Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX’s Alleged Curiosity in Buying Nauru, an Island Nation

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Whether or not it’s house, the ocean’s darkest depths or eternal life, uberwealthy tech leaders are notorious for grandiose visions of the place their deep pockets may take them. Amongst these is the dream of getting away from taxes, governments and even the apocalypse by escaping to some distant place — resembling an island within the Pacific.

It’s this imaginative and prescient that made an look in a lawsuit filed final week by failed cryptocurrency alternate FTX, which is trying to get well greater than $1 billion from its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, and three different executives. The grievance particulars plans to make use of FTX funds to buy the island nation of Nauru, an atoll that’s residence to greater than 12,000 folks, and to outlive the tip of the world by constructing a bunker there.

The “bunker/shelter” can be used for “some occasion the place 50%-99.99% of individuals die,” mentioned a memo exchanged between Bankman-Fried’s brother, Gabriel, and an officer at FTX’s philanthropy arm, in keeping with the courtroom doc. “In all probability there are different issues it’s helpful to do with a sovereign nation, too,” it mentioned. Bankman-Fried’s lawyer didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Other than the problem of merely buying a sovereign state — a consultant for Nauru has mentioned it “was not and has by no means been on the market” — consultants warning that it isn’t a great place to reside out the tip occasions. The 8.1-square-mile island has restricted recent water, little arable land and imports no less than 90 p.c of its meals. With most of its crucial infrastructure on the coast, it’s particularly susceptible to excessive climate amid local weather change.

“This actually reveals how a lot billionaire doomsday prepping is absolutely about fantasy,” Calum Matheson, a professor on the College of Pittsburgh who has studied preppers, mentioned of the FTX plans. For the wealthy, “doomsday is a fantasy to play with, however they’ll at all times preserve it at a distance.” It’s merely “leisure,” he mentioned.

This type of escapism, consultants say, includes seeing locations resembling Nauru as a sort of malleable clean slate — by no means thoughts the individuals who already name them residence.

“On the very least, these fantasies are about superiority,” Matheson mentioned.

New Zealand — which researchers say is one of the best place to reside out the apocalypse — is reportedly a vacation spot of alternative for billionaires and their bunkers. One group, backed by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, has got down to construct “startup communities that float on the ocean with any measure of political autonomy,” which at one level included a mission in French Polynesia.

Extra not too long ago, crypto lovers have began reworking an island bought through leasehold from the federal government of Vanuatu — a Pacific nation made up of greater than 80 islands — into what they name a “blockchain based mostly democracy.”

“Satoshi Island isn’t a separatist, libertarian or survivalist motion making an attempt to flee from authorities oversight or doable zombie apocalypse,” a spokesperson for its builders mentioned through e mail, likening it to “a personal membership membership or personal golf course.”

The Pacific has lengthy held a sure attract for Westerners with a gripe about society’s strictures. Within the Nineteen Seventies, actual property millionaire and political activist Michael Oliver tried to start out his personal nation on an atoll south of Tonga. When that failed due to native pushback, his group made one other unsuccessful try to arrange a society in Vanuatu, all with the purpose of making a libertarian utopia.

U.S. and China battle for affect in Pacific island nations

The concept islands removed from the USA are simply mendacity in wait for brand spanking new possession might have been normalized when the U.S. authorities handed the Guano Islands Act of 1865 — which permits any American who finds giant quantities of chook excrement (a wealthy fertilizer) on an unclaimed island to designate it U.S. territory.

It “set one thing of a precedent by way of personal residents claiming islands, principally within the Pacific,” mentioned Raymond B. Craib, a professor at Cornell College and writer of “Journey Capitalism: A Historical past of Libertarian Exit, from the Period of Decolonization to the Digital Age.”

There’s additionally a long-standing thought, courting again to “Robinson Crusoe,” he mentioned, “of distant islands as laboratories of individualism and freedom from the obligations that include dwelling with others in a society.” That fable of “radical individualism,” Craib added, “is one which the Silicon Valley crypto-bros have purchased into.”

Islands and archipelagoes within the Pacific, lots of which gained independence within the Sixties and ’70s, have been mistakenly seen as “pleasant to such experimentation as a result of they could be offshore monetary facilities or tax havens, or politically malleable, or institutionally susceptible,” Craib mentioned.

John Connell, a professor on the College of Sydney who research Pacific islands, mentioned the notion that one might merely purchase off Nauruans was “a pleasant neocolonial perspective.”

“It’s like cryonics, isn’t it?” he mentioned of escaping to an apocalyptic bunker there. “There’s a type of sense of narcissism, that ‘I’m so necessary I’ve to reside on.’”

To assume Nauru would give itself over to tech bros is to fail to grasp the nation, mentioned Julia Morris, a professor on the College of North Carolina Wilmington and the writer of “Asylum and Extraction within the Republic of Nauru.” The Nauruan folks fought for independence after dwelling below a number of colonial rulers, they usually’ve resisted efforts to assist them migrate to a brand new residence with higher assets, she mentioned.

“Folks have very, very robust affinities with the island,” she mentioned. “They’re very pleased with being Nauruan.”

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