Predictive Analytics: How Technology Can Predict The Future with Rebecca Costa

For the last two decades, there has been no stopping of progress for humankind. But as technology continues to move forward, can we finally be able to predict the future? Rebecca Costa, a prominent global expert on the subject of fast adaptation, talks about predictive analytics which strings together millions and billions of data points to identify patterns and predict the future of our society. This is the great challenge we face in our generation because the more complex technology becomes, the more vulnerable our society gets. Find out more about predictive analytics and how predicting the future is an excellent way to monitor and prevent adverse outcomes.

TTL 575 | Predicting The Future


We have Rebecca Costa here. She is a sociobiologist and futurist. She is a premier global expert on fast adaptation. She is an international bestselling author. We are going to look at predictive analytics and a lot more.

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Predictive Analytics: How Technology Can Predict The Future with Rebecca Costa

I am here with Rebecca Costa who is an American sociobiologist and futurist. She’s a prominent global expert on the subject of fast adaptation. She has received every award out there. Her books are international bestsellers. The Watchman’s Rattle was a huge success and then she followed it with even another great success with On the Verge. I’m so excited to have you here. Welcome, Rebecca.

Thank you for having me.

I was looking at some of the endorsements on your website. You’ve got Sir Richard Branson, Donald Trump and Temple Grandin. I was looking who has endorsed The Watchman’s Rattle. Craig Newmark, who’s been on my show, is great from Craigslist. John Sculley, the former CEO of Apple, endorsed On the Verge. You are connected to some big names and for a good reason. Your books are unique and they’ve been super successful. I want to find out what led to your interest in this sociobiology and futurist thinking. Can you give a little background?

The last year that I was in my undergraduate studies, I was still floundering. I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I came from a working-class family and my dad was sure that no matter what degree I got, I better be able to pay rent somewhere and eat. He was pushing toward an accounting degree or something where he could tie it to a job. The last year I was in school, I got a hold of a book called Sociobiology by a young upstart, Edward O. Wilson in Harvard University, who went on to become the greatest naturalists in the world. At the time, he wrote a book and he didn’t think it was controversial, but he directly tied our individual behaviors and societal behaviors to our genetic inheritance.

It was the first time I had made a connection between our genetic predispositions and the decisions we make and how we behave. This was an eye-opener to me and I thought this was very revolutionary. I immediately went to the administration and said, “I’d like to have a degree in sociobiology.” They said, “socio what?” Those days they didn’t have hybrid degrees. They offered me a degree in sociology and biology, which is not sociobiology, but I had to take what I could get. I extended my college career for another half semester and got a double degree, which qualified me to do absolutely nothing when I returned home, much to my parents’ disappointment.

I’m sure they’re very happy about how it turned out afterwards though. You certainly did some amazing things. When you’re talking about that, it reminds me. I was so lucky. I was at Albert Bandura‘s house, believe it or not and I had asked him about epigenetics. I’m curious about your insight on that.

I was told when I wrote my two books that if I even use the word epigenetics, I would cut my readership in half. We will tread lightly on this subject. Epigenetics has to do with fast evolution. There are certain behaviors that seem to occur not over millions of years but seem to skip and happen over one generation or two generations. That’s the simplest way for the audience to understand without getting into the science of it. It’s a very controversial subject. I would say it has come into its own. We don’t understand how epigenetics works, that’s the bottom line. We don’t understand the mechanics of it. We know it occurs, we’ve been able to observe and document it, but we don’t know why it occurs.

That is the big question always when you’re looking at evolutionary science. We don’t know why certain adaptations occur successfully and some do not. We don’t know why any organism would voluntarily take on risk, yet we see it particularly around human beings that you wouldn’t expose yourself to danger by choice. In nature, that’s not what occurs. The danger occurs and then you either run from it or you fight, fight or flight or you adapt in some way. It’s very unusual to find an organism that goes out and seeks risk and that is uniquely a human trait. As far as epigenetics goes, the verdict or information is still out there that we don’t completely understand.

[bctt tweet=”The more complex something becomes, the more vulnerable the society gets.” via=”no”]

In my research for curiosity, I looked a lot at fear because that was one of the four factors I’ve found that keep people from being curious. Fear, assumptions or the voice in our head, technology and environment were the four factors I’ve found. It’s interesting how much fear holds us back. How much have you studied about fear? I’m sure it’s danger and all the things you’re talking about. Is that a big focus for you? Can you give people a little bit of background?

It’s interesting you bring fear up because I think fear is a door that swings two ways and we don’t typically look at it that way. Fear is certainly an inhibitor where you might have a fear of failure. You might have a fear of embarrassment. Fear can refer to a lot of things, not necessarily a physical danger. Much of fear as you know is perceived, it’s perceived fear of, but fear can also be a big motivator. I know in my particular case, I was so fearful of being wrong or being embarrassed or not being able to deliver on something that I had committed to that that drove me to be very curious and seek out knowledge so that I wouldn’t fail. The fear of failure for me was a tremendous motivator. I had to be the smartest person in the room or else. It can either prevent you or propel you.

You were raised by a family that the super competitive because I know I was and fear of failure was not allowed in my family. The failure part, you did not fail or it was a big deal. Was that how you were raised?

I was raised in Japan. If you failed, you committed suicide rather than embarrass your family. In Asian culture, failure comes with a lot of baggage. For me, I spent sixteen years there. My mother was Japanese. My entire family was Japanese on my mother’s side. At 120 relatives, there was no way you’re going to embarrass the family by failing. There was only one path for you and that is you better make good.

It’s amazing how culture has such an impact. I went out to dinner with a guest. Roya Mahboob was on my show and she created this company to train women how to become educated on the internet in Afghanistan and women just did not do that. I asked her, I said, “Are you afraid that they’ll kill you?” She said, “There are worse things than that.” I said, “What’s worse than that?” She said, “The shame that your family could feel.” It’s interesting to look at perception because you said perceived fears. Perception is a fascinating topic to me. You’re such a huge global thinker. They’ve likened you to Alvin Toffler and Thomas Friedman. I had Patri Friedman, his grandson on my show. I’ve had some amazing thinkers on the show, but I’m curious about what got you interested in futurists thinking.

I happened to say that when I got back from graduating college, I wasn’t qualified to do anything other than work in a grocery store, which is how I put myself through college. When I got back home, my parents happened to land in what was going to later become Silicon Valley. There are many things that happened in your life that are rather accidental and serendipitous and that was one of them for me. At that time, Robert Noyce was inventing the first silicon chip and a lot of things were happening under the radar in Silicon Valley. Those were the jobs that were available. They were hiring anybody who English was their first language. You could get a job on an assembly line putting together printed circuit boards. There were a lot of tech jobs. I applied for a tech job and they said, “Since you’re associate biologists and you know why people do things, we’re going to stick you in marketing and we want you to convince people to buy stuff that they don’t understand and don’t need.”

It was interesting because that was about the time that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were putting the first personal computers together. Noyce was developing the first chips. The first enterprise networks are being developed and the internet was coming into its own. I was right in the center of all of this working with these people, the Larry Ellison, the Steve Jobs and David Packard. These were pioneers who I didn’t know at the time were going to be great people that history would write about. They just rolled their shirt sleeves up and went to work and we all thought we were doing our jobs. We didn’t understand the magnitude of the impact on society. This was in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. As I worked in Silicon Valley, I began to see the rate of change accelerating at an alarming rate. I’m used to looking at the big picture as you point out, and I thought, “How this all going to end up? How fast can people change?” This became an obsession of mine over time. We’re beginning to introduce things. We’re up to four million apps on the Apple App Store. How far can we go? This began to disturb me as I could see further and further down the road what the changes were that were coming that the person on the main street wasn’t ready for.

TTL 575 | Predicting The Future
Sociobiology: The New Synthesis

I’m sure that you had a lot more insight as to being in the middle of those minds to see what was coming, which is interesting. I’ve taught at some technical schools. You get into Moore’s Law and some of the things and it gets very complicated to see how much we can eventually accomplish. I think it can help to look at the past to predict the future. You can look at past civilizations that have collapsed and say, “We’re not going to do that because that didn’t work.” You don’t want to have history repeat itself. How do you predict what’s going to happen?

We’ve collected so much data that it’s at the point where artificial intelligence and predictive analytics can string together millions and billions of data points to identify patterns that we didn’t know existed before. Low-cost sensors are only making it possible to aggregate even more data. The example that I like to use, which is a simple one that everyone is astonished by, is that we can predict a person is going to trip and fall in the next three weeks with about an 86% to 90% accuracy. Anyone I’ve ever told that to looks at me and said, “You’ve been smoking something funny because there’s no way you can predict I’m going to trip and fall.” I go, “Artificial intelligence, predictive analytics have discovered that there’s a three to five-centimeter change in your normal walking gait that is the prelude of you tripping and falling within three weeks.”

In Silicon Valley, we’re working on a Fitbit type of device that you can wear on your ankle that will ping your phone and say, “Your walking gait just changed, and you’ve got an 86% to 90% probability of tripping and falling and hurting yourself in the next three weeks.” Think of what that means to the elderly population who frequently lose their ability to live independently because they fall and break a hip or a leg, and then they’re in assisted living for the rest of their lives. It’s anticipated that you could extend the period in which an elderly person could live independently anywhere from three to five years through this simple, inexpensive technology.

I serve on board advisory groups and I’m working with one that has artificial intelligence type of things associated with monitoring buying behaviors and different things. It fascinates me what you’re able to capture with all these predictive analytics. If somebody wanted to go into that as a career, I have a lot of students who follow these shows. What’s the degree that you recommend? Do you recommend a degree anymore, is that passé?

No, I think that you can go into any kind of degree that’s related to computer sciences. Neurological sciences I think is very important as well. If they want to go into a degree that it should be associated with computer sciences or robotics, the most important thing is to get an internship as quickly as possible with a startup or somebody who’s in that space.

It’s unusual to have a lot of women in some of the types of jobs and what you were doing. How did you break into that realm when a lot of women weren’t doing it?

There were no women presidents of companies in Silicon Valley when I started. I think that when I sold my company there, there were three. The reason we know that we were the only three is that anytime to media wanted to get a quote from a female technologist, they’d call one of the three of us. It was a running joke. Those are the only quotes that would ever come out. I can honestly tell you that whether it was in a board room or an executive meeting, I never encountered another woman because it was very early on. It was very interesting for me because I found that -isms, racism, sexism, ageism are a luxury that cannot be afforded when you’re better than everyone else.

My job was to be so necessary and so needed and so important in my profession that they couldn’t afford to look at my gender. This is what I think. At the end of the day, when you watch these movies where a plane crashes and everybody’s bickering, like the Flight of the Phoenix or a ship is going down and people don’t like each other, but they have to come together. Necessity isn’t just the mother of invention. It also is the neutralizer to any kind of -ism. You might not like somebody, but if you need them, you’re going to figure out a way to work with them.

Amy Adams talked about that a little in her TED Talk with the collaboration with the Chilean miners when you have to get together to work on something and when the pressure’s on. It’s too bad we don’t have that mentality when it’s not life or death or death is your only choice. How do we get to that point?

[bctt tweet=”The government is the largest user of predictive analytics.” via=”no”]

This is where sociobiologists have something to say. We are not physically designed to respond to long-term danger. With a short term danger, like if we see a snake in the road or somebody is coming at us with a gun, our bodies instantaneously fill with adrenaline and chemicals for fight or flight, but if you sit somebody down and you start showing them the evidence of climate change and that’s far off, nothing happens to us physiologically. We listen and all of that, but those chemicals don’t react. We are not designed by nature to take action on long-term threats. We have this physiological obstacle where we have knowledge that a bad thing is going to happen with increasing probability. We have knowledge about the future, but we don’t have the physiological mechanism to respond to that knowledge and to do something about it. This is the great challenge that we face in our generation.

You mentioned climate change. That’s such a debated topic. Why do you think that some people choose to believe or not believe in that? What is the thought process behind that?

Until we have global burning, we’re not designed to respond or react. We have the luxury of debating the scientific data and say, “I choose to believe it. I choose not to believe it.” How many people are scientists? How many people are going to the original source material and studies and trying to vet that? Not many as a percentage of society. It’s a million numbers past the decimal points. It’s not something that people can go and have the actual knowledge and skill set to be able to vet. What happens is instead, they revert to beliefs. Beliefs are cognitively simple. Either you believe something or you don’t, you’re done. To prove something is cognitively very difficult and expensive and most of us don’t have the skill set. Look at our leaders in Washington, DC. I don’t want to turn this into a political thing but look at the leaders in any country. They’re making policy decisions on nuclear power when none of them have ever taken a physics class. They have to decide on healthcare and they’re not physicians and doctors or insurance specialists. They have none of the specialties that are required to make these decisions. 99.9% of the time they make them on their beliefs, which are unproven or simply an opinion.

Their perception is the reality to them though.

That’s exactly right. As you know in my first book, The Watchman’s Rattle, I wrote that as society becomes more and more complex. More and more decisions get based on unproven beliefs rather than empirical fact. In fact, there is mass confusion over what a fact is. People start arguing what a fact is. You can have billions of readings of the earth’s surface temperature and people will still argue with you. I don’t think some of those readings are correct. I think they’ve been manipulated. Even accounting, if you removed 25% of the readings, you still see the temperature accelerating in terms of the warmth of the surface temperature. We’re even arguing about facts because beliefs are dominating. When that begins to happen, we see a trend in previous civilizations that public policy then begins to be based on unproven beliefs rather than empirical fact. When that happens, it usually is the precursor to some kind of correction or collapse. It doesn’t mean everybody will die. It just means that social systems will collapse and have to be rebuilt.

I’ve been watching Chernobyl. As I’m watching, it’s making me think of that. That’s good and awful to watch at the same time. You see these decisions and these horrible things that could come about. I think that you bring up so many fascinating things in your book. We talked about some of these cognitive issues and I wanted to talk about the idea of cognitive threshold in The Watchman’s Rattle. That’s an interesting thing to discuss as some people might not know what you mean by that. Can you discuss the evidence we see in modern society that we’ve crossed this cognitive threshold and what does that mean?

One way to think about human evolution is that there are two clocks. One clock is the clock of progress and it begins to accelerate. Institutions and laws and day-to-day living become increasingly complex as society grows and prospers. It’s the simple things like how we pay our taxes. The Tax Code in the United States, it’s 175 pages even streamed down. It’s impossible to get through. They keep saying, “We’re going to have tax reform.” Unless it gets simpler, the reform is impossible. The more complex something becomes, the more vulnerable the society gets. The second clock is the rate at which we evolve physiologically and our brains have not changed substantially in millions of years. They change very slowly. It’s not as though we’re going to develop additional cognitive capabilities. We’re trapped with the physiology that we’ve had for millions of years yet the complexity of what we must understand in order to make rational choices in life, not those that are just belief-based are accelerating. As complexity accelerates and we’re stuck with the same old brain we’ve had for millions of years, effectively we have a problem.

We reach a cognitive threshold where the brand can no longer make sense of day-to-day life. It can no longer make rational decisions because it’s too complex. The rate of change between social progress and the rate of change in physiological evolution is the real problem. That’s the real problem we’re having. We’ve mitigated some of that by handing over difficult cognitive problems that we cannot solve anymore, such as going through billions of points of data to get to one answer we need through artificial intelligence. I can walk in and ask Alexa, “I just did this.” I had to bake some pecan bars and the recipe said two pounds of butter. I’m looking down at the cups and measuring cups and measuring spoons, how do I translate that into cups? I said, “Alexa, how many cups is two pounds of butter?” She said, “Approximately eight cups.” How else would I get that data otherwise? I guess I’d call my friends, I’d go try to look it up. If we didn’t have the internet, I couldn’t look that up. More and more we’ve tried to mitigate the fact that that’s not knowledge I have and I wouldn’t know where to get that knowledge. It’s too complicated for me to try to figure that out mathematically. What do I do? I just ask Alexa. More and more, we depend on machine tools to mitigate where our brains can no longer do the task.

TTL 575 | Predicting The Future
Predicting The Future: ISMs such as racism, sexism, and ageism is a luxury that cannot be afforded when you’re better than everyone else.


That ties into my research on curiosity. One of the things I found was the third factor was technology holds us back from being curious if we rely on it too much. What’s the solution if our brains can’t handle the complexity? Is it okay to rely on this technology? It’s making us less curious because you can just have your Echo figure it out for you. Are we heading for Idiocracy the movie? It’s a scary future of where all the smart people waited to have babies and they’re no longer around and it’s like a Jerry Springer society. Are we going to head towards that?

I’m not a gloom or doom person as you could tell. There’s always a dark side to technology and human progress, but normally the good that it does far outweighs any negative. I tell people that when Charles Lindbergh first flew the Atlantic, he received a number of Peace Prizes. People don’t know this because it was believed that if you could shuttle diplomats across the oceans from one country to another, it would probably break their peace if they could sit down and work out their problems. At the time we weren’t thinking that those planes could be used to carry bombs or be used as bonds. That wasn’t what we were thinking and the same thing when the internet came, we were all excited. We have access to data. We could do online shopping. It seemed like a panacea for a lot of problems. We weren’t thinking about identity theft or hacking into a grid system or cyber warfare. That wasn’t on anybody’s radar.

Every time we make progress, there’s a negative side to it. You get social media and you think people are able to connect and communicate and find groups that support their causes and their thoughts. We find out people that spend a lot of time on social media are lonely. Loneliness is toxic not only to you physiologically, but it’s causing a whole plethora of other negative symptoms of people feeling disconnected with society and unloved. Suicide rates are going up, Unhappiness rates are going up in countries where social media is used the most. More people are on antidepressants. I think it’s one out of eight. There’s an association with social media use. We’re finding that there are these negative effects that occur. All progress isn’t free. Generally, there’s a social price to be paid and we haven’t gotten very good at looking at what that could be and getting out ahead of it. That is a challenge for our leaders.

We have all these predictive analytics, how come we’re focusing not on that?

Predictive analytics is a double edge sword to be sure. As you and I know, we’re collecting so much information on people that we are getting ourselves into a position where we could predict that a person who is going to commit a mass shooting is probably reaching criticality. That’s pretty shocking to most people because I have been a proponent that many of these mass shootings can be prevented. People don’t want to hear that because the cost to prevent them is very distasteful. The example that I frequently use is Stephen Paddock, who is the Las Vegas shooter who rented a hotel room and shot up a bunch of concertgoers in Las Vegas. It’s interesting. We worked backwards and we always do after these mass shootings. We have a problem. Instead of working forwards, we’re used to working backwards.

We found that his father was a violent sociopath that the FBI arrested. That’s a heritable trait. We found about six months before he committed the shooting, he was put on diazepam. You and I know that nobody with a family history of violence and sociopathology should be put on diazepam. He sent his girlfriend away out of the country and sent her $100,000 and said, “Don’t come back.” He bought numbers of arms and began accelerating. He bought tracer rounds the week before which helped you to navigate bullets more effectively at night. He had moved 27 times. All of these factors, you start adding them together. I think I came up with 176 factors, which we’re all combining to show that this person was reaching a criticality and should have been watched.

Let’s juxtapose that against the idea that he gets the hotel room. He loads the gun, he breaks the window, he points the gun at the concert goers and then he changes his mind. He puts the gun back in the case and says, “I’m not going to do that.” “I’m going to go get myself some help. I got a problem.” He packs up and he goes home. We don’t want to live in the movie The Minority Report with Tom Cruise. We don’t want the precog police to come in a second before you’re going to shoot to arrest you. We don’t have that criminal justice system. Our criminal justice system is based on getting you after the fact, not before the fact because we believe in free will. We believe in redemption. We believe that people can change their mind, yet the technology we have, the predictive analytics and the data that we’re collecting on people allow us to know who is problematic.

In fact, you and I know this by age nine or ten, we know whether a child is predisposed with a high likelihood of being a sociopath. What would you do if you were a parent if someone came to you and said, “There’s a 99% chance that your child is going to be a violent sociopath?” Here’s the problem. We don’t have a cure for that. What are you going to do, lock your kid in the cellar? We don’t know what to do with the knowledge that we have about violent episodes, about violent people because we believe in a free society. We believe people can be rehabilitated even though people are grotesquely disconnected with the fact that we don’t have cures for these things. We can’t fix them.

[bctt tweet=”We value things that can be made into a money-making proposition.” via=”no”]

I couldn’t help but think of The Minority Report when you were saying that. It’s a different way of thinking. I actually had a friend who was in the Las Vegas shooting episode and it was a horrific thing. She still has trauma from it obviously. We want to stop that, but as you said, there are so many ethical decisions that I don’t know how we’ll ever overcome and some of the stuff that we want to prevent. I don’t know what the answer is. I’m sure no one does.

This is the great challenge of our time. Our knowledge and data and the ability to monitor people make it possible to prevent all negative outcomes. You know that if we’re in the 80%, you know how technology goes, it’ll be 1%, 2%, 95% up until we get to 99.9%. There’s always that possibility that someone will change their mind and get help. That they won’t commit the act but as we get more and more accurate, what is society prepared to do? How will our legal system change? What are the ethics behind that? This is a conversation we have to have. This is what I mean about how we never get out ahead of the ramifications of technology. In this case, they’re serious and it has an impact on us. Where is our individual liberty protected? Where is our freedom of choice protected? How are the victims protected?

You’re going to see a lot of lawsuits come up in a short order where we had knowledge that an event was going to occur. Remember what this did to the consumer protection business when it was discovered that companies knew in advance of the defectiveness of a product. Victims occurred and then the companies were sued and eventually the Consumer Protection Agency came about. We’re going to see a similar thing begin to occur where the victims of these events are going to get their hands on information that the government had and knew that these individuals were dangerous. Law enforcement knew they were dangerous and yet they failed to act, to prevent, yet what could law enforcement possibly do? They’re not a preventative agency.

What about attacks and things like 9/11. How much data is out there that we could have prevented some things that we have had happened in the United States?

We haven’t had an attack like that because the government is the largest user of predictive analytics. Everybody was freaked out that they were collecting meta phone data. I laughed because if people knew how much data consumer companies like Amazon are collecting, the government looks like they’re in fourth grade. I know the media was making a big to do about it, but they’re out of step. They don’t understand the amount of data that’s being collected but it gets to your point about curiosity. It’s a funny thing you buy a couple of purple dress and a purple sweater and pretty soon everything being proposed as, “You might also like this. This is purple.” You go to a couple of sites to look for comfortable chairs and all of a sudden you’re getting ads for chairs and there’s no way to tell them, “I already bought the chairs. Leave me alone.”

They have so much information. I had Richard Stallman on the show, the creator of GNU/Linux code fame. He was very adamant of not having a phone and not having a credit card, not getting on airplanes. All the things, because he believes in freedom and he thinks that all that stuff doesn’t keep him free. If we live like him, how free are you? You can’t do anything. Do we want all this data on us or is he right that we should not have all these things? It’s a hard thing.

There’s no stopping progress. You’re not going to put the toothpaste back in the tube. People go, “This is bad for you. You should throw your cell phone away.” It’s unrealistic. That’s like saying you’d have to walk everywhere. We’re not taking cars or motorized transportation. Buy a horse. We’re not going backwards. This has never happened in human history. We will have in all likelihood some massive correction. It’ll probably be a global economic collapse that will cause everybody to go back to barter and things and then we will rebuild again. This is the history of humankind. We correct through the collapse of institutional systems and then we rebuild better ones.

I think it’s 50/50 that we will see a very painful collapse because the way that adaptation works is if you make small incremental adjustments along the way, there is no painful collapse. If you fail to adapt along the way, you’re guaranteed that there’s going to be some radical correction. I think that we’re headed toward that. A lot of economists ask me, “What will it look like? Where will it be?” I don’t have a crystal ball. It’s not hard to be a futurist. For people that might be wondering like what does the futurist do? Here’s what a futurist does. If you have a million data points, being able to predict what 1,000,001 in one is, is not hard. That’s all I do. I make predictions based on a lot of data and a lot of analysis. A lot of times the predictions are right, but in my world, they’re obvious.

TTL 575 | Predicting The Future
Predicting The Future: We are depending on machine tools to mitigate where our brains can no longer do the task.


You talk about that there’s a mistake in applying economic principles to everything. Are we using too much data analytics? You talked about extreme economics. I’m curious about what you mean by that.

The only value we have in society is based on economics. We don’t value art. We don’t value creativity the way that we used to. We value things that can be made into a money-making proposition. Things have to have a return on investment. When I was a kid, my dad didn’t talk about investing in my college education. Even the language has changed. Everything’s an investment. Your home is an investment. The improvements you make. You ask, “What kind of resale value will it add?” That’s your home.

It’s the perception of how we question everything. I think that what you write about is eye-opening in so many ways. I love both books and all the topics you talk about. I was very interested when you talk about type one civilization and what we’re going to see with that before we destroy the planet and all that. Can you talk to that a little bit because I find that very interesting?

There comes a point at which the velocity of change cannot be maintained. This is true of the Romans, the Mayans, the Khmer and the Ming Empire. There comes a point at which you cannot sustain the growth and the momentum moving forward because you have a cognitive impediment. When that correction occurs, it simply means that the institutions and the processes revert to what the brain can handle. What the brain can handle are credit default swaps Wall Street. I’ve had the smartest economics guys that trade on Wall Street tries to explain those to me and I never understood them. I never understood how these mortgage-backed securities work and I was right. The fact that I didn’t understand, it was all I needed to know that they were a bunch of funny business. The same on Enron financial sheets that they issued every year to their shareholders. I’m a pretty smart gal. I’m a scientist by training. I couldn’t make heads or tails out of those things. I know I’m a pretty smart person, I go, “There’s something going on.”

Complexity can be used to mask a number of problems and sometimes even deception and manipulation. When we get to a point where that’s occurring, it makes the society in general vulnerable. That correction I’m talking about is a collapsed to systems where we can understand it. This is what our brain is designed to be able to handle, not credit defaults locks. What we can handle is you and I meet the street and I have carrots and you have eggs and we bicker with each other until we both feel we got the best deal that we can get and then we trade. We’d each go our way and we think that we outsmarted the other person. That’s what our brains can handle. We can’t handle the rest of it. Therefore, guys like Bernie Madoff could come along and say, “It’s too complicated, but look at all these smart people have been in the market a long time who have given me their life’s fortune.” You don’t need to worry about it. We trust these experts and some of them are just rotten.

You give great examples. Bethany Mclean has been on my show. The Enron story, she could’ve given up too looking into that. It is overwhelming and you get around all these people who tell you, “You don’t know this.” You’re trying to look the other way. I think that it’s going to be harder and harder for those to occur with all this technology monitoring.

That’s right because artificial intelligence is manipulative. It’s going to tell you the answer. It doesn’t know what the consequence of the answer is going to be. It doesn’t factor that in, whereas human beings do.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with everything that you write about because your work fascinated me. I’ve had a lot of predictive analytics people on the show like Dr. Cindy Gordon and Susan Sly. These are smart women and men who have looked into what we think we can predict down the road. Every day it seems like there’s some incredible thing that we’re going to be able to know and find out. As you said, can our brains handle it? It’s going to be very interesting to find out. I think a lot of people are very interested in these topics and could learn a lot from your books, your writing, speaking and everything that you’ve done.


You’ve been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, you name it. Everybody has been following your work. Before I have you share your website, I’d like to know how did you get connected to so many incredible people? Is it from working in Silicon Valley or amongst that group? Donald Trump didn’t hang out in Silicon Valley. I’m curious in some of the names on your list. Craig Newmark and John Sculley made sense, but how did you get connected to so many incredible people?

I can’t tell you. It is different. It wasn’t any one thing people found my work or were handed my work in some way. I think most of them found me. The Donald Trump connection was a very odd one. I was in New York visiting with my publicist and agent and they said, “A request came in for you to see Donald Trump. Apparently, he got your book, The Watchman’s Rattle and wanted to meet you.” I said, “Let’s do it. I don’t know Donald Trump. Isn’t he a real estate developer? What would I have to say to real estate developer? Probably not much.” It was an interesting conversation. He said, “I like to endorse your book.” I said, “Thank you. I’m sure I’ll sell a lot more copies.” It was interesting that when he selected Ben Carson, the head of the housing department, I had known Ben Carson for a short while as well. Ben had asked me, “Do you have any aspirations to go to Washington?” I said, “No and I’m surprised you’d go.”

You’ve done so much great work. I enjoy the conversation. A lot of people would like to find out how they can reach out to you and find out more about what you do. What’s the best way for them to find your work?

The best ways to go to our website, which is They could find videos and there’s also a contact page there if they have other additional questions.

I have one last question. Of all the people you’ve met with John Sculley, Sir Richard Branson and all these names, who stood out in your mind that made an amazing influence on your career?

I have to say that would be Edward Wilson, who I had the privilege of reading his book my senior year at College, and then I wound up meeting him about a decade later. I would say that his desire to make science something accessible to the person on the main street was a driving factor in how I write books and how I communicate material. I think the goal of science should not be to make it so complicated, nobody can understand it. The goal is to improve our life. We have to make science more interesting and optimistic about how things can be. His writing has had a tremendous influence on me.

You won that that prestigious Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Award.

I did. That was a surprise because he didn’t even have a vote on that. He was thrilled that I won that award. He actually flew into the University of Montana to present that to me. That was a real highlight for me in my career.

TTL 575 | Predicting The Future
Predicting The Future: Artificial Intelligence doesn’t know what the consequence of the answer is going to be, whereas human beings do.


I think that what you’ve done is so amazing and I appreciate you being on the show, Rebecca. This was so much fun. Thank you.

Thank you very much and thank you for the good work you’re doing.

Thank you.

I’d like to thank Rebecca for being my guests. We get so many great guests on the show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, I try to list some of them when they’re related to the shows that we’re talking about. Susan Sly’s episode was great for predictive analytics, so as Dr. Cindy Gordon. There are so many fascinating guests that we’ve had on the show like Daniel Burrus. I’m trying to think of all the names, futurists and different people on the show, you can go to There are tweetable moments. If you see something you want to tweet, you can grab a little clip and submit it right there. There are so much graphics and cool stuff on the site. I hope you take some time to check it out because it’s definitely worth it. You can put it in your name and an email if you want to be notified when those become available. If you’re looking for more information about Cracking The Curiosity Code and the Curiosity Code Index, it can all be found at or you can get to it from my main site of and just go to the Curiosity Information.

We are certifying consultants and HR professionals and anybody interested in giving personality assessments. This is something completely different because it’s very relevant to what we’re trying to do in organizations, which is to improve curiosity, to become more innovative and engaged. We’re getting a lot of attention. It’s available for SHRM certification credits for anybody who goes through the program, which is nice. It’s basically a half-day on-demand online training. It’s simple and a lot of people like that. If you’re interested in finding out more about that, you can go to the site and you can always contact me through my site if you have more questions. I love to hear from everybody. I enjoy all the guests that we’ve had and all of the people who are reading. I hope you enjoy this episode and I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Rebecca Costa

TTL 575 | Predicting The FutureRebecca D. Costa is an American sociobiologist and futurist. She is the preeminent global expert on the subject of “fast adaptation” and recipient of the prestigious Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Award. Her career spans four decades of working with founders, key executives and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. Costa’s first book, The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse, was an international bestseller. Her follow‐on book, titled On the Verge was introduced in 2017 to critical acclaim, shooting to the top of Amazon’s #1 New Business Post, USA Today, SF Chronicle, The Guardian, and other leading publications. Releases. Costa’s work has been featured in The New York Times, Washington
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