Sam Altman — who warned AI poses ‘risk of extinction’ to humanity — is also a ‘doomsday prepper’
Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, has admitted to being a doomsday prepper and owning a stash of guns, gold and other survival goods. Altman’s concern about catastrophic events such as lethal synthetic viruses or rogue AI attacks is not unique in Silicon Valley, where many tech billionaires have invested in post-apocalyptic contingency plans such as remote bunkers. Yet, critics of tech’s obsession with a “Terminator”-like future argue that such scenarios are a distraction from current and pressing issues. They also suggest that tech firms’ warnings of potential Armageddon are a way to secure a seat at the table to shape regulations that will raise the barrier of entry for potential AI rivals. Despite the debate, some firms such as Texas-based Rising S, which builds and installs steel bunkers, are profiting from paranoid tech billionaires buying “larger model” bunkers with amenities such as bowling alleys and swimming pools.
Sam Altman, the tech leader who cautioned about the potential “threat of extinction” to human beings posed by AI, is additionally a practitioner of “doomsday prepping.”
Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI and a prominent figure in Silicon Valley, has disclosed his personal hobby of prepping for survival in the event of a catastrophic event, such as a deadly virus outbreak or an AI system gone rogue. In a 2016 interview with the New Yorker, Altman boasted of his stash of guns, gold, potassium iodide, antibiotics, water, gas masks from the Israeli Defense Force, and a “big patch of land” in Big Sur, California which he could fly to. Altman’s doomsday vision of AI is shared by many in Silicon Valley, including tech billionaires like Peter Thiel and Google co-founder Larry Page, who have invested in post-apocalyptic contingency plans such as remote bunkers and land purchases in places like New Zealand. But critics have raised concerns that the tech industry is using the fear of a Terminator-like future to secure their place at the policymaking table and distract from more pressing issues. Despite the controversy, catering to paranoid tech enthusiasts has become a lucrative business, as Texas-based bunker manufacturer Rising S reports selling 20 to 40 bunkers per year to customers in Silicon Valley and Napa during the COVID-19 pandemic.