Max Levchin has a plan for doomsday that doesn’t involve a bunker: “Be a nice guy”

*Or* you could just be nice to people.
*Or* you could just be nice to people.
Image: AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
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Doomsday preparedness is all the rage in Silicon Valley, where the tech elite are buying luxury underground bunkers, access to gassed-up helicopters, or, in the case of Peter Thiel, New Zealand citizenship.

But serial entrepreneur Max Levchin, one of Thiel’s Paypal cofounders, has an alternate strategy for surviving the apocalypse: “My plan for prepping for all natural and semi-natural forms of disaster is to just be a nice guy,” he said during an event at Quartz’s New York headquarters on Feb. 27.

“I think there are basically three possibilities of real profound long-term collapse in this country,” Levchin explained. “You either have the big one [he was referring to an earthquake] or some sort of natural disaster. Or you have terrorist activity of some kind. And three, you have a failure of democracy. In the case of the first two, you’re not going to be spared because you have a way to get to your bunker in Big Sur. The best thing you can do is be friends with your neighbors.”

Max Levchin, serial entrepreneur and nice guy, speaks at Quartz’s New York City headquarters.
Max Levchin, serial entrepreneur and nice guy, speaks at Quartz’s New York City headquarters.
Image: Yana Paskova

If you’re friends with neighbors, he said, they’ll share their water with you if you run out. If you’re afraid of your neighbors and hide your last bit of water from them, “it’s probably not going to go so well over time.”

What about that third threat—the failure of democracy?  Levchin doesn’t have much faith in the power of friendliness as a panacea for this, though he said he thinks such a failure is unlikely to happen in the United States. “Rule of law, a civilized way of resolving conflict—if that goes away, that is what gets scary,” he said, adding, “In that case, I don’t think a bunker would help you.”

For “everything else,” he said, “basically, just maintain positive relationships with people around you, and you’ll be just fine.”