“Survival of the richest: The wealthy are potting to leave us behind.” That’s the provocative title of a piece posted on CNBC.com by Douglas Rushkoff, author of Team Human and the web site and podcasts of the same name.
It’s Rushkoff’s opinion that “autonomous technologies, runaway markets and weaponized media seem to have overturned civil society, paralyzing our ability to think constructively, connect meaningfully, or act purposefully.” His quest is to offer “people-driven solutions for a relentlessly controlled and top-down society.”
In 2017, Mr. Rushkoff was paid a generous fee to speak at a posh resort to what he assumed was “a hundred or so investment bankers.” Instead it was a discussion with five billionaire hedge fund guys, each pessimistic about a future that despite their formidable wealth they could not influence. Their objective was to strategize how to protect themselves and loved ones from runaway chaos: environmental collapse, nuclear devastation, social unrest, incurable virus pandemic, out-of-control robots, computer hacks that disrupt grids, food chains, and the fabric of daily life. Said Rushkoff, for them the future was not about solutions, but “escape.” Interesting ruminations.
If Elon Musk wants to take a few BFFs to Mars to start a colony, go for it. I’m fine with Atlanta’s environs and will remain, do or die! If billionaires want to upload their minds into a supercomputer, why not? Since about 1440 when the printing press emerged, we’ve called that “writing a book.”
Rushkoff worries about the possibility of an uncontrolled future, even though “rise of the machines” fears echo Malthusian alarms of the early Industrial Age. He does have a point when he declares, “Being human is a team sport. We cannot be fully human, alone. Anything that brings us together fosters our humanity. Likewise, anything that separates us makes us less human, and less able to exercise our will.”
Politics seems less a conversation and more a mean-spirited “gotcha.” How do you separate hysterics and incivility from what’s important to your future? How do you develop children to be independent thinkers based on solid values and bedrock morality?
We’ve worried about atomic annihilation ever since we dropped Little Boy and Fat Man on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Yet, low-tech weapons continue to kill military heroes in global conflict zones, suicide bombers, IEDs, sniper attacks. Civilians die at concerts from bombings and shootings. One in nine people at age 65 suffer from dementia; one in three by age 85. Over 40,000 people died on American highways in 2017.
It isn’t about building a bunker and hiring a security force to protect yourself if all Hades breaks loose. (The billionaires worried about how to keep their private security force from turning on them when push came to shove.)
It’s about dealing with known and unknown risks and having confidence in your ability to handle what’s thrown at you, being prepared from a risk management standpoint, including financial, physical, and mental wellbeing, grounded in character and spiritual faith. Financial life planning is a consultative process to formulate plans to navigate your future, what you aim for and what gets aimed at you. It’s knowing that you could leave this planet at a day and hour unknown, and having plans and resources in place for those who depend on you.
Geological evidence indicates that an asteroid roughly six miles across hit earth about 65 million years ago. Debris thrown into the atmosphere from the massive explosion altered the climate, extinguishing about 75 percent of the species that existed at the time, dinosaurs included. Rocks bigger than that cross earth’s orbit periodically. You’ve heard about Biblical end times terrors. At some point our sun will burn out. Not to be cavalier, but I am more likely to die in traffic or of old age before doomsday plays out.
Rushkoff is correct that planning, strategizing, and the monitoring of progress is a team sport. It should involve loved ones, key persons on business teams, trusted advisors, and experts in given fields. Scenario and contingency planning is a structured and guided way to think about the future. You and others involved in your future develop scenarios, envisioning challenges and opportunities intertwined with threat analysis, pondering how any given future might unfold.
No matter your age, 20, 40, 60, 80, or 100, you have a future. How will you plan for the life transitions that will challenge you? Pie-in-the-sky or “going with the flow” is not an answer. Neither is procrastination. Or running away.
Lewis Walker, CFP®, is a financial life planning strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-2603. Securities and advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of SFA which is otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. He is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and a Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA®).