How The Wealthy Are Plotting To Leave Us Behind
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July 5, 2018: Article by economist Douglas Rushkoff discusses how he was paid the equivalent of a half a year's salary to attend an conference at a resort and deliver a one-hour speech on technology and the future.

When he got there, it turned out the conference didn't really exist, and his audience was just five billionaires who mostly wanted to know how to survive after the end. They had taken it as granted that some sort future calamity would destroy civilization, and they wanted his professional advice on how to control their security guards and mercenaries after their money was rendered mostly worthless. Their own ideas (which they quizzed him extensively on whether or not he thought these would work) included things like control collars on their slaves, putting all the food in food vaults behind a combination lock only the billionaires could open, and building an army of robot guards that would have no choice but to remain loyal.

Rushkoff told them that they should instead be using their wealth to try to fix the world's problems and stave off the apocalypse, but they said that it was a forgone conclusion and beyond their ability to solve so why bother. He told them the best technology for insuring future loyalty is just kindness and decency in the present, and encouraged them to treat their existing body guards and security staff as family. The billionaire's reaction was essentially to argue that this basic human decency was also beyond their ability.

The article briefly discusses the concept of a technosolutionist orthodoxy, and lists off a handful of possible disasters that could theoretically be the seemingly-inevitable "The Event" that these pessimistic billionaires figure will eventually doom us all.

See Also:

Also based on a (different) Rushkoff article: Beyond Life Inc - Talking with Douglas Rushkoff, and his work is cited or referenced on a number of economics-related pages.



Game and Story Use

  • The big take away here is just the confirmation that everyone's gut feeling that megacorps and one percenters are the absolute villains is correct. Looks like it will only be worse twenty minutes into the future when postapocalyptic decay sets in after a big disaster destroys civilization.
    • In other worlds, while outlaw motorcycle club roving gangs of punk cannibals look cool and all in movies, in a realistic scenario, the real threat will be rich jerks in walled compounds and survival bunkers trying to set themselves up as dictator over what remains.
      • Or more likely their former bodyguards, who probably seized power after offing the old elitist for trying to make them put on a shock collar.
  • Alternately, you could mildly subvert expectations by having the main base for the PCs after the end be a well-preserved and stocked-up former rich-man's mansion.
    • I wouldn't bet money on an old nasty codger having a change of heart just because civilization was burning, but maybe the guard who betrayed them immediately opened the gates and set up a democracy.
      • That could be a cool backstory for an post-apoc enclave, and allow the PCs to have some high-tech equipment at the start of the campaign despite the rest of the world going to hell.
  • A rich-mans personal fortress or gated community could essentially function in gamma world/mutant year zero/etc the way a dungeon does in dungeons & dragons.
    • Bad guys with lots of treasure live there in close proximity to each other but don't really cooperate on their mutual defense, so the "good guys" can raid it periodically, neutralizing threats room-by-room and looting as they go.
    • Man, D&D's core activities are kinda messed up once you remove the elf-ears and orc-tusks from the monsters.
  • Before the end, twenty minutes into the future or in an urban fantasy setting, the PCs may be hired to attend a professional conference and deliver a presentation on some topic they know a lot about. Either something the group techie or wizard specializes in, or just security or espionage if the group is less esoterically focused but has a reputation. The pay is huge, which makes the players kind of nervous or suspicious from the start. When they get there, it turns out that the "conference" is for just a half-dozen wealthy businessmen that are perhaps the secret identity of a group of supervillains or ancient vampires or whatever.
    • This could be a fun way to start a campaign, where later all the attendees at their presentation are the villains the PCs have to defeat. Getting hired for a large chunk of money in the opening scenes of a campaign is a thing players are less likely to bawk at then the same offer happening mid-campaign. They may be less likely to look a gift horse in the mouth because of a desire to go along with whatever campaign frame is setting up, not wanting to bring things to a screeching halt by way of premise rejection. This tendency to accept the initial premise of the game without questioning it too deeply could be a good or a bad thing, depending on where you want the game to go, so prepare accordingly.
  • Opportunists and self-centered jerks can exist in any era or setting.
    • High-Fantasy tends to feature lots of epic alliances of good guys that team up to resist the big bad evil guy and evil empire. But there's plenty of room to fit a few third party factions into such a setting.
      • Perhaps a number of wealthy nobles of the standard royal court have a scheme for self-preservation where they refuse to raise a troop levy for the King, and instead just keep their banners and soldiers back at their own castle hoping to weather the storm. This would probably count as treason, so most-likely the self-centered nobleman is counting on the beleaguered crown not having the resources to fight a two-front war or prosecute his crime.
      • This is most believable if said castle is somewhere remote, and thus the wealthy traitor thinks the hordes and armies of the dark lord are likely to never reach them, or will pass by without a siege. In order for this subplot to matter, though, it's probably best if they're wrong on that front. The potential dramatic irony inherent to the situation just about demands it.
    • Speculative Fiction obviously has lots of potential to expand on this. If enough time passes between now and The Event, it's possible that the self-absorbed baddies here might spend their cash on building a space station or offworld colony instead of a boring old bunker or mcmansion. Class struggles in Space!
  • Subversion: an elite cadre are tricked into activating their escape plan early and disappearing into an enclave. The rest of society gets on perfectly well without them.
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