The Gray Area with Sean Illing

The Gray Area with host Sean Illing is a philosophical take on culture, politics, and everything in between. We don’t pretend to have the answers, but we do offer a space for real dialogue. Resist certainty, embrace ambiguity, and get some cool takes on a very hot world. Formerly the Vox Conversations podcast. New episodes drop every Monday and Thursday.


Why are billionaires prepping for the apocalypse?

Sean Illing talks with technologist, media theorist, and author Douglas Rushkoff, whose new book Survival of the Richest explains how the ultra-wealthy are obsessed with preparing for the end of the world — and the troubling mindset that leads many rich and powerful people down this road. They discuss the blend of tech utopianism and fatalism behind this doomsday prepping, how Silicon Valley and "tech bro" culture have incentivized a kind of misanthropy, and why the world's billionaire class can't see that the catastrophes they fear are of their own making.

Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area

Guest: Douglas Rushkoff (@rushkoff), author; professor, media studies, CUNY Queens College


  • Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires by Douglas Rushkoff (W.W. Norton; 2022)
  • "Epson boobytrapped its printers" by Cory Doctorow (Medium; Aug. 7)
  • "Cosmism: Russia's religion for the rocket age" by Benjamin Ramm (BBC; Apr. 20, 2021)
  • The Selfish Gene (1976) and The God Delusion (2006) by Richard Dawkins
  • Francis Bacon, Redargutio Philosophiarum (1608), tr. by Benjamin Farrington in The Philosophy of Francis Bacon (1964): "Nature must be taken by the forelock . . . lay hold of her and capture her" (p. 130).
  • "Power changes how the brain responds to others" by Jeremy Hogeveen, et al., Journal of Experiential Psychology (Apr. 2014)
  • What We Owe the Future by William MacAskill (Basic Books; 2022)
  • Team Human by Douglas Rushkoff (W.W. Norton; 2021)


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This episode was made by: 

  • Producer: Erikk Geannikis
  • Editor: Amy Drozdowska
  • Engineer: Patrick Boyd
  • Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall

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 2022-11-10  55m