Monday, June 14, 2021

60. Things I Can't Predict ⸺ Demographic Doom Podcast Transcript

Below is the transcript for my Demographic Doom Podcast episode #60, released on 15 June 2021. The "home page" for this episode—with annotations, links, corrections and a place for comments—is the YouTube version (15 minutes). The audio version is housed at Podbean and is available on most major podcast platforms, including iTunes and Google Podcasts. The main website for this project is Twitter: @DemographicDoom. Glenn Campbell home page: See bottom for notes on this transcript and how it was generated.

This is the original script. It has not yet been reconciled with the final broadcast.

I'm Glenn Campbell. I call myself a demographic philosopher. I'm looking at life and trying to predict the future through the lens of demography, or the study of human populations.

In this episode, I want to talk about the things I don't know—that is, the things that demographics and macroeconomics can not tell us—as illustrated by all the things that have happened over the past few years that I would have never predicted. 

Of course, I couldn't have predicted the pandemic. It wasn't even on my radar until late January 2020. If you were an epidemiologist, however, you could have predicted that something like this was destined to happen; you just couldn't say when. Demographics and macroeconomics are sort of like that: You can predict that bad things will happen, but you don't know when. 

Epidemiology is a little different, in that you're just waiting for a random mutation or a random jump of a virus between species. The risk has always been there, but it doesn't change much with time. In demographics and macroeconomics, the risks build up over time until things have to start breaking. It's like stretching a rubber band too far: The more you stretch it, the more likely it will break. We know, for example, that there is going to be a worldwide pensions crisis. This is the natural result of too many old people demanding their retirement benefits and not enough young workers paying into the system. I don't know what form this crisis will take when things come to a head, but you know there will be a day of reckoning—or maybe a few decades of reckoning.

There is a saying in economics: "Anything that can't go on forever will eventually end." This is called Stein's Law, from economist Herbert Stein. What he actually said was, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." 

Our current demographics and macroeconomics are filled with unsustainable systems that have to stop sooner or later. For example, a government can't keep spending more money than it collects in taxes, printing new money to make up the difference. That's what's happening right now and has been happening for years. Although nothing really bad seems to be happening at this moment, in mid-June 2021, you know it will.

A counterpoint to Stein's law is something I call "Keynes Curse" because it is often attributed to economist John Maynard Keyes, even though there's no evidence he actually said it. Keynes Curse says that "Markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent." In other words, unsustainabilities can go on for a very long time. Anyone who has shorted the market or shorted Tesla stock lately has learned this the hard way. You can know for a fact that a system will fail, but if you don't know when and in what order, this information is pretty much useless to you as an investor.

So I can tell you with great confidence that the US monetary system will fail, but I can't tell you when. There's a fairly limited range of ways the system will break. There can be a massive asset crash that wipes out everyone's investments. There can be hyperinflation, which leaves nominal assets values in place but wipes out the value of the dollar. I can say with great confidence that middle-aged workers who think they have a solid retirement plan will find that it's not there when they arrive, either through inflation or an asset collapse. I can further predict that as some point in the future, the US government will either disintegrate or be forced to live within its means—which itself implies a lot of disintegration.

All of these things are likely to happen sooner or later, because "Anything that can't go on forever will end." I just don't know when or in what sequence or what the secondary damage will be. I just know the ship will sink.

The most serious failing of demographics and macroeconomics is that they can't predict human politics or human behavior. They may be able to predict when social tensions will be high, but they can't predict specifically how those tensions will be expressed.

For example, the hyperinflation of Weimar Germany was a fairly predictable macroeconomic event. If a government keeps printing money without restraint, eventually that money will become worthless. You could have also predicted with great certainty that the hyperinflation would lead to a lot of human misery and popular discontent. What no one could have predicted, specifically, was the rise of Adolf Hitler and where he would lead his country. While you can safely say high economic tensions tend to lead to radical populist movements, you can't say what form they will take.

To me, the great wake-up call to our economic tension was the election of Donald Trump in 2016. This was a pivotal event in my life—and maybe in yours—when I realized that my rational theories of the world didn't work anymore. You can quibble that he didn't win the popular vote, but the fact remains that roughly half the country thought that electing an obvious charlatan was a good idea. The election of 2020 was another harrowing event I never would have predicted. Even after four years of obvious incompetence, roughly half the US population was still willing to reelect him.

The trauma of 2016 is what launched my interest in demography and macroeconomics, but it also forced me to define the difference between what I know and don't know. I know a massive economic collapse is coming, but I can't say how human politics and human psychology will react to that event. I suspect that human politics will eventually trump macroeconomics. From our perspective today, the hyperinflation of Weimer Germany seems almost trivial compared to the World War that followed. That's the sort of thing I can't predict. I can't only live with the fear that another, more efficient Donald Trump could arise at any time.

The pandemic may have been an unpredictable Black Swan, in its specific appearance, but in general, you can predict that Black Swans will happen. They always have. You think you have things all worked out, and then some bolt of lightning hits you out of the blue. The effect of these Black Swans is usually to accelerate destructive processes that were already in play. Government debt, for example, was already a crisis before the pandemic hit, and now it's many times worse. 

A few months or years from now, there is sure to be another Black Swan, and another and another. Although you don't know what each one will be, you know they will happen, and they will accelerate unsustainabilities that were already under way. You just don't know how.

Once I knew that a pandemic was brewing in China, little about how it unfolded was surprising to me. In early February 2020, I remember telling my elderly father that he might not be seeing me for a while because his retirement village would be locked down, and that's exactly what happened. It was easy to predict that the lockdowns would be Draconian and indiscriminate, because government response to a crisis is usually ham-handed.

You can hear my own real-time reaction to the pandemic in the podcast episodes I recorded in the early days, starting on February 3, 2020. The only significant error I'll admit to is that I thought fomites were a source of transmission. In other words: I thought you could get the disease if someone who had it touched a doorknob then you touched it and touched your own face. That turns out not to be true. Most transmission is through the air—by breathing in droplets breathed out by someone with the disease—yet we still have hand sanitizer everywhere. I think I was pretty accurate, however, in predicting the worldwide scope of the epidemic and its devastating effects on the economy.

There were three areas, however, in which I was way off the mark....

My first failure is that I never in a million years would have predicted that the pandemic would result in a rise in stocks and other assets markets. On the contrary, I predicted a devastating crash, which I thought was primed to happen long before the pandemic. It started to happen in March 2020, but then markets reversed course, surged to all-time highs and stayed there. This was a complete disconnect from the real economy, which was on life support.

The second thing I never would have predicted were race riots in the midst of a pandemic. Some cities like Kenosha, Wisconsin were utterly devastated. You can point to certain precipitating events, certain instances of police brutality, for example, but this is nothing new. Racial discrimination is nothing new, so why were these violent protests happening now—especially when gathering in large groups, breathing other people's air, was potentially devastating?

The third thing I never would have predicted were labor shortages in the midst of an unemployment crisis. If you drive down any commercial street in America right now, you see help-wanted signs everywhere, and the wages being offered are rising. The labor shortage is a significant burden to businesses right now, just as things are opening up.

In retrospect, I now have explanations for each of these three anomalies. I can record a whole podcast about any one of them. The point is, I never would have predicted three events before they happened, because neither demographics nor macroeconomics gave me adequate tools to do so. 

No science can predict human behavior or the exact events of history. It's just too complex, and there are too many wildcards. In Weimar Germany, you knew that social tensions were high and that they were destined to be expressed in some way, but you couldn't have predicted Hitler, just like you couldn't have predicted in 2015 that Trump would be President in 2017.

The best that demographics and macroeconomics can do is predict the future of the whole package that were are travelling in—the trajectory of our whole spacecraft. As an analogy, imagine all of the things that could happen on Earth in the next 50 years. It's silly to try to predict world events in 2071, because there are so many factors involved; yet, astronomers can tell you exactly where in space our planet will be in 2071. That much is completely predictable.

Demographics and macroeconomics can place boundaries on our predictions even if they can't predict specific events. In particular, they can place an upper limit on how much future economic growth there can be. The last quarter of the 20th Century saw astounding economic growth. We were building shopping malls, high-rise office towers and new housing developments. Today's demographics can reliably predict that the same growth will never again be repeated, because we just don't have the bodies. 

Macroeconomics can safely predict that tax revenue will never significantly grow, even though government debts have gone through the roof, and this means that one way or another government debt will fail. It is fair to say that most national governments will never again be solvent. They can only keep printing money until something catastrophic happens to make them stop.

The only thing demographics and macroeconomics can do is place a hard ceiling on long-term economic growth, and therefore on the sustainable value of assets and the payability of debt. 

Below that ceiling, anything is possible.


Written, recorded and edited by Glenn Campbell. For annotations, links and corrections, see the description on the video version of this podcast. You can also leave comments there. See here for all my podcast scripts on this blog.

The transcript above is based on the automatically generated YouTube transcript, corrected by me based on my memory of what I said. In general, I make only the minimal changes necessary for clarity. I have not re-checked the transcript below against the actual broadcast. Editing consisted mainly of inserting punctuation and paragraphs and removing repetitive words and phrases. Passages in bold text are ones I consider particularly quotable. Items in [square brackets] are minor grammatical corrections. Items in {curly brackets} are factual corrections or amplifications. —Glenn Campbell

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Thursday, June 10, 2021

59. Making Sense of UFOs ⸺ Demographic Doom Podcast Transcript

Below is the transcript for my Demographic Doom Podcast episode #59, released on 10 June 2021. The "home page" for this episode—with annotations, links, corrections and a place for comments—is the YouTube version (36 minutes). The audio version is housed at Podbean and is available on most major podcast platforms, including iTunes and Google Podcasts. The main website for this project is Twitter: @DemographicDoom. Glenn Campbell home page: See bottom for notes on this transcript and how it was generated.

I'm Glenn Campbell. I call myself a demographic philosopher. I'm looking at life and trying to predict the future through the lens of demography, or the study of human populations.

In this issue of my podcast, I'm going to talk about something completely different—UFOs! I'm going to talk about the relevance of UFOs to the subject of this podcast: demography and macroeconomics. Spoiler alert! Guess what? There is not any connection that I can find between UFOs and demography or macroeconomics, and that's the whole point here. That's why I’ve picked up the microphone. I want to tell you how much irrelevance UFOs have to the subjects I’ve been talking about, but I'm going to do it with some nuance and do it at length, because it's still an amusing topic, even if it's unrelated to my main topics.

So why am I talking about it right now? First of all, where am I? I'm in a car on the edge of a cornfield in South Carolina. It's 2am, and I just woke up and decided I should do a podcast on UFOs in my demography podcast. There are two things that prompted this: One was a recent news story from reputable outlets like the New York Times and 60 Minutes indicating that UFOs are real after all— that there seems to be some solid military evidence of craft operating in Earth's environment that far exceed anything that humankind is capable of.

These craft are described as “Tic-Tacs”—oblong white objects without any definition, about the size of a commercial airliner. Military equipment can get a lock on them, can see them. You have visual evidence and radar evidence they're real. They can travel at enormous speed in air and in water. After we've discussed UFOs for decades, now it turns out some of them might be real.

So that's one thing that prompted this podcast episode. The other one was that I bought a drone! About three weeks ago, I bought a drone. The drone technology has finally advanced to the stage where I feel comfortable buying one knowing that I'm not going to lose it tomorrow, because these drones are quite sophisticated about coming back home. I've started to explore my environment with this drone, which is mostly done through the controller. Once your drone goes up into the air, this thing has a huge range. It can fly for a half an hour, and it can go up to several miles away from where I am, and it can plop itself down in some other environment, just like a UFO. Just like an alien.

Something I did a couple of days ago is I saw some cows off in the distance from where I was sitting, so I launched my drone, and my drone went over and talked to the cows! And for the first time, I had some response to my drone. The cows looked up at my drone, and what I did is I came down in the field about eight feet above the ground, and the cows started to circle around me, and they looked at me and as they walked toward me, [they] wondered, what is this thing in their environment? From their perspective, it is a UFO. It is something that's there. My drone is definitely real. It's not a bird. It's operating a way that they've never seen before, and it's just fascinating to them.

But it's also far beyond their comprehension. I can never explain my drone to a cow. It's just impossible. They have no frame of reference to understand where this craft has come from or why it is there. All they know is that it is there.

My Ah-Ha! Moment just now is that this is what the UFO phenomena is like to humans. Those Tic-Tac objects seen by military pilots, they are pretty much like my drone. They have some sort of purpose, but it is way beyond our little cow brains to understand what that purpose is. It's almost futile to try, beyond just noting that these things exist.

You could have cows talking to each other and talking about what this this thing is, and some cows say to the other cows, “Oh, you're crazy! There's no such thing.” But we know that my drone definitely exists. It came down, and the cows gathered around, and I kind of responded to them, because as they're coming to look at me, I'm going down to look at them. So I'm exhibiting some form of intelligence. It's just [that] my goals in launching my drone and coming to visit them are beyond their ability to process.

So that is the final conclusion of my UFO investigation: Yes, they're real, but they're not relevant to our life on Earth—which is the whole reason I finally got out of UFOs in my own life. I'm speaking to you as someone who's been into it a lot more than most people have. There was a time in the 1990s when I called myself a UFO researcher, and I got some publicity and some renowned as a UFO researcher.

It started back in my youth, in my teenage years in the 1970s. I was into science fiction and got into the UFO literature at the time, which was really pretty thin. There were only a handful of incidents. I read all of the books that were available at the time, but I realized that as a teenager, really I got into the UFO thing for the same reason I got into science fiction: for the escapism. To escape from my dreary life in a small town, I got into science fiction and UFOs. As I grew up and emerged into the larger rural world, I discarded them as irrelevant, not important. They could be real, but they're not important to my real adult life, so I discarded them for a couple of decades.

I came back to UFOs around 1990 after I'd been reasonably successful in the software business and had some money and some time. I thought it would be cool to get back into UFOs again. I didn't see them as any more relevant than I did in my teenage years, but it was a fascinating mystery to me. It was like a puzzle to be figured out. I knew that 99% of the UFO claims were false, were misjudgments in some way by the human brain, but that didn't mean that there wasn't one percent out there that were real, and that one percent I saw as, you know, just the fact that any of this, any one instance is real, ought to be earth shattering.

So I got into it in the 1990s as a an intellectual challenge because I had time on my hands and I wanted to see if there was any signal in all of this noise. To cut a long story short, I was attracted to Area 51, which was supposedly a place where you could see UFOs on demand, on a scheduled basis. I went to investigate them, and this became my whole cause celebre for the next five years or so. I became an expert on Area 51, as much as anyone could be, and I was really much more focused on the human aspects of this very real place. I got some recognition. I got some fame for it. My 15 minutes of fame turned into 45 minutes of fame. I got along on a lot of tv shows, which went on for years, and it became a source of my identity—at least my public identity. That's how most of the world would know me, as this publicist for Area 51.

But the UFOs themselves I always kept at arm's length. My position on UFOs has almost always been: “They're just not relevant, [even if] they could be real.” Certainly, the vast majority of UFO reports are not real. A handful of them could be real, but even if they are, they're just not relevant to my life on Earth.

Eventually I exploited everything I could exploit at Area 51. I learned an awful lot about many human subjects. It was like a graduate level program on a lot of other things, like law and government and psychology and media. I learned so much about how media works. But it ran its course, and I withdrew. I moved on to other things.

And now UFOs are back, and they seem to be real. Some little sliver of the UFO literature seems to be real, and now what do I do about it?

I can only interpret UFOs in terms of what is important to me, and what is important to me right now is demographics [and] the demographic crises that we are facing—crises like not enough babies and not enough quality in our upbringing of babies, and all of the macroeconomic problems that arise from not having enough babies, which is the looming monetary crisis that is coming about—basically because our demographics are tapped out, [and] we don't have the demographic growth that we used to have.

So how do these Tic-Tacs operating in the Pacific or the Atlantic Ocean, sighted by military pilots, how is that relevant to any of the problems I'm talking about—and it just isn't!

I'm like those cows. When this drone arrives, this weird alien craft arrives in their environment, I'm going to take notice of it. I'm going to note it down in my little cow brain, but when the object goes away again, I'm going to go back to munching grass, because that's what cows do. When there's no article in the New York Times about UFOs, well, I just go back to my version of munching grass, which is working on the human problems that humans have created and that only humans can solve.

So let's say that these aliens do have this fantastic technology that can do all these amazing things. It implies all sorts of technological advances beyond what we can do… [but it] doesn't have any relevance [to] our production of babies! It doesn't have any relevance to our monetary system. I can't even imagine any way that alien creatures could fix our economy or fix our politics.

Now, aliens could come along and knock out a couple of dictators. Let's say I had the power of the aliens at my disposal. There's a few dictators I like to dispose of, but I don't have any illusions that that's going to fix the problems of humanity. I won't name those dictators but you can imagine some of the dictators I'd like to remove, just to free their people and give their people a second chance, but I have no guarantee that by giving people a second chance, they're not going to create new dictators.

It's just not simple. The aliens just can't come in from space and zap somebody with a bolt of lightning and fix anything, because humans have created their own problems, and if the problems are solvable at all, only humans can solve them. We can't expect anything from aliens.

What relevance do they have to the military? Well, the military is a little bit more interested in UFOs because these things could be mistaken for adversaries. What if these UFOs reported are not alien craft but in fact are Russian or Chinese craft? Well, that's something we should be concerned about. The main thing that the military should be concerned about is that these aliens—which we have no reason to believe are threatening—are not mistaken for things that are threatening. So the military does have a stake in identifying at least whether or not this thing is a threat. Once it is determined that these things are not threatening, then it's not a military problem. It might be a scientific issue, but even there, what's more important. Is it more important to investigate UFOs or to investigate some medical issue that might actually save lives? You decide.

I don't think aliens are worth too much of my time, but, like the cows, if an alien flies by me or the New York Times reports on the aliens, I'm going to look up, and I'm going to at least take some passing interest.

So I’ve said a lot of other things about Area 51. If you want a capsule of my Area 51 research: I never saw anything or experienced anything that I couldn't eventually explain, but there were things that took me a while to explain. There were lights in the sky that took me a while to explain [but] I eventually did. There were incredible sounding claims made by people like Bob Lazar and Bill Uhouse, claiming to have worked with or seen alien craft.

I take the same agnostic position: I don't know if they're real or not real, but they're not worth my time to investigate. In the case of those two people, Bob Lazar [and] Bill Uhouse, these characters are so unreliable and so sociopathic that it's just not worth my time to investigate—even if they did hold all the secrets of the universe.

Instead of talking about any specific UFO case, I'd much rather talk about the philosophy of UFOs—or more broadly the philosophy of the unknown. The universe is full of unknowns. Imagine talking to a Roman of 2000 years ago. He came from a reasonably sophisticated society, but if you tried to explain our science and technology to him, he would just be blown away. He would regard much of it as paranormal, because it's just so far beyond his understanding.

There's plenty of science and technology yet to be discovered, and in fact it's pretty much a an infinite quest. Science goes on indefinitely. You can dump as much resources into science and technology as you have, and there will never be an end to it. Unfortunately, I don't have infinite patience for these infinite quests, especially personally. Following my cancer treatment and my near-death experiences over the past couple of years, I’ve entered what I call the “third half” of my life, and I want to make the most of the time I have left. One thing I’ve learned about UFOs is they will absorb all of your time and give you nothing in return, so for me, these kind of quests just aren't worth the effort. They're not worth my limited time.

And the same applies to paranormal phenomenon, paranormal research. There could be something. There have been a few inklings over the years that some psychic phenomena are real. For example, remote viewings seem to have promise for a while, but the more you study these things, the more they seem to just slip away.

One thing I can say about both UFOs and psychic phenomena is that they're not reliable. They don't perform on demand, so you can't really use them for anything. You might have a psychic hunch that prompts you to turn your head and look in a certain direction, and that can be useful in itself, but you can't use those psychic hunches to make substantial personal decisions, or you're going to get yourself into trouble. You have to rely on the things you know for sure. Until UFOs and psychic phenomena start becoming reliable, I’ve got to make my decisions based on concrete things, based on solid reasoning and evidence that I can verify.

One of the reasons I'm attracted to demography is that there are a lot of things that you can know for sure. For example, you can know for sure that there won't be more future adults on the planet than there are children right now. I also contend that there are things you can know for sure about macroeconomics—mainly that you can't spend more money than you make. No government or other entity can consistently spend more money than they make without something bad happening. You have to pay the piper sometime.

UFOs offer no such certainties. In fact, they yield hardly any useful information at, all even if you believe in specific cases. Let's say something weird happens and it is corroborated by a lot of different sources. Where do you go from there?

If you're a cow and you experience my drone for the first time—or even multiple times—what do you do with that information? Probably what you're going to do is you're going to twist it around in such a way that it's meaningful to you, that makes you the center of the experience. You're probably going to attribute to my drone some kind of intent that simply wasn't there.

A useful analogy here is the cargo cults of the South Pacific. This was a real phenomenon that took place during World War II. There were Pacific islanders who had hardly ever seen an outsider before, and all of that changed during the war. Soldiers arrived in boats, and they built airfields, and then the most fantastic UFOs would land on those airfields. Of course, we know what those UFOs were. They were airplanes involved in the war effort against Japan, but to the islanders, the planes were something totally alien—as were these pale skinned aliens in uniforms who operated the planes. So the airfield on this remote island might have operated for a year or two, and then the aliens just packed up and left, as swiftly and mysteriously as they arrived.

So if you're one of these islanders left behind, you're left to wonder, “What just happened?”—and that's where the cargo cults came in. People began to worship these aliens and worship these craft. They drew moral lessons from the aliens coming and the aliens departing, and they prayed to the aliens to come back.

These people [even] built their own planes. You can see them by googling for "cargo cult". Do a visual image search for "cargo cult", and you see the planes that these Pacific islanders built. They were built out of jungle materials, and they certainly wouldn't fly, but they looked like the planes that these people had seen, looked like the UFOs that these people had seen. The classic photos that you'll see online are these half-naked islanders sitting under the wings of the plane they had built, presumably waiting for the aliens to return.

In essence, they had created a religion from their anomalous experience, which is probably the way that most religions start. Something weird happens, and people interpret it in such a way as to serve their own emotional needs. If UFOs did not exist, we humans would almost certainly invent them, and we would imbue in them all of our hopes and fears. That's just the way humans work. They need paranormal beliefs. They need this means of wish fulfillment that allows them to carry on with their lives.

We as Westerners can look at those cargo cults and laugh, because we know what those planes are. We know what those alien craft are, and we know that they have nothing to do with the islanders. But we can laugh only because we see the big picture the islanders did not see. They just saw little bits of the picture and they filled in all the rest according to their emotional needs. When the aliens arrived, it must have been some kind of reward or punishment for what they had done, and likewise when the aliens left. When the aliens left it left a hole in their society and they filled it up with this cargo cult religion.

When a religion is born, certain individuals in the community are going to set themselves up as priests, because there's a lot of power in being a spokesman for God, and the rest of the people seem content in just following these priests. In the case of the cargo cults, priests would declare their power by wearing the uniforms of the soldiers who ran the aircraft, and you can see pictures of this on google as well. The highest priests would have a lot of metals on their chests, so they're reproducing all the symbols of this alien encounter without any of the underlying understanding.

Now the priests might genuinely believe that they have a special connection with the aliens, but this is also a golden opportunity for swindlers and con men. You can gain a lot of power in your community without a lot of work by just claiming to have a psychic channel to the aliens. Believe it or not many humans are liars, and some of them are really good at it. Realizing an opportunity to exploit others, they're quick to take advantage of it.

Other people aren't liars, per se, as much as confabulators. They fill in the blanks between the actual data and what they emotionally need to believe. These people are genuine in their belief in the aliens; they're just twisting things around to serve their own needs.

Most people, however, are simply followers. They look up to the experts in their community to tell them what to believe, and they're remarkably gullible in believing both the liars and the confabulators.

Of course, this whole thing has been happening in the UFO field for years. UFOs offer a big umbrella for all sorts of fantastic claims, only a tiny fraction of which can possibly be true. The field is a wonderful opportunity for sociopaths and wishful thinkers and confabulators of all kinds, because anyone can claim anything and it can't be easily disproved, because essentially you've suspended all the laws of reason and physics. That's what makes the UFO field so murky and dismissible: Virtually anything goes. Any genuine signal that might have been there is quickly overwhelmed by noise.

Science might have made a lot more progress on UFOs if the claims had been limited to objects identified by military hardware, but unfortunately UFO claims have come to include everything under the sun. What people see in UFOs is more a reflection of their own emotional needs than what's really out there. Conspiracists will see government conspiracies. Spiritualists will feel they're in psychic communication with the aliens. The hardcore mechanical people are going to be more interested in the hardware—the flying saucers or wherever—and they're hardly interested in aliens at all. It all depends on your personality and what your emotional needs are.

Attending a UFO conference is a mind-numbing experience, because unlike a genuine science, there are no standards for truth in the UFO field. Whatever comes out of people's mouths seems worthy of attention at a UFO conference. We have all these high priests each peddling their own theories with absolute certainty—usually with themselves at the center of the cult. Like any other convention, a UFO conference tends to revolve around these big names who get star billing and who the UFO believers come to see. So that's how people work: They come to see their high priests, and the phenomena itself is kind of lost between the behind all the religious ritual.

Personally, I'm more inclined to believe the military-style claims, which basically go: “We were out on patrol. We saw this thing. We recorded it on video, and we got a lock on it in our targeting system. This object responded to us in some way, and then it took off took off at enormous speed.” That's a lot like my drone encounter with the cows. That's how the cows would explain my drone encounter, and that's plausible to me.

I'm less inclined to believe the personal UFO stories. That's where someone says, “The aliens came and abducted me, and they came and communicated with me,” like I was some sort of really important person. That just doesn't hold water for me. It could be true. It's just not something I want to explore.

It's like the cows [and] my drone. As the operator of the drone, I'm the intelligence behind it, and I know what I'm thinking. I'm amused by the cows. I'm willing to play with the cows a little bit, respond to them, respond to what they do, but I'm not here for any particular cow. I'm not trying to communicate with any particular cow or appoint any cow my representative on Earth. Cows are all generic to me, and that's probably how the aliens see humans. Humans are all generic, and there's no one no human that's special, that deserves my attention.

So I may be inclined to believe some UFO reports and disinclined to believe others, but belief for me is not a binary condition. I don't see things as “true” or “false”. I take a more pragmatic approach. The only question I ask is, “Is this claim worthy of my time, compared to all the other things I could be doing with my time.” I don't want to pass judgment on the claim, and I'm not eager to tell someone that their claim is false. I'm just wondering what I can do with the claim and whether it's worth any investment of my own time.

In the case of Area 51, there were quite a few claims that we could do something about. For example, [Let’s say] someone saw a light in the sky above a certain military area. Well, at least we could investigate that area and determine what the humans normally use that area for. If it's for war games, then that light in the sky probably has something to do with war games.

But these days, I'm not even motivated that much. If someone tells me they saw [a] light in the sky over Area 51, I'm just not going to even bother investing in it, because I’ve got my own plan for the rest of my life. There are things I want to accomplish in non-paranormal fields, and it would take a huge inducement for me to deviate from that plan.

Now, if I'm driving along a highway and I see an inexplicable light up in the sky, I'm certainly going to pull over and check it out, and I'm going to try my best to photograph it, but I'm probably not going to go out of my way to deliberately hunt for these things. Personally, I’ve got more important things to do.

I think that's also the position of the military. Once it is determined that UFOs are not a military threat, it's really not a military problem anymore. Once you take away that anchor of military utility, any research program that you start is going to just absorb all your resources and not get anywhere. I think that's what doomed most of these military projects like Project Blue Book. It's not that they didn't have enough data. It's that they had too much data and nothing to do with it—nothing that really indicated a military threat.

So if I were a military leader—even a military leader who believed in UFOs—I would ask myself, “What are we doing in this field? This is not our business. Our business is defending the country, and if the UFOs aren't a threat to our defense, then it's not our business. It's someone else's business.

So the one thing you can say about the aliens is that they are keeping their distance. They seem to be obeying the Prime Directive of Star Trek, in that they're not intervening in our society in any obvious ways. All the problems of humanity so far seem to be human-generated problems, and the aliens have shown no inclination to either hurt us or protect us from ourselves.

They seem to be doing their own thing, and whatever that may be, I'm inclined to just let them do it. 


Written, recorded and edited by Glenn Campbell. For annotations, links and corrections, see the description on the video version of this podcast. You can also leave comments there. See here for all my podcast scripts on this blog.

The transcript above is based on the automatically generated YouTube transcript, corrected by me based on my memory of what I said. In general, I make only the minimal changes necessary for clarity. I have not re-checked the transcript below against the actual broadcast. Editing consisted mainly of inserting punctuation and paragraphs and removing repetitive words and phrases. Passages in bold text are ones I consider particularly quotable. Items in [square brackets] are minor grammatical corrections. Items in {curly brackets} are factual corrections or amplifications. —Glenn Campbell

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