation 6:15 says that the kings of the Earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains,” Randall said.

I’m not sure the Book of Revelation is a particularly authoritative source. But, even disregarding that, there are lots of prophets of doom out there and plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about the state of the world. There’s a famous quote in tech circles, often attributed to William Gibson: the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed. That’s true of disaster as well. While billionaires worry about an upcoming dystopia, people in Gaza are living it. “Gaza has become a death zone,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, recently said at a press briefing in Geneva. The children starving to death in Gaza don’t have underground bunkers to run to. As the 1% create full-scale hospitals in their just-in-case bunkers, people in Gaza are dying of malnutrition and easily-treated diseases. While the rich stockpile food in luxurious shelters, more than half a million in Gaza are at a high risk of mass starvation. And the US government, which could stop all this suffering very quickly, is shrugging its shoulders.

Watching the collective punishment being wrought on Gaza should horrify every one of us. Not just because innocent people are dying terrible deaths that are being funded with US taxpayer money, but because we are watching the destruction of international law. “Although there were rehearsals for events in Gaza that showed extreme disregard of international law, the war there may well signal a curtain call,” Agnès Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International recently wrote in Foreign Affairs. “The rules-based order that has governed international affairs since the end of World War II is on its way out, and there may be no turning back. The consequences of this abandonment are all too apparent: more instability, more aggression, more conflict and more suffering.” The war in Gaza may not affect you personally but the destruction of the rules-based order and international humanitarian law affects all of us. It makes all of us less safe. Add in the climate crisis to the erosion of the rules-based order and things start to look even more dire – even if you’ve got a survival bunker with a flammable moat at your disposal.

But I didn’t mean for this column to be a downer for everyone. There is some good news: robots may take us all out before world war three or the climate crisis does. Eliezer Yudkowsky, an artificial intelligence researcher, recently told the Guardian that we should start laying out the red carpet for our machine-based overloads very soon. “If you put me to a wall,” Yudkowsky mused, “and forced me to put probabilities on things, I have a sense that our current remaining timeline looks more like five years than 50 years. Could be two years, could be 10.” While that seems a tad alarmist, you don’t have to be a doomer to worry that the rise of AI is going to trigger even more instability in an already fragile world. It seems beyond debate that we should all be taking the meteoric rise of AI very seriously. I’ll tell you what is up for debate though: the very serious question of whether sentient robots are capable of breaching flammable moats.

The latest billionaire trend? Doomsday bunkers with a flammable moat (2024)


Why are billionaires building bunkers 2024? ›

Some conspiracy theorists suggest that there is something these billionaires know — something bad that is likely to happen in 2024, and this is why they are building the secret bunkers. By “something,” what most of these theorists mean is some sort of an apocalyptic event.

Which celebrities have bunkers in doomsday? ›

Kim Kardashian, Shaquille O'Neal and Tom Cruise are said to have built bunkers or temporary safe rooms. Bill Gates apparently has bunkers under his homes. But in the Big Apple, where space is scarce and the city is vertical, preparing for the end of the world takes some creativity to go with all that cash.

How long would you need to stay in a nuclear bunker? ›

A minimum of 10 square feet per occupant is required by FEMA, along with a minimum of 6.5 feet of head room. Most government manuals recommend staying inside a fallout shelter for about two weeks.

Can you survive in a underground bunker? ›

You won't survive long underground without oxygen. Installing a reliable air ventilation system in your bunker should be your priority. You'll need a system that will last for months and be able to withstand a storm or bomb going off.

What's up with billionaires building bunkers? ›

Companies that build multimillion-dollar fortified homes and bomb shelters say that while work has been steady for a while, they have seen a significant uptick in recent years. And when the ultra-rich invest in a bunker, they inevitably do it in style.

Who are the famous billionaire bunker owners? ›

Synopsis. Florida's Indian Creek Village is also known as 'Billionaire Bunker'. It has long been known for its incredibly deep-pocketed residents. They include Jeff Bezos, Ivanka Trump, hedge fund king Ken Griffin, Tom Brady, Carl Icahn, Eddie Lampert and singer David Guetta.

What country has 700 000 bunkers? ›

It is estimated that between 1967 and 1986, totalitarian prime minister Enver Hoxha oversaw the construction of more than 700,000 bunkers scattered throughout Albania, many of them clustered along its land borders and coastline. They still dot the country's surface.

How do doomsday bunkers get air? ›

Install a small exhaust fan to provide fresh air and keep the atmosphere clean [2]. Ensure that your bunker has a circulation and filtration system to maintain a constant supply of fresh air [2]. Create air openings or vents to allow for the exchange of air with the outside environment [2].

What is the largest Doomsday bunker in the world? ›

The former army base, which stretches across 18 miles, is located deep in the Black Hills mountain range in South Dakota. Having previously been used to store bombs and munitions from 1942 to 1967, it has since been transformed into a community of 575 livable bunkers, which can house up to 10,000 people.

Does aluminum foil stop nuclear radiation? ›

Beta particles travel appreciable distances in air, but can be reduced or stopped by a layer of clothing, thin sheet of plastic or a thin sheet of aluminum foil. Several feet of concrete or a thin sheet of a few inches of lead may be required to stop the more energetic gamma rays.

Can you drink tap water after a nuclear bomb? ›

Boiling tap water does not get rid of radioactive material.

You should have bottled water in your emergency supplies. You can drink water, juices, or other drinks in sealed containers. Drinks in your refrigerator or freezer are also safe to drink. The package protects the liquid inside from radioactive material.

How long to stay in basem*nt after a nuclear bomb? ›

Remain in the most protective location (basem*nt or center of a large building) for the first 24 hours unless threatened by an immediate hazard (e.g., fire, gas leak, building collapse, or serious injury) or informed by authorities that it is safe to leave.

What company builds underground bunkers? ›

ExSpar Inc. / USA Bunker Company, was founded by two U.S. military veterans to design and build underground bunkers and saferooms that provide the best protection possible in the event of a natural or manmade disaster.

How much does it cost to build a bunker? ›

Building an underground bunker costs $200 to $400 per square foot or $40,000 to $80,000 total on average. Large, luxury doomsday bunkers cost $9 million or more. People typically build bunkers to withstand serious disasters like nuclear fallout or bombs, but some use them for natural disasters like tornadoes.

Who is the biggest bunker in the world? ›

Vivos xPoint, South Dakota, USA

Hailed as the 'largest survival community on earth', Vivos xPoint is a city of bunkers located near Edgemont, South Dakota. Originally named Fort Igloo, the 575 concrete and steel bunkers were built by the US Army in 1942.


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