Remember Palmer Luckey? You know, the disgraced Oculus founder and cosplay enthusiast who left Facebook in the midst of a $US2 billion ($2.7 billion) lawsuit? Well, it looks like Luckey is ready to wreak more havoc upon the world, this time in the form of a virtual border wall that he might sell to the Trump administration. You'll never guess who wants to pay for it.
According to The New York Times, sources say that Peter Thiel's investment firm, Founders Fund, wants to invest in Luckey's new defence startup. Those sources also explained that the company would use LIDAR, infrared sensors and cameras for patrolling the border, a strategy that's already popular with the United States government. The same technology could be used to protect military bases or, heck, probably even private estates in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Luckey has already met with the Trump administration to discuss these plans.
Peter Thiel's involvement in Luckey's new venture is significant not only because Thiel is so rich and powerful, but also because he loves to stay behind the scenes. Founders Fund reportedly wants to build Luckey's new venture "in the mould of Palantir Technologies, a data-mining company co-founded by Mr Thiel, which serves a wide range of clients, including intelligence agencies". This detail, if true, is especially unnerving given both the secrecy of Palantir as well as Thiel's role as an adviser to President Trump. Then again, putting Palmer Luckey in charge of defending any nation's border is simply upsetting, especially once you hear about Luckey's weird prepper tendencies.
After news broke that the 24-year-old boy genius had been funding a pro-Trump group, Nimble America, which is dedicated to trolling, people started realising that Luckey was a complicated guy. To make matters stranger, Facebook seemingly disappeared Luckey for months on end after the initial reports about Luckey and Nimble America. Luckey didn't appear in public for nearly four months after that, and even then, he only came out of hiding to testify in US federal court over allegations that Oculus and Facebook had stolen intellectual property from game developers.
What was Luckey doing while he was in hiding? Preparing for the apocalypse, evidently. The Times reports that the Oculus founder has been dipping into his virtual reality fortune -- Forbes estimates that Luckey's net worth is $US730 million ($975 million) -- to buy up strange, bunker-ready properties all over the US as well as old military gear. Apparently, the dude has an affinity for abandoned missile silos:
Among his assets is about 85 acres of property in upstate New York, including a luxury home built atop a decommissioned Atlas missile silo. … He owns a second property in Chico, Calif., with decommissioned Titan 1 missile silos, according to records.
But wait there's more:
Mr Luckey also owns several military vehicles and, through various companies, three helicopters, and he received a student pilot's licence last year, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. He recently purchased a marina in Orange County, Calif., where he grew up, according to public records.
Missile silos? Helicopters? A marina in the OC? And now a new defence startup? None of this makes much sense unless you actually imagine that Luckey thinks the world is going to end. (A Times source described Luckey as a "casual" prepper.) Think about it: The missile silos provide bases on the ground; helicopters for ground support; maybe get a submarine or a warship to dock in that marina. Meanwhile, you have this great perimeter-monitoring technology paid for by Silicon Valley's richest libertarians. It isn't the worst set up for a paranoid multimillionaire.
We don't actually know what Luckey plans to do, though. For now, his new defence startup is reportedly self-funded, and there's always the chance that the Peter Thiel connection is not quite there. Nevertheless, the new details about his prepper tendencies and enthusiasm for all things military shed some light on Palmer Luckey's personality. He's a complicated guy -- and perhaps not in a fun way.