Economist Tyler Cowen asks former CIA director John Brennan about UFOs

johne1618

Active Member
On May 25, 2022 the prominent economist Tyler Cowen wrote an article in Bloomberg titled What are the Chances We've Been Visited by Aliens? in which he gives the alien visitation hypothesis 10% chance of being true.

His opinion must have been partly formed by his Dec 16, 2020 interview of the former CIA director John Brennan in which he asked him about UFOs. Here is a video of the interview cued to start at the UFO section.

Source: https://youtu.be/LdQ7L0ugZJc&t=403s

Transcript

COWEN
: So, let's say we take a concrete issue. The Navy has reported that a lot of its pilots have seen unidentified flying objects and if you were tackling that as a CIA director, or someone who works there, what is it that you would sift through and interpret? How would that go?

BRENNAN: Well, I’ve seen some of those videos from Navy pilots, and I must tell you that they are quite eyebrow-raising when you look at them. You try to ensure that you have as much data as possible in terms of visuals and also different types of maybe technical collection of sensors that you have at the time.

But then you also, I believe, it’s important to reach out into other environments and find out, well, were there any type of weather phenomena at that time that might have, in fact, created the appearance of the phenomenon that you’re looking at? Were there some things that were happening on the ground, or other types of phenomena that again could help explain what seems to be quite a mystery as far as what it is there?

But I think an important thing for analysts to do is not to go into this type of challenge either discounting certain types of possibilities or believing in advance that it is likely X, Y, or Z. You really have to approach it with an open mind, but get as much data as possible and get as much expertise as possible brought to bear.

COWEN: So, at the end of all that sifting and interpreting, what do you think is the most likely hypothesis?

BRENNAN: [laughs] I don’t know. When people talk about it, is there other life besides what’s in the States, in the world, the globe? Life is defined in many different ways. I think it’s a bit presumptuous and arrogant for us to believe that there’s no other form of life anywhere in the entire Universe. What that might be is subject to a lot of different views.

But I think some of the phenomena we’ll be seeing continues to be unexplained and might, in fact, be some type of phenomenon that is the result of something that we don’t yet understand and that could involve some type of activity that some might say constitutes a different form of life.

COWEN: But being an agnostic you don't think it's something supernatural?

BRENNAN: Well, supernatural is in the eye of the beholder. Again I'm not going to discount things. That's why I'm an agnostic as opposed to an atheist. I just want to leave my mind open as to what something might be. But who knows what these things might be?

My Conclusions

When Brennan says that he's seen some of the Navy UFO videos, and found them quite "eyebrow-raising", I can only assume that he is not referring to the rather indistinct and ambiguous videos that have been made available to the public. Surely he must be talking about classified videos?

Having stated that one must investigate all natural causes he then goes on to emphasize that one must keep an open mind and not discount unusual possibilities.

He makes the statement that it is presumptuous to think we are alone in the Universe. I think the government/military are using statements like this to get us used to the idea of aliens before they give us evidence of alien visitation.

He then uses a purposefully convoluted sentence to say that he thinks we will continue to see unexplained phenomena which might involve alien life. To me this is an important statement showing that he takes the possibility of alien visitation seriously; but obviously tempered to avoid getting into trouble.

Finally Cowen asks him whether he thinks the phenomenon is supernatural. He replies that supernatural is in the "eye of the beholder". This is interesting because the question as to whether one should classify aliens as supernatural or natural is probably a common one. His reply further confirms that he is seriously implying that aliens might be visiting Earth.
 
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Ann K

Senior Member.
On May 25, 2022 the prominent economist Tyler Cowen wrote an article in Bloomberg titled What are the Chances We've Been Visited by Aliens? in which he gives the alien visitation hypothesis 10% chance of being true.
Based on the reading of the transcript, it appears that Tyler Cowen just made up the number "10%" with no supporting data. Brennan's answer sounds in every way like that of a cautiously skeptical person who is trying to give the greatest possible range of options in order not to offend the interviewer, not one who is "seriously implying" alien visitations.

Question: why was an economist asking about this in the first place?
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Thank you for the transcript!
On May 25, 2022 the prominent economist Tyler Cowen wrote an article in Bloomberg titled What are the Chances We've Been Visited by Aliens? in which he gives the alien visitation hypothesis 10% chance of being true.
From that article:
There are popular YouTube videos by Mick West, a prominent debunker of pseudoscience, suggesting that Navy videos of UAPs flying at hypersonic speeds reflect human and camera errors. Yet the US military and intelligence sources are not endorsing that hypothesis, even though it could make their lives easier, and so it seems unlikely. (Recall that, several decades ago, experts exposed Yuri Geller’s “magic tricks” rather quickly.)
Content from External Source
Uri Geller's tricks were exposed rather quickly, but that didn't keep the CIA/DoD from spending money on psychics.
Article:
Physicists Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff began testing psychics for SRI in 1972, including one who would later become an international celebrity, Israeli Uri Geller. Their apparently successful results garnered interest within the U.S. Department of Defense. Ray Hyman, professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, was asked by Air Force psychologist Lt. Col. Austin W. Kibler (1930–2008)—then Director of Behavioral Research for ARPA—to go to SRI and investigate. He was to specifically evaluate Geller. Hyman's report to the government was that Geller was a "complete fraud" and as a consequence Targ and Puthoff lost their government contract to work further with him. The result was a publicity tour for Geller, Targ, and Puthoff to seek private funding for further research work on Geller.[12]

[...]

Time magazine stated in 1995 three full-time psychics were still working on a $500,000-a-year budget out of Fort Meade, Maryland, which would soon close.[17]


The fallacy is the assumption that people's lives get easier when they admit what they're investigating doesn't exist—the opposite is true. If you can draw a good income investigating things that don't exist (and that, therefore, you're never going to actually have to do anything about), your life is already as easy as it can get.

The same holds true for economists writing newspaper articles for a credulous public.
 

Woolery

Banned
Banned
If you can draw a good income investigating things that don't exist (and that, therefore, you're never going to actually have to do anything about), your life is already as easy as it gets.
Above is the description of a professional debunker. Someone paid to investigate things that don’t exist: Skunk apes and demons, chemtrails and flying saucers. I’m fairly certain that’s not what you meant.

Did you perhaps mean: If you can draw a good income investigating things that you know do not warrant investigation? If this is still not what you meant can you please help me understand?


Note: If you’re interested in past government-sanctioned studies of the supernatural, you might also look into Germany’s which was more of a top-down approach, led to slightly greater harm and is possibly more difficult to fathom. This is just the tip of the German government’s supernatural iceberg :

Article:
Before moving in, Hitler had the Berlin chancellery searched for cancerous death rays by a Nazi ghostbuster with a divining pendulum. Goebbels read the prophesies of Nostradamus and concluded Britain would lose the war. Himmler’s personal astrologer, a fraud called Wilhelm Wulff, was commissioned to find Mussolini using a dowser and a map after Il Duce was toppled.
Source: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-arms-race-that-was-all-in-the-mind-g505nkdhn
 

Ann K

Senior Member.
Note: If you’re interested in past government-sanctioned studies of the supernatural, you might also look into Germany’s which was more of a top-down approach, led to slightly greater harm and is possibly more difficult to fathom. This is just the tip of the German government’s supernatural iceberg :

Article:

Source: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-arms-race-that-was-all-in-the-mind-g505nkdhn
Germany was not unique in having believers in the supernatural in high office. Here's an article about Ronald Reagan's personal astrologer.
https://timeline.com/ronald-reagan-astrology-quigley-aa81632662d9#:~:text=Quigley was the White House astrologer during the,through his presidency without his secret adviser exposed.
 
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Woolery

Banned
Banned
Germany was not unique in having believers in the supernatural in high office. Here's an article about Ronald Reagan's personal astronomer.
https://timeline.com/ronald-reagan-astrology-quigley-aa81632662d9#:~:text=Quigley was the White House astrologer during the,through his presidency without his secret adviser exposed.
I think you mean “astrologer.”

And no Germany is not unique in that respect. That’s not a claim I would make. I’m sure every country has had leaders with superstitious beliefs. But there are degrees of devotion to bad ideas. And Germany is unique, in modern history, in the way it exterminated and enslaved millions upon millions of innocent men, women and children in a few short years under the influence of unchecked superstition and bigotry. And that’s different than Ronald Reagan consulting an astrologer.

Edit: This should probably go in Rambles. Apologies to Johne1618 for straying off-topic.
 
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Ann K

Senior Member.
I think you mean “astrologer.”

And no Germany is not unique in that respect. That’s not a claim I would make. I’m sure every country has had leaders with superstitious beliefs. But there are degrees of devotion to bad ideas. And Germany is unique, in modern history, in the way it exterminated and enslaved millions upon millions of innocent men, women and children in a few short years under the influence of unchecked superstition and bigotry. And that’s different than Ronald Reagan consulting an astrologer.
Yes, thanks, I did mean astrologer (post fixed) but I'll blame the need of a nap. And while the higher level of Germany's atrocities is unquestionable, "the influence of unchecked superstition and bigotry" is, sadly, something that has established a firm grasp on the far right forces of the United States in recent years. That's not entirely unrelated to the whole UFO flap.
 

johne1618

Active Member
Based on the reading of the transcript, it appears that Tyler Cowen just made up the number "10%" with no supporting data.
The 10% is the strength of his belief in alien visitation based on his own personal research. I guess he holds to the Bayesian subjective view of probability.

Brennan's answer sounds in every way like that of a cautiously skeptical person who is trying to give the greatest possible range of options in order not to offend the interviewer, not one who is "seriously implying" alien visitations.
I think he is strongly hinting that he has seen evidence that some UFOs are alien craft. I don’t think he is just humoring the interviewer.

Question: why was an economist asking about this in the first place?
Tyler Cowen has a wide range of interests including technological progress.
 
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Landru

Moderator
Staff member
The 10% is the strength of his belief in alien visitation based on his own personal research. I guess he holds to the Bayesian subjective view of probability.
Or he just made it up.

I think he is strongly hinting that he has seen evidence that some UFOs are alien craft. I don’t think he is just humoring the interviewer.
Based on what?
 

johne1618

Active Member
Based on what?

Brennan said:
I’ve seen some of those videos from Navy pilots, and I must tell you that they are quite eyebrow-raising when you look at them.
I think he must have see more than just the unclassified videos for him to use the term “eyebrow-raising”.

Brennan said:
But I think some of the phenomena we’ll be seeing continues to be unexplained and might, in fact, be some type of phenomenon that is the result of something that we don’t yet understand and that could involve some type of activity that some might say constitutes a different form of life.
This is a convoluted way of saying he believes UFOs will continue to be observed and that some of them might be alien craft. He has to use this obtuse phraseology to avoid getting in trouble with the authorities.

Even if you don’t believe he had access to anymore data than the public, surely his statements above show that he is open to the idea of alien visitation?
 
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JMartJr

Senior Member
BRENNAN: Well, I’ve seen some of those videos from Navy pilots, and I must tell you that they are quite eyebrow-raising when you look at them.
I'd 100% agree with that -- the Navy videos we have seen are a bit eye-brow raising when you look at them. And then when you analyze them, they become eyebrow-lowering again.

Worth noting that Brennan was CIA Director from March 8, 2013 – January 20, 2017, the original trio of Navy vids were released in December 2017. His interview as quoted above seems consistent with seeing them in the media and listening to the credulous reporting of claims made about them.
 

Landru

Moderator
Staff member
Brennan said:

I think he must have see more than just the unclassified videos for him to use the term “eyebrow-raising”.

Brennan said:

This is a convoluted way of saying he believes UFOs will continue to be observed and that some of them might be alien craft. He has to use this obtuse phraseology to avoid getting in trouble with the authorities.

Even if you don’t believe he had access to anymore data than the public, surely his statements above show that he is open to the idea of alien visitation?
Nothing you have said supports for your statements.
 

NoParty

Senior Member.
Economist...Tyler Cowen & former CIA director John Brennan...
...I must tell you that they are quite eyebrow-raising
Like Ann K, my eyebrows went up, when I saw the title. Neither man has any reputation for
any insight on this issue. I imagine listening to two rock musicians discussing embroidery.
Brennan's answer sounds in every way like that of a cautiously skeptical person who is trying to give the greatest possible range of options in order not to offend the interviewer, not one who is "seriously implying" alien visitations.
Yes, it's not an interview to get to the bottom of UFO sightings...Brennan gives a relatively brief,
unremarkable, entirely data-free, polite response.
I think he must have see more than just the unclassified videos for him to use the term “eyebrow-raising”.
Like Landru, I see zero reason to make this leap. Brennan's not known for any special interest in UFOs.
the Navy videos we have seen are a bit eye-brow raising when you look at them.
And then when you analyze them, they become eyebrow-lowering again.
We've got to figure a way to get "eyebrow-lowering" a more prominent place in the language. :)
"Eyebrow-lowering.org"? "Eyebrow Lowering Club"? "MetaEyebrowLowering"?
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
He has to use this obtuse phraseology to avoid getting in trouble with the authorities.
Has anyone ever gotten "in trouble with the authorities" over talking about aliens? For example, NASA administrator Bill Nelson?

Note that Brennan is now employed by NBC.
 
Has anyone ever gotten "in trouble with the authorities" over talking about aliens? For example, NASA administrator Bill Nelson?

Note that Brennan is now employed by NBC.
IC positions are trickier. Technically speaking anything you make public like that has to be cleared by a review board for your agency. Doesn't always go down that way and there's some exception areas like general convo outside of interviews, although given context of this situation, it's one of those ones where that approval comes into play, even considering the obtuse wording.
 
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