Subscribe: episode updates
covid chapter 2. tom has arrived back in the east coast from his trip down the mississippi, thus beginning a new chapter of rp daily. the country is in the beginning stages of reopening; but concerning images of people coming together—perhaps too close—are circulating. tom and rp highlight the importance of not turning masks into a divisive topic, including north dakota governor doug burgum’s pleaful speech to avoid masks as a political statement. they also discuss the new york times cover with 1000 names on the front page: is it editorial? too dramatic? also, how will the world post-pandemic stratify privileged groups from the less fortunate, and how will industries change as a result? finally, with the dawn of a covid-19 vaccine approaching, what would it mean if the vaccine was developed in america versus china? as the pandemic moves forward, so do tom and rp’s conversations highlighting togetherness and daily life.
tom scott is chairman & co-founder of the nantucket project. rp eddy was the architect of the Clinton administration’s pandemic response framework and the United Nations response to the global AIDS epidemic & is CEO of global intelligence firm Ergo.
rp is co-author of the best-selling award-winning book Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes with Richard A. Clarke, Former National Security Council counterterrorism adviser.
Tom Scott [00:00:21] RP welcome back. It’s Tuesday.
R.P. Eddy [00:00:26] Nice to see you, Tom. Welcome back to the East Coast.
Tom Scott [00:00:28] Yeah, it’s. So the weekend is over. Memorial Day weekend is over. My trip is over. And I think Chapter one is over, and I’ll give you my, my theory on it and you can you can fire my idea. It’s up. It’s up for debate. And first, if I could, I you know, I’m a little sad from my trip. I feel sad because I feel like. I witnessed the world moving on when I got home. Now, that may just be my own paranoia. It may be my own. You know, looking into the future and lamenting my prediction or something. But. Yeah, I mean, I feel like the trip was so special and the people were so special and there was so much hope in it in the midst of the challenges. And so I have hopes that we’re going to be a better place. OK. And again, I’m not quitting. I’m not. But then this weekend and there is something beautiful about this weekend. People went out the world. Went out. Emerged, did things. I saw lots of people doing lots of things. Many of them were responsible. A few of them irresponsibly, in my view of things. I know in the case of parents, there’s a lot of like, okay, I’m going to let them go see so-and-so. I hear that a lot. And and I do think there’s an aspect to it that it was healthy and maybe necessary. Maybe it’s just the way we humans are to forget for a little bit. And let’s just forget about this for a few days and go to the next place. So, you know, that’s a mouthful. But I do think that by and large, the first sort of lockdown part of this is kind of over doesn’t mean there won’t be more lockdowns. And now we’re in this new sphere. And I hope we get it right or do it as well as we can. A and B, and this is this one’s more emotional for me. I want to be part of being a better world post, and I. And I know that in some that can sound corny, that can sound romantic. And I mean it like I feel it. I just feel it like I, I we have an opportunity to do something special here and I hope we do. And that’s why I’m I’m running up the flagpole. Is it time to call the RP Daily Show Chapter two?
R.P. Eddy [00:03:05] I just love that.
Tom Scott [00:03:06] Thank you.
R.P. Eddy [00:03:08] It was beautiful to watch it, really. You know, I suspect a lot of people who view this felt the same way, but watching you sit in those fields and under the arches and on the bridge and that kind of got. We got to transport ourselves a little bit after sitting at home for 78 days. So thank you. That was neat. And I’m glad it was safe. You know, you had a big truck. You guys were worried about, but you made it. Chapter two. Yeah, I guess as good as any. Right. So we had, like, the shock and and now, you know, we were close in our opening and. Just briefly on how did people behave this weekend? You know, look, that you’ve done a really good job of illustrating the click bait media is always trying to no roil us up, rile us up. And here’s pictures of Lake of the Ozarks. Look at hundreds of people, you know, having fun together, not social distancing. And it gets us all a little concerned, but we should remember. That some parts of this country, there’s very, very little amount of the virus floating around, there’s very few people who’ve been exposed to it and they’re sick and are carrying it. There is reason to think that UV light, sunlight, moving, air being outside makes it less dangerous. So let’s hope that those people, Lake of the Ozarks, for example, don’t end up with one or dozens or hundreds of cases because of that. And it could be right if no one there is infected. It’s no problem. We just don’t know. And that’s why we did the shutdown, right. To get the virus out of circulation, to get sick people identified in the hospitals if they needed to go and then reduce the endemic amount of the disease floating around. And then finally, your point on being part of a better world. I you know, I have sort of chastised myself internally about being a little pessimistic. I’m not sure how much it’s come across in these conversations, but it’s come across in some other conversation we have with the keepers. I know it’s pretty pessimistic on that idea of, you know, are we going to be a better country, are we better people coming out of this? To the scales come from our eyes when we listen to Stacey talk about how hard things are in the middle of Pennsylvania for African-American or other poor communities as an example. And nothing’s going to happen if if we’re pessimistic about it. So optimism is the right angle forward. But. My realistic interpretation is. Maybe we can make maybe we’ll make incremental progress. Towards whatever you want to call it, whatever it is we’re talking about here is some degree of increasing equity. But there’s no chance we’ll make that incremental progress or real progress without a sucking out hoping for it. So here’s to hoping.
Tom Scott [00:06:07] Yeah, I think that’s right. I mean. Acknowledged to and I think. If you look back on the things you said, we discover in this process. We did. Like the things you said were going to happen, happened. The things you said we’re gonna happen aren’t over. You know, just like, for example, the the fall, like what will the fall be or what will the rest of the summer be? And. You know, what does a second lockdown look like or not look like? And so just for example, I don’t think it’s crazy to think that we might need another lockdown and not do it. Right. I mean, that could certainly happen. So there’s a lot of things that can happen and this this whole concept, I go back to one of our first conversations and you said you talked about an exponential threat and how that’s hard to see. Well, it’s also hard to see when it’s gone. Because it’s not gone. It’s basically still there. And basically, generally speaking, I do think there’s a better level of behavior. But I you know, I was in Manhattan yesterday. Another friend of mine was in Brooklyn yesterday. And he and he described it was Joe went on the trip with me and he said, at the most afraid I’ve been since we left on the trip was in Brooklyn. He’s like, there were people everywhere. And it made him uncomfortable. Now, I did say a lot of people wear masks. But there is that question of how much of a silver bullet is a mask? How much of that how much impact will that have? So. You know, what I would say is. And you tell me if I’m portraying this correctly, there’s more to come here. My. OK. That that, I think, is a scientific fact that you said that and you can respond to that. But then the second part of this, which is. This is my subjective interpretation is, but we don’t know it. Generally speaking.
R.P. Eddy [00:08:14] So we’ve talked to, you know, dozens of epidemiological modelers in last few weeks and everyone’s trying to figure out because we all know our history of the Spanish flu coming back stronger the last 12 weeks, the Spanish flu were the deadliest by far in the two to two year stretch. That was in the fall of of nineteens. Right. 1919? It was 1918 and so everyone’s wondering if that will happen again. And anyone who tells you they have an answer is fibbing. No one knows. All the best modelers say, look, you just do not know. There’s too much too much variability between now and then. And I accept that our best theory, we call ping pong balls. So if you’ve a map of the United States, you take 20 ping pong balls and throw it on the table. Some are going to bounce high and some will just putter out. We’re going to see increased infections across the country, most likely. Sorry, that’s not right. We’re going to see increases of infections. We’re going to see small breakouts or large breakouts on how high that ping pong ball bounces across the country, largely in the Midwest, because the East Coast and West Coast people are wearing masks. A little more aware of what’s happening in the Ozarks. Lake Lake of the Ozarks, for example. It’s just not proximate threat. They don’t feel it. They don’t know it. They’re not limbicly activated. So that’s the places we’re going to see spikes. So I’d say that’s not only going to happen, it’s already happening, but they’re not huge. Right. So it’s small outbreak in Green Bay. Small outbreak in Omaha. A lot of more tighter on meat processing plants. They’ll always be tighter at old folks homes or areas with high density. We’re gonna see that. But none of them will reach the spike of New York City or Seattle because the density and the number of people just isn’t there. And Seattle, New York, are being a little more careful. As you said, Joe said people have masks on and we’ll talk about that a second. So that’s my prediction for the summer. What would be an outlier would be some huge spike. But no one really thinks that’s happening right now. But let’s realize it’s very possible that could be a big, huge spike somewhere. I just don’t see it happening during the summer. I do believe that the summer gives us a little gives puts the virus a little more challenged for the virus to replicate itself. So that’s what the summer looks like. The fall will pick up. If we can keep getting the endemic amount of the virus down, if we can keep out of the population when the kids go back to school in the fall. That’s what the fall is all about. It’s all set in. The kids enter the petri dish. And schools are going to do the best they can. We can talk about what I think is going to happen in schools. But kids are kids. So we’re adults are kids, too. And they’re going to run around. They’re getting infected in the petri dish is gonna have more germ mixed into it. More people will get. Unless that the amount of germ in the population at the school is zero, which case you won’t have a problem. But the schools will be spreaders, getting back to work will be spreaders and the basic social relaxation, we all are having the need to be with people to hug people, for example, is going to spread it too. And so the fall is the big issue we’re going to be having. And I want to say one more comment, then I’ll stop. But I do want to talk about the second guessing that’s coming. So you asked about masks. Masks. In every pandemic going back to the Spanish flu have proven extraordinarily useful. So wear your mask, wear it right. Has to be over your nose. You can’t cut a hole in the middle where your mouth is. And I’ve seen people do both. Even a bandanna will help. Those will be unbelievably powerful, just remember. Two people wearing a mask, wearing a good mask. Two people wearing masks. Reduce the chance, a chance of transmission five times five hundred percent. So masks are really, really powerful.
Tom Scott [00:12:12] And you know, again, it depends on where you go. But I was pretty I forgot in one trip I went into get coffee and I forgot I got out of the car, you know, and I never went inside. But but I was you know, our Starbucks is set with everything out on the street, so you can you can do it.
R.P. Eddy [00:12:32] Can I make one point of mass destruction? We have worked extremely hard, I think, to not let this show get political. And I think a lot of people that have sent positive energy or comments our way have thank us for that.
Tom Scott [00:12:48] They like that. Yeah.
R.P. Eddy [00:12:51] With that in mind, I will make this nonpolitical comment. It could sound political, it’s not. Any leader of this country who criticizes another leader for wearing a mask is not helping anybody. So instead, I would look at the governor of North Dakota.
Doug Burgum [00:13:07] In our state there’s no requirements regarding wearing masks. But the. And we’re all in this together. And there’s only one battle we’re fighting. And that’s the battle of the virus. I would really love to see in North Dakota that we could just skip this thing that other parts of the nation are going through where they’re trading a divide. Either it’s ideological or political or something around the mask versus no mask. This is a, I would say, senseless dividing line. And I would ask people to try to dial up your empathy and your understanding if someone is wearing a mask. They’re not doing it to represent what political part of the end or what candidates they support. They might be doing it because they’ve got a five year old child who’s who’s been going through cancer treatments. They might have vulnerable adults in their life who are who are currently have COVID and they’re fighting. And so, again, I would just love to see our state. It’s part of being North Dakota smart. Also, the North Dakota kind, North Dakota empathetic, North Dakota understanding to do this thing, because if somebody wants to wear a mask, there should be no mass shaming. You should look at them and say that person’s wearing a mask because for them there’s additional risk in their life. The first thing that somebody ought to assume is that they’re doing it because they’ve got people in their life that they love and that they’re trying to take care of.
R.P. Eddy [00:14:40] Please, let’s not let maks become politically divisive.
Tom Scott [00:14:43] Yeah, yeah.
R.P. Eddy [00:14:44] Any political leader who begins to make masks politically divisive is not a patriot, does not have your best interests in mind. Don’t allow that.
Tom Scott [00:14:53] Yeah. Yeah.
R.P. Eddy [00:14:53] Do not let masks become politically divisive. It’s absurd. So please, let’s work on that.
Tom Scott [00:14:59] You know, Let me, let me mention another story from the weekend. So the so the, you know, the Ozarks, the thing in the Ozarks, which doesn’t look good. OK, I don’t like the way it looks. I want to be clear on that. I also think that the world is good at finding those that are. Let me be more clear. The media is really good at finding and perpetuating those kinds of symbols.
R.P. Eddy [00:15:23] Oh, yeah. One hundred percent. That’s like…
Tom Scott [00:15:26] Please don’t assume that’s right. And so please don’t assume that that’s what’s happening in Missouri. That’s what’s happening at one pool, in one small part of the country.
R.P. Eddy [00:15:38] And instead, let’s also pray and hope that it’s OK. Let’s hope that there’s not no one there was sick. Thereby there’s no virus in that no one there gets ill because of it.
Tom Scott [00:15:47] And in the end, it doesn’t look good. And I respect that. And generally speaking, my preference would be that they wouldn’t even test that. That would be my preference. I just want everyone to really understand that as you drive around for all day and night and interview and talk, you don’t see that. That’s that’s hard to find. And I’ll never forget, I drove from here to Topeka, Kansas, to go to the Westboro Baptist Church while the whole two and a half thousand miles getting to the to to Topeka. I didn’t see anything like the Westboro Baptist Church. I found that little gross story, an unattractive story. Through very specific you know, wayfinding. Anyway, I’m just trying to I want to emphasize that it’s one of the biggest lessons from my trip. I knew it before. I know it more than ever. But I want to talk about The New York Times cover.
R.P. Eddy [00:16:46] Hundred thousand.
Tom Scott [00:16:47] Yeah. With 100000 names on it. So I want to just say that, generally speaking, I think it tells an important story. That’s my. This is my opinion. This is my opinion. And I want to say it also is a drama filled statement. Nothing wrong with that. And I read, in fact, like if you read in the in the in its own paper. You know, we wanted to take over the entire page, the all type would be hugely dramatic, was what he said in the response. OK. I mean, I’m an I tell stories, dramas and dramas a thing. It works, you know, would be hugely dramatic. Sounds more like marketing than storytelling to me. And it does beg the question of, you know, 650000 people will die in the United States this year from heart disease. Right. And you could do a lot to fight heart disease with diet. OK. I’m not I don’t want to make this into. But I think it’s an interesting story, and I think it’s an interesting moment and I think there’s a lot of good in it. And I think that it. It is that it is a story. It is a story, and there are so just give me give me an example. This is bad stuff. Which is to say these deaths are bad. Of course, I know that goes without saying. I wonder why we can’t prioritize some of the problems in some of the places I went. That probably affect people in numbers bigger than these with more deaths. I’m being specific. I’m talking about more deaths. And it relates to income, it relates to health services, it really relates to diet.
R.P. Eddy [00:18:34] The big issues here, right?
Tom Scott [00:18:36] Right. And I feel like I’m being picky, I’m feel like I’m being nit picky, but…
R.P. Eddy [00:18:39] I don’t think you are at all. I think you have they will teach in journalism school in the future. The question of that. 1000 names, New York Times cover.
Tom Scott [00:18:50] They will.
R.P. Eddy [00:18:53] So there’s that’s that question. There’s this question of. Preventable death, incremental death. And the question of what do we do about other preventable deaths, preventable deaths? Right. So the cover of the New York Times on Sunday was small font, thousands of names, probably hundreds and hundreds of names. Right. And it was sort of dramatic. A hundred thousand Americans will be dead very soon, probably tomorrow. Here’s what… and I, now it’s The New York Times and above the fold and below the fold, the front page is really supposed to be news, not editorial. That’s what we expect of our newspapers. Was that more opinion? Or was that more news? Well, it’s obviously news. It’s a fact. Those people died. There’s no editorial to its listing of names. But the juxtaposition, the semiotics of listing those names in and of itself had an editorial opinion based message, too. And I think that’s right. Basically saying this is really serious. This is shocking. He’s shocked. Look at these names. If that’s journalistically appropriate or not. I would ask us about school shootings. Or other mass, you know, mass shootings with with weapons like the Las Vegas shooting or the other shootings where likewise The New York Times and other newspapers have put on the front page, you know, pictures of the students or others who were killed through those mass shootings. And is it appropriate there? So I’d say it’s a very similar thing. It’s certainly appropriate. But I think it’s worth noting that, you know, they’re they’re editorializing a point of view. Right. Which is take it more seriously.
Tom Scott [00:20:40] Well, I know a guy who’s lost his son to opiates and opioids. And one of the things he would talk about, because those numbers are it’s it’s way bigger. I mean, you’re talking about, you know, those kinds of deaths are like 70000 people a year over a number of years. I’m talking about classes of drugs and all the different ways people die from drugs or, you know, crystal meth, a lot of a lot of different drugs. And the thing he used to say, which always struck me, I can never forget the first time he said it to me is he said if 40 whales, if 40 dolphins were found dead on a beach three days in a row would be a national story. But for some reason, when humans die in those kinds of numbers, in this case, it didn’t become the story that he felt it deserved. And I remember thinking, like, well, yeah, that these are you you know, you always talk about it. It’s not about statistics. It’s about stories. And I accept that. And again, I’m not. I want to be clear. I’m not picking on and I don’t. But I just think it’s something to be to be noted and to think about and to wonder. You know, I will never forget what Tom Shadyac said about the day after the Trump election when he won. When he walked into his all black classroom at a historically black college that he teaches at. And he said no one was upset because they were used to it. He said, we expect that now doesn’t matter what your politics are. It’s that that was to me, that was an interesting story, because on at Brown University, I bet they didn’t even hold classes the next day or they’re going to… people were so upset. Well, that’s interesting. I mean, because I would think it’s relatively safe to say they’re on the same side of that story politically. And yet there was one reaction, one place and a different reaction in a different place. And here we are in New York City where this is happening. And it’s been very bad and it has I think that’s objectively true. And they’re telling us that story in that traumatic fashion. And then it just makes me wonder, like what what how does it relate to the other stories out there? And again, I’m all of that…
R.P. Eddy [00:22:40] You make a good point, by the way. And remember, it is The New York Times and New York became the global epicenter of this disease. So they may have a little more news bases for that list. Yep. Let’s talk about what what we’re sort of touching lightly. And we should probably touch a little more assertively as this question of, hey, boy, oh, boy, we put a tremendous amount of effort and cost into trying to save maybe a couple hundred thousand lives, depending on where your math is. So far. And why aren’t we freaking out when we have kids dying for opiates or people die from drunk driving or cardiac death or except obesity, etc., why don’t we have a big national panic then? Right. Why are we panicking about these deaths versus those deaths and. I want to just give you a couple of quick thoughts. One is. And what often gets tied up in this question is the question of the flu, although I think journalism is doing a much better job about this. We would have lost thirty thousand to the flu anyway. We lost one hundred thousand this disease. What’s the difference? And then you get this next question. They’re all old. Now, I’m not going to touch the they’re all old thing. It’s very simple. If you think old people lives are less valuable than fine. I don’t. So but let’s move back to this preventive versus preventable versus incremental. This is incremental death. It’s an entirely new category of death. Right. 9/11 was three thousand people. It was entirely new category of death. Domestic mass terrorism is a new thing. This is a new category of death. This corona virus, it’s a new category. People were dying. Everything else we’ve mentioned, opiates, drunk driving, our older categories of death that we have tried to fix. It’s not like we haven’t had Mothers Against Drunk Driving for 30 years and all sorts of opiate work and all sorts of in school interventions and all sorts of Narcan devices. There’s a huge amount of effort that’s gone into those things and there is a ton of effort going into reducing those deaths. They are no in no way are they ignored. And here’s a new type of death happening all of a sudden. All of a sudden, it’s an incremental, brand new type of death. So putting attention into a new type of death is is it just, by definition, worthwhile? So if, for example, we had little meteors falling out of the sky, killing point one percent of the population or point two percent the population, we would all start wearing metal hats. Weird example, but you get my idea. You know, we would we would think about some way to try to protect ourselves from this new type of death. Another point worth noting is, you know, kind of how bad has this actually been, right? And you could you could say, well, look, we’ve all locked ourselves up at home or many of us have. And and there’s all this debate about how deadly it is and who’s actually dying and are they are they lying about death certificates? It’s a real debate that people are actually falling for that. Like, you know, medical doctors are lying about how people are dying, which is absurd. But nonetheless, it’s an argument we’re making. Here’s the one thing you cannot lie about. The gross number, the total number of people that have died per month in different locations. Right. So the gross number of people who have died in New York, in Connecticut, in areas where there’s been this disease are 50 percent higher, are much higher than they were in the same month in years previously. Much higher than they were in the months before. So regardless of any way you cut this, any way you slice it. Thousands upon thousands of more people are dying during were dying during this hot peak of the disease than than they weren’t before. Regardless of any belief of any hoax, you have tens of thousands of people per jurisdiction were dying. That wouldn’t have died otherwise. You can never fake those number. Those numbers like the body is going in the ground or the crematorium. Right. So, anyway, it’s a big topic and it really matters because a lot of people, because we’re now entering and this is part of chapter two, Tom is gonna be like the second guessing, right. A lot of second guessing is about to happen. It’s already been happening. But as we realize how lethal the disease actually is and to whom and as we realize that, hey, it’s true, a lot of ventilators actually hurt people, didn’t help them. We didn’t have the best medical protocols, the beginning for a brand new novel disease, I’m not sure people expected. People are going to wonder, was this whole thing worth it or not? So watch for that. That’s what’s happening.
Tom Scott [00:27:05] Well, I mean, it relates also, I think, to the to the conversation we were having earlier. You know, one of the things you’ve heard me say a couple of times is. The bigger problem isn’t that the system is broken, it’s that the culture is broken. And what I mean by that is that our ability to experience empathy and sort of practice some of the results of what empathy is are hampered by you know, the world that surrounds us by information overload, by all kinds of distractions that you find through media and the, you know, the number of stories and the kinds of stories and the way stories are spread, as distracted as in this way where till like actually love thy neighbor is challenged. Now, you know, how do you put science behind this? It’s not that easy. I’ve read the books that you mean there does seem to be some science. You go back to Bowling Alone, which was around the year 2000 to now, and you look at what’s happened with isolation and then you look at where we know where divisiveness sits today. And there’s something that’s happening that’s real. It’s real. So when I say I think the culture is more broken than the system is broken, which, by the way, the system always follows the culture primarily. It gets corrupted, of course, but. It’s the question here is what pieces might we put in place, what things might we have to overcome such that we can understand and see and recognize that the empathy that our neighbors deserve and what those problems are and how somebody might help them and that that is what you learn in the trip. That’s what you learn when you approach someone. And if you approach someone who’s a conservative from Michigan, if you did it through the lens of what I just saw on TV, the path I take through the worldwide Web and social media to then engage with them, it’s just probably not going to end up in a really good place. If, on the other hand, you run into somebody I mean that picture from the road where it was the Trump sign and then the big love sign in the yard. You know, when you talk to those kinds of people, you like, wow. Oh, this is way different than I expected. And the only way I would know this, if it is, is if I was in this person’s presence and I understood where they were coming from, even if I disagreed that. The point is, I’m not saying I agree, but sometimes when you understand their motive in their heart, your heart changes and your ability to engage with them changes and to your point that you made last week, which is so critical. That adrenaline that whatever you want. I forget which thing, the dopamine, whatever it was, you chose to identify that that way you feel when you’re doing service. Right. That thing elevates in the presence of people. And when that thing elevates, you actually know things you didn’t know before your knowledge has gone, has gone way up through through the unspoken, through the observation. And then it’s very difficult to go back and say, oh, I’m just going to live a, live a digital life again and make sure I’m making enough money to continue to live my digital life. And who cares about the rest? So so that’s why, like, I’ve had this emotional weekend where I thought, like, God, I want to I want to connect with those people. I want to stay with those people want to keep that feeling. Which is a gift. It’s a gift that I was able to do that over that period of time. But those are the things I don’t want to let go of. And those are the things that when I think about this question of Chapter two, it is that empathy and it is that broken culture I care more about. Me personally, I’m more into the broken culture than I am into the broken system because the broken system will follow you. Sorry, I give you a mouthful.
R.P. Eddy [00:30:42] What you said is really, really, really beautiful and profound. And I’ll respond with saying very simple. I remember going on a trip or something, and I my dear dear grandmother, it’s like, the greatest granny anyone can call a granny, right? Come visit. She would give me Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream every time I would show up. And I came back from some trip and I was sort of a little blue. And she she said, you know, everyone’s a little blue after a trip. So, Tom, I think you’re a little blue and.
Tom Scott [00:31:09] Probably.
R.P. Eddy [00:31:11] You’re just you’re missing that connection, particularly now. But everything else you said I think is and everything you said is very profound. And one line. You said that you… the division weakens our ability to share empathy with our fellow citizens. That’s what I wrote down and I putting this in our list of ten lessons. And I think that that’s a great lesson to keep in mind.
Tom Scott [00:31:33] Well, I think about, you know, 95 is right out here for me. I mean, I’m right near 95, so I see 95 all the time. And as it’s picking up. I think the humans are busy again. They’re too busy to think about this anymore because they’ve got to go down 95. And by the way, I you’re talking to a guy who’s a pretty free market thinking guy, and I’m not against it. But it is symbolic of that busy, high paced life that in part put us in this position where there’s this division and anger and and what I would add to that is a lack of joy. That’s the more important part, is that like people can find their joy and their happiness in things that I don’t think they know. Which, again, I’m going to stop talking about it. But this goes back to this question of the cover, The New York Times, which, again, I’m not objecting to it, but I am definitely thinking about it. I’m trying to put it in a context and I’m trying to just consider, you know, the stories that are told. It’s probably the biggest, most important newspaper in the world, maybe. Certainly it’s up there in the top three in the United States. And its observations and its decision to do that is not run of the mill. This isn’t something they do each Tuesday or even once a year. This is something they do sort of once in a lifetime. And they chose to do it this way. This weekend, this way. And OK, so OK, but it’s something to think about.
R.P. Eddy [00:32:59] For those of us who have been privileged enough to have these 70, 80 days be a moment where we could slow down and not everyone had that privilege at all. That really has been a gift. And I’ll just give you a very small, selfish example. Our conversation with Tom Shadyac. In the middle of that conversation, the first three quarters, I was sort of like, wow, this guy is way out there.
Tom Scott [00:33:32] Yeah.
R.P. Eddy [00:33:33] From points of view that I’m normally thinking about. And and when that happens to most people, you know, you either bounce off of it or, you know, what can I learn? What can I learn? And I was bouncing and trying to learn the same time, like, what’s going on here? How am I going to learn something? And, you know, I learned a lot more watching it later or thinking about it later. And I you know, this whole idea about the avarice, the greed, the storing, unnecessary stockpiling of humans was something I had not really thought about. Right. So just as a very small example, like having that conversation with Tom Shadyac never would have happened if I hadn’t been part of this great slowing down. And ideally, I’ll carry that with me going forward. Right. But at the same time, just yesterday, I had our six year old William on my lap. And we we’re just hours, hours of just playing games, which I don’t think I’ve ever really done that with him. You know, as a young boy. And that was partly because it was Memorial Day, partly because of the great slowing down. But I just I kept finding myself reaching for my phone. It’s just it’s still there.
Tom Scott [00:34:39] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
R.P. Eddy [00:34:40] The world the world is still still trying to get to us. And for a lot of people, unfortunately, we have to be responsive. Some people have to be more responsive than others because they have an unbelievable financial pressure.
Tom Scott [00:34:52] Yeah. You know, it’s funny because it related to that. And I want to I want to ask you some of the some of your work thoughts, your your, you know, professional, what we call Humans Inc. But I’ll get back to that moment. I have a friend who is very I’m going to use the word minimalist. I don’t think they would use that word. I don’t know what word they use, but it minimizes the things. Big time, big time minimizes the things like very much. Couldn’t be happier. Talks about it all the time. You know, it’s like it, I’m happier with less. And I’ve learned that more and more in my life. And, you know, I think that’s the normal thing… I, Shadyac reminded me of this. Your comments on Shadyac. The normal thing is to somewhere in your soul say oh isn’t that cute. That sounds nice. And that’s, that’s OK for them but not OK for me. I don’t know if that’s true. I think, I think we owe it to ourselves to give that a little more time. It’s like Stacey saying put people first. They mean what they’re saying here, they’re not that’s not like the 68th thing on their list of things they do. It’s one of the top things on their list that by by having less, they have more and they’re happier. I think that’s a big question of modern life. And it’s a you know, at Brown, I took a course on advertising and it was very laughed at, it was very much like it’s it’s the man controlling the masses. And, you know, even then I thought, like, oh, this is a little too much like there’s not some conspiracy of corporations to control the masses. But I think about it. I certainly think about it. I think about it is in the context of the way a culture gets sort of born and created. But but in the in this. So. So on the topic of business, I talked to a good friend of mine who’s making a big movie, and one of the one of his comments was. He’s had to do meetings in L.A. and Washington and New York incessantly over the last couple of weeks. And he never left his house. And he loves it. And he loves being with the high powered man or woman in their home in the t shirt and says he gets just as much done, just as much done in that hour. And he saves all that fuel and time and stress of travel. And so I’m wondering, how do you thinking about that for you, for your organization? How do you think about that?
R.P. Eddy [00:37:12] On the the working virtually concept about your friend work in the movie? I couldn’t agree more. But again, I’m extremely privileged, right? So I work in a knowledge industry. My clients have been amazing. Thank you. Clients of Ergo to come along with us in this journey and our pivot. But I adore working from home, but I always have. And so, to be very frank, something that had been a clearly a professional weakness of mine and my partners at Ergo. You know, we’re right to get on me for it. Like, I did not like making the commute to New York City. No kidding. Part of the reason I didn’t like going to New York City was because having worked on disease and worked on Ebola and worked on biological weapons and worked on terrorist scenarios for bio weapons in the subways and stuff like that, I really was. I had a degree of fear walking around the city’s… 9/11 terrorism, like there was a degree of fear for me being there because of all that was, you know, every corner I would stop at. I was you know, I don’t like being in the city because of some of the pattern recognition. And so I wasn’t there that often. But now none of us are. So, you know, I don’t look back anymore. And I think we’re absolutely as efficient. Absolutely. A footnote. I’m not sure that’s the case, everybody. So some people really, really, really like working in an office. One of my partners would drive from Connecticut into this city just to sit in the office once in a while. And I get it, you know, and also. Are you able to build an office in your house where your kids aren’t walking in all the time? Or if they are, it’s it’s a joyful thing and not an annoying thing. So, again, that’s a privilege. I’m all for it. It’s definitely going to change the way business is done. I’m working on a project, you know, in California, and we’re, we have clients all over the world. And I previously was on a plane all time and it sucked. And I didn’t realize how bad it was until I was talking to one of my little boys about. He said, are you going to have to keep going to California anymore? So I was going with some regularity and they’re missing me, and I’m missing them. And, you know, that’s what life’s all about, as being with them as best you can. So I think that’s an awesome fix. Some people, it doesn’t work so well for. But for me in my business, it’s great. And we’ll see. You know, I have a dear friend, a dear colleague who works for a business that for years and years has been all virtual. They never had real estate. And this is a multi, multi hundred billion, multi hundred million dollar a year grossing business in the software space. They always work remotely. And so I talked to him about, well, how do you do that well? They do come together as humans once in a while, know they go rent out, you know, a conference center and meet with their team or they go do something together. And when they come together, they don’t do work. They their agenda is to get to know each other as people face to face. So it’s a pretty interesting acknowledgment, even pre corona, that we do need to meet our colleagues and see them in person once in a while. And when we do it, we’re going to go this virtual work this way then when we do see each other we shouldn’t focus so much on work as we focus on getting to know each other as humans.
Tom Scott [00:40:35] Yeah.
R.P. Eddy [00:40:35] Not just as…
Tom Scott [00:40:37] Well, so we’re gonna be you’re gonna be with us tomorrow. We’re gonna be talking about this very thing. The so. So I want to bring up because we’re running out of time. But I want to bring up one. I’m interested in your reaction to this Maderna thing. But just before we get off of this topic, you know, one of the things people need to think about is that essentially that the business travel traveler has subsidized the vacation traveler for decades. You know, those, all those business people you see on airplanes, they’re paying a little bit more than the rest of us when we’re going on a vacation somewhere. And, you know, it’s a very critical piece of what keeps those planes making money. I mean, and so I just mention that because that’s a big question. And, you know, I know that some of the people I’ll will be with tomorrow, RP, they’re of the opinion that you’re going to see massive shifts here, that when you’re talking about the regular corporate worker type, you’re going to see some massive shifts. And those massive shifts are going to ripple into all these other fields because the essentially the the the business industry at large has been subsidizing and building this travel system that can’t survive without them. And then again, for our pleasure time or vacation time, our personal time in travel, we take advantage of that business model and that business model may change and in some important way. So that’ll be an interesting one to track.
R.P. Eddy [00:42:07] I hadn’t thought about that. How commercial business travel subsidizes the airlines. You know, it’s going to be a fascinating as an evolution. My general belief on all these things is there has been lots of trends before Corona and most that most of them are just accelerating because of the crisis. And that tends to happen in crisis. Trends do tend to accelerate. There are some trends that are accelerating faster than others. The decoupling with China, the work from home thing are pretty obvious. You know, will we have increased disease surveillance? Will it put more money into that? Those are going to clearly outperform every other trend. And then I guess there are new trends, new things coming out of the blue that we’re learning from this and that somewhat, most of which are positive.
Tom Scott [00:43:01] So Maderna, you know, mostly reacting to this. I don’t know if you saw it, but this this one severe reaction and it’s funny because I read the article and the the guy who had the extreme reaction was so thoughtful. Like I thought his response was pretty beautiful. I don’t know if you saw it. But if you have it.
R.P. Eddy [00:43:19] I just saw it.
Tom Scott [00:43:21] And tell me, tell me your thoughts.
R.P. Eddy [00:43:23] Guy who took the vaccine and had a severe reaction said he’s still a believer.
Tom Scott [00:43:27] Yeah. Yeah. And, and that it’s like part of the deal. What do you what do you think?
R.P. Eddy [00:43:32] Fever of 103 degrees. Had to go to the urgent care facility fainted. Yeah, I get it. Those human guinea pigs. You know, the history of vaccine development is it’s a history of of unbelievable victory in lives saved. Millions and millions and millions of lives have saved. I suspect at some point either we have or we will soon have saved a billion lives from vaccines. We may already cross up, Mark. A billion. But there’s also costs along the way. And the people have there been really, really screwed up vaccines that have hurt people. And there have been people in these early phases that have gotten hurt by vaccines, too. So to some extent, they’re heroes for giving it a try. What should, the lesson I would take from that story is, is a good on him for being supportive and not getting out there and throwing a lot of water on cold water on this, which is great. But B. We there are long, laborious, detailed FDA drug approval processes that it does as well to follow and that we should not circumvent. And when we do circumvent them, we do so at our peril. Right. So that the swine vaccine example during the Ford administration where people got very ill is a good example of why we shouldn’t cheat. And here’s my concern about that. It, while I was Googling that, Tom, as you were mentioning that I just Googled Maderna news and pretty quickly, I come up with where’s it say it can’t find the headline now, but it said basically sorry, it’s the first headline. The headline is U.S., U.S. is ahead of China in the vaccine race. Former FDA chief says, I actually care a lot about that. I, I, I do think it matters that America discovered the vaccine first for national pride. That’s probably purely jingoistic. It also matters because I’ll have more confidence in American vaccine. But I hope we’re not having a binational race against China. I hope that doesn’t make us cutting corners.
Tom Scott [00:45:58] Yeah. Well, you know, it I always appreciate the fact that you see both sides of these kinds of things because it’s, you know, very often you use the word jingoistic. And the reaction is immediately negative. And the fact of the matter is, in many of these cases, these are complex questions with complex answers. And in in the immediate, sometimes they mean something that longer term they mean something very different. You know, Pax Americana in you talk about like the challenges that go along with that. And when you talked about how the second floor is on fire a few weeks back. This stuff matters like it. It matters. It doesn’t matter today necessarily, but it’s going to matter tomorrow anyway.
R.P. Eddy [00:46:37] So while I am, you know, the reason that I’m chauvinist about America or pro America versus pro China. I’d like to believe, this isn’t just because I’m an American, although I recognize my bias is immense. It’s because I believe that a world with more American leadership, more American freedom and open markets, democracy is better than a world with more Chinese leadership. Totalitarian, authoritarian rule. And whoever gets this vaccine first, it will be a huge amount of national prestige. And I would prefer for that national prestige to go to a country that stands for freedom, democracy and human rights versus one that doesn’t.
Tom Scott [00:47:21] Yeah, well, I aim into that and. And I think that that, you know, the last thing and I’ll just make this the last comment, unless you have another one. But. I think back and you said it to me on the show, you said it to me before we made this show. But you talked about. The good guys. And, you know, some of the way we behaved when you looked at international treaties over the course of, say, the Cold War, post-Cold War. And how important that is and. That’s important. You know, again, I that’s such a lame language on my part. But. By and large, I think that that is generally how our country has behaved and its behave that way because of the struggles we’ve had on our own and some of the triumphs that we’ve had on our own that relate to questions of freedom and questions of access to some level of abundance that worked. We’re fortunate to have had. Well, they don’t happen in black and white scenarios. They happen in complex scenarios of generally doing the right thing or attempting to do the right thing and dealing with setbacks in ways that are progressive. I don’t mean that, politically speaking, as opposed to draconian or. Only selfish or only greedy. Anyway, I’m I’m going out there far field. But but but that’s a big deal.
R.P. Eddy [00:48:43] Just to make it simple, don’t take our word for it. You know, two white American dudes. Go to Hong Kong and ask they feel right now about what China does to impose on them. The national scrilla, I’m not sure if you follow this, Tom.
Tom Scott [00:48:57] Yeah, a little bit.
R.P. Eddy [00:48:58] Extraordinarily assertive move by China, stating authorities over Hong Kong that they by treaty do not have. And people Hong Kong rightly going berserk. And that’s a behavior that, you know, you don’t want to see a world leader acting like that.
Tom Scott [00:49:20] Is that is that is that COVID? Is it under the shroud of COVID that they’re sort of taking advantage of a moment? Is that part of it?
R.P. Eddy [00:49:30] I think that, you know, we probably talked about it in our first episode and I was talking about this in January. How will trying to take advantage of this situation? How will totalitarian states take advantage of a global epidemic pandemic, an epidemic that becomes a pandemic? And the answer is they’ll press to their advantage like any leader, any country would. In Hong Kong, the protesters obviously were not out in the streets. The anti China protesters were were somewhat sedated by virtue of the lockdowns. So I think that gave China more opportunity. But I also think it might be a response. So remember, if you’re a totalitarian leader, you you basically know your your leadership has a very thin veneer of authority. Right. You know, you’re you aren’t actually often for the benefit of the people. Do this any number of totalitarian states. Right. And so because of that, you have to have autocratic behaviors and clamp down on people. But you also have to give the people red meat. You have to be a demagog. You have to provide them with things to realize why they need you as a leader, to stoke, stoke nationalism, et cetera. This is the history of all demagogs all all totalitarian states. You have to keep the people thinking they need you. So it could be fear or could be opportunity. And in this instance, they just started the Chinese People’s Congress and they announced this. So while the people have a heightened focus on leadership in that country, they announced this very aggressive move, probably partly to keep the people happy and aware of what how good their leaders were so far as they’re concerned, like, wow, we’re we’re growing our country. We’re being nationalistic or demagoguing this reality. And that could be in response to the fact that they were having economic slowdowns because of those. In China, unlike many other countries, is wildly dependent on economic growth. Right. Because remember, people from the hinterlands, the rural area, are constantly flooding into the cities because in pursuit of a better life. And if they don’t have enough job growth to maintain that flow and the population know you young people and to pay for their own people, then GDP growth basically than the country the leadership begins to not be delivering for the people that they need. And of course, they have had economic slowdown because of the virus that has a real impact on their ability to provide. So they have to go show some red meat to the populace, hence their sort of actions in Hong Kong.