The best things in life are born from coincidence. I am a firm believer in this.
A year ago I was flying back from California. I started talking to the guy sitting next to me. Turns out he had worked in almost every branch of government related to intelligence and diplomacy.
Now he runs his own private intelligence company. He has information about every government in the world. He is paid a lot of money to reveal and analyze that information.
But when we were on the plane, for basically four or five hours I asked him everything I could and got the most incredible detail about the state of affairs in the world. I’m almost afraid to reveal what we spoke about on the plane.
Everything from “how to catch a liar” to “What is the Nigerian government specifically doing about oil prices” to “Will Trump win?” (and his answer turned out to be stunningly accurate).
Then…I lost touch with him. He was just a guy I sat next to on the plane for a few hours. We got off and went to live our separate lives.
His new book is out: “Warnings” written with uber-diplomat Richard Clarke.
What is he warning about? Everything.
Where are the hidden potential catastrophes around the world. And how can we live with them. And how can we avoid them. And how can we figure out the warnings after these?
He answers, he analyzes, he proves, and he does it from his 30 years of experience uncovering these things for the US government and now, through his company, for other governments and large institutions that can afford him.
The key is: “that can afford him”. Because now he comes on the podcast and just like the coincidence of meeting him a year ago, he answers all of my questions again about his book. About the “Warnings”.
I love when coincidence intersects real life. I saw his book, remembered him from our interaction, and we had the best time on the podcast. Read the book, listen to the podcast, and don’t ignore the coincidences in your life.
R.P. Eddy is the CEO of Ergo, one of the greatest super intelligent firms in the world. Governments hire him and his firm to spy on other governments.
“Hopefully, I wasn’t too indiscreet,” he said, referring to the time on his plane.
I told him not to worry. “If you’re not arrested by the end of this podcast, then you’re okay.”
In his book, “Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes,” R.P. covers all the major world catastrophes that could’ve been predicted and prevented: 9/11, Madoff, Fukushima, the financial crisis, AIDS, climate change.
If we can learn to predict these, or at least learn how to figure out how the correct experts are, then a lot of pain can be avoided.
Experts warned us. But no one listened to them. R.P. calls these people “Cassandras.” The name comes from greek mythology. Apollo (a god) wanted to sleep with Cassandra. She refused. So Apollo cursed her.
“She could foretell any future disaster. She could see it in vivid color,” R.P said. But the curse was that no one believed her. So she burned to death in a terrible attack. (An attack she knew was coming…)
These people exist in real life.
And R.P. wants us to notice them. So R.P, and his coauthor, Richard Clarke, started “The Annual Cassandra Award.”
They’re giving away cash prizes (up to $10,000) to motivate people to find and nominate a true “Cassandra.”
This is the formula for spotting a “Cassandra…”
How to detect a truth-teller (listen at [55:25])
The “Cassandras” featured in R.P’s book are experts in their field. They have been for years. He told me about Laurie Garrett, the head of global health for the Council of Foreign Relations. She’s the first person to ever win the Polk, the Pulitzer and the Peabody.
“She foresaw the rise of HIV/AIDS when she was a radio reporter in San Francisco,” R.P. said. “She saw these men dying of a disease called ‘gay related immune deficiency,’ ‘GRID,’ or ‘gay cancer.’ They didn’t know what it was. Gay men didn’t think they had a transmissible disease. They thought they were sharing a cancer somehow, but just by looking at them and seeing the Kaposi Sarcoma on their face, Laurie Garrett knew this was a contagious illness and started getting the media to pay attention.”
This was during the time of Ryan White. He was a young, poor high school student dying of HIV caused by a blood transfusion.
He was banned from school. People shot at his house. “Noted politicians called for gay people to be put in camps,” R.P. said.
But Laurie could see how the pandemic was unfolding. And she came up with a plan for health care and surveillance networks to prevent the disease’s spread.
The issue is that a lot of “Cassandras” are ignored. Because sometimes warnings are wrong… so how do you tell the difference between a “chicken little” and a “Cassandra.”
- “Cassandras” are data driven. “Everybody in our book who was right was a proven, technical expert on the topic they were speaking about,” R.P. said.
- “They are questioners by personality.” They ask hard questions and doubt what most believe.
- They have an off-putting personality (not always, but it’s common).
- They have a sense of personal responsibility. “When they walk into a restaurant and the fire alarm goes off, they’re the one who says to everybody, ‘Let’s get out of here,” R.P. Said. “These guys think of themselves as sheepdogs. Some people think of themselves as sheep (they probably don’t realize they’re sheep) and then we all know there are wolves out there. Sheepdogs, to some extent, think it’s their job to protect us.”
- They have high anxiety. “Let’s go back to our fire alarm example. These are the guys who look for the fire exits when they walk in. They’re the people who pull the fire alarm when they smell smoke. And when you think about personalities, a lot of people don’t do that.”
Why we continue to let real threats slip by us:
I asked R.P. why these people, “the Cassandras,” are ignored. Why aren’t we trying harder to prevent terrible things from happening?
“It comes down to our human biases,” he said.
We pick sides.
If we think someone is off-putting, we doubt them. If they confuse us (meaning they’re data goes over our head), we move on. And miss the warning.
The same is true for our ideologies and belief systems. We’re quick to deny people who think differently. Madoff’s ponzi scheme is a perfect example.
R.P. interviewed Harry Markopolos, a financial fraud investigator. “He knew within 45 seconds of understanding Madoff’s “hedge-fund” that it was a ponzi scheme,” R.P said.
But the SEC didn’t listen to Harry’s warning because of his personality. They thought he was obnoxious.
Even though he had hard evidence:
Madoff claimed to trade 60 billion dollars worth of options. But that many options didn’t even exist in market. The math proves Harry right.
Humans fail by emotions.
I don’t know if there’s a solution. Maybe we have to unlearn. Maybe we have to judge our judgements.
And ask more questions.
Curiosity is a new world. And isn’t that what we want after all?
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