Geologic Time Spiral via Wikimedia Commons

Buying Time

The last commodity for sale to the highest bidder

Shanna Peeples
4 min readFeb 3, 2019


“The rich people can live in perfect places and buy their own water, their own plants, their own meat, but what they can’t buy — yet — is their own air,” my host told me as he drove us through the thick brown atmosphere of Jinan.

“What happens to poor people is a scandal. They eat food that is rubbish,” Yimeng continued, smoothly avoiding an oncoming car. “All of it comes from greed. Everyone is anxious. Everyone is creating a bubble to live in.”

Two years later, his charming British-trained English stays with me, particularly as I read articles about longevity and survivalist schemes thriving among the super-rich.

Take, for example, the Survival Condo Project, a “15-story luxury apartment complex built in an underground Atlas missile silo,” near Wichita, Kansas. Twelve private apartments, each costing $3 million, sold out almost as soon as they were advertised. The company currently offers a 50,000–300,000 square foot “bunker option” for your own property.

Image from Survival Condo

Or, how about self-described “biohacker” and “upgraded human” Dave Asprey who’s spent more than $1 million in an effort to live to be 180 years old? Asprey successfully raised tens of millions of dollars from investors for his Upgrade Labs that feature float tanks, cryo chambers, and vibration platforms promising to help you upgrade your biology. He also sells supplements, seminars, and sleep solutions alongside his famous “bulletproof” coffee.

A biohacking tool sold on Asprey’s site

Critics think that these ideas appeal to Silicon Valley movers and shakers because they are able to, as one commenter in this New Yorker piece explained, “view risk very mathematically.” Which sounds like a fancy way of saying that if you’re rich enough, you can view anything through the mathematics of money.

Another commenter quotes a wealthy party guest who pragmatically questions exit strategies that don’t include servants: “Are you taking…



Shanna Peeples

Ed. Professor | Harvard Ed.L.D. | 2015 National Teacher of the Year