Survival of the Richest bills itself as an exploration of the “escape fantasies of the tech billionaires” and the excerpt that got me to purchase the book is just that — a discussion of the author’s encounter with a group of unimaginably wealthy rich guys summoning the author to a meeting to help them understand how to keep their armed guards from killing them when civilization collapses. The rest of the book is a collection of essays loosely connected by The Mindset, the author’s term for the particular worldview that pervades the upper echelons of the Silicon Valley elite and leads Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and friends to imagine that they can escape the consequences of their actions as the world collapses around them.
The essays vary widely in quality and relevance, and most offer nothing new or interesting. One essay focuses on the addictive design of apps and devices but The Loop was a significantly better exploration of the combination of psychological research and technical advancements that have been combined to addict us to our devices to increase the net worth of a handful of people. In the worst essays, the author seems to have a limited understanding of what he is discussing. In an essay focused on “cybernetics”, he misunderstands the roots of the meme-stock moment of 2021 and then demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge about basic AI capabilities with, “They [AI] can beat humans at Jeopardy (most of the time) and chess (some of the time).” It is hard to take polemics seriously when the author cannot be bothered to get the basics right.