Paranoid people in Silicon Valley have 3 popular theories about how the world will end

Sam Altman
Sam Altman

(Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator.Getty Images)

One of the most popular topics of conversation at some Silicon Valley parties is a grim one: how the world will eventually end.

That's according to a new piece in The New Yorker about Sam Altman, the president of the startup incubator Y Combinator. The story takes a close look at Altman's life at the helm of YC and is full of fascinating nuggets — like the fact that he once got scurvy because he was working too hard to get enough vitamin C.

But perhaps the more interesting part is how Altman and his friends think the world will eventually end and how he has prepared for it.

The New Yorker quoted Altman as saying that his friends often bring up their predictions for the world's demise while drunk. While he said he tried not to think about the end of the world too much, he identified the most common theories as:

  • A lethal and contagious virus will be unleashed

  • Artificial intelligence will become sentient and attack us, or

  • Countries around the world will wage war over scarce resources using nuclear weapons.

"People have different pet theories," Altman told Business Insider in an email. "I think most of them don't think the world is actually going to end, just that technology increases the volatility in the world, and there's some tiny amount of tail risk worth planning for."

Altman told The New Yorker he was ready. He's stockpiled guns, gold, antibiotics, "gas masks from the Israeli Defense Force," and other items and has a "big patch of land in Big Sur" to which he can fly.

While that list is pretty impressive, preparing for survival seems to be more of a hobby for Altman than serious business.

"Yeah I have that stuff, but 1) Big Sur is my favorite place in the world anyway and 2) I think this stuff just appeals to little boy survival fantasies so I do it for fun," he told Business Insider. "I don't expect to ever use it."

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