In late 2017, Mark O'Connell traveled to New Zealand to investigate the Silicon Valley technologists who are hedging against the collapse of civilization by buying land in the country. During his time there, O'Connell was introduced to an obscure libertarian manifesto published in 1997 called The Sovereign Individual, which predicted the rise of cryptocurrencies and the imminent demise of liberal nation-states. He explores the book's popularity among Silicon Valley libertarians like PayPal founder and Trump supporter Peter Thiel, and traces the connection between its extremist ideas and their interest in New Zealand as a place to weather civilizational collapse.
In search of the apocalyptic boltholes of these tech billionaires, O'Connell meets with New Zealanders—artists, writers, academics and other activists—who are opposing these libertarians and their vision for the future of their country. Along the way, he encounters some startling parallels with the country's colonial history.