Transcript of interview with Mr. Steve Justice [October 17, 2018] for the MENSA Bulletin, pub. Feb. 2019

TRANSCRIPT for article:

Part 1:

Matt – For someone who knows nothing about any of this, what is To The Stars Academy?

Steve – To The Stars is a group of people who came together to answer the questions, quite honestly, that most of society is afraid to ask. There’s this overwhelming body of evidence that something strange is going on. And the efforts to determine what it is [are challenged because] most people don’t want to ask the questions because of the stigma 

associated with the subject matter. So they just stay away from it. 

In the past I’ve found there are kind of three categories of responses when you get to this subject area. The most positive one is one where people are just kind of silent and let you talk and then change the subject. The normal response is kind of an eye roll and “guffaze” and the last category is just outright attack. That’s the worst thing. So there’s really not even a good reason for people to want to take on the subject matter. But you step back and say there’s this overwhelming evidence that something weird is going on, being a human why would you not want to seek answers to that? 

Matt – I totally agree. That’s been my experience as well, especially the three responses that you outlined. 

Have you found through trial and error that there might be a certain way you can respond to those three categories, especially when someone’s being negative? Is there something that works to help them be more at ease?

Steve — I used to fall into the category of the eye roll. And then there was some evidence presented to me that was so overwhelming that I had to say, ‘Ok, I need to think about this in a different way.’ What I typically do, when I have to speak to someone in the government or something, I

Matt – I can relate to that. My interest started when I was a kid…NYT article, Lou on CNN, it could never be unreal anymore (5 min 30 sec) – 

You guys recently celebrated your one year anniversary of the official launch. Looking back on the past year, what is one word or phrase you would to describe it?

Steve – Slower than I wanted it to be. We just didn’t get the resources necessary to do a lot of the things we wanted to go do. We have a lot of stuff ready to go, but just no resources to do it.

Matt – Do you think that will be an obstacle in the coming year?

Steve – Based on my 39 year career in aerospace, money is always a problem; however, we believe enough in the mission that we’re trying to find the resources to do more. We’re evaluating what our options are and we’re pressing forward.

My whole career was about solving really tough problems and this is just another problem to solve. 

Matt – What have the major successes been over the past year? I know I could list a few, but what’s more significant for you?

Steve – Well, you saw the standup of the ADAM research project. That was a major milestone for us, getting our hands on some materials, having them analyzed, and you know there has been a lot of positive and negative feedback on that. The thing I’d like people to understand is, if we go into any study with a preconceived notion of what an answer is we will automatically tune out the possibility that it’s anything else. So we don’t want to make that assumption. We want to stay open minded. So, even if there’s stuff that may be low probability of being something different or unique, we’re obligated to make sure that we’re not arbitrarily dismissing something that could be a piece of a puzzle in solving this problem. And that, to me, is one of the big accomplishments of the past year is just getting that project stood up and just getting our hands on material. 

And the other is reducing the stigma amongst people in the military who may have witnessed something. Because we’ve had a lot of people coming forward, a lot of cold-calls of very credible people who say ‘I saw something and I really haven’t talked about it until now.’ They feel like opening up, so I think that’s a really big accomplishment as well. I’m not going to say the stigma is gone, because it’s not. It still exists out there all over the place, but we’ve certainly put a dent in it and I’m very proud of that. 

Matt – That’s excellent. You know, recently my son and I saw the movie, Venom, and in one scene Dr. _____ says that ______ business name_______ brought back lifeforms from outer space and Matthew?’s reaction was to mock her by saying “Oh, you brought back aliens?” in a condescending tone of voice. To which her response was a serious, “Yes.” So it’s almost like we’ve been conditioned to have that response. I actually think that most people hold room for belief, almost like an empty box in their mind, and the silly reaction or even the angry reaction is like an attempt to keep you away from filling that box.

Steve – Oh, absolutely. And if you’ve ever watched the movie, Men in Black, with Will Smith, there’s a really interesting phrase after Will Smith is indoctrinated into what’s going on, “1,500 years ago everybody knew the earth was flat, so imagine what you’re going to know tomorrow.” This is where we have to keep our minds open because, as I said in our October kickoff, “How dare we think we know everything or that we’ve reached the end of physics or our awareness.” It’s a silly notion, yet people want to become very comfortable with that notion of ‘We know this.’ And one of the things I always admonish to my design team with is “I don’t like absolutes such as always or never” because you will inevitably be proven wrong. So absolutes are always a caution for me. You know, you bring up an interesting thing about movies. Everybody is willing when they go into the movies to open their minds up to what the possible is or what they’re entertained by, and that’s one of the mechanisms that’s available to To The Stars. Having an entertainment division is a way to also educate. If you can introduce concepts over time to get people used to things. It’s like when Lou went on television after the October event, it was introducing a new subject to people, it started conversations, it was by no means the middle or the end with that very first kind of baby step. So you want to use every mechanism available to you to talk about this because people learn in different ways. Some people are very visual – they need pictures – some people need words, some people have to hear it, and so if we’re going to educate a large group of people to kind of get past the stigma then you need to use all those different means of communication that you have available to you.

Part 2:

I want to highlight the ADAM project. For someone who’s totally unfamiliar with the the  project, could you describe what’s going on?

Steve: Using the scientific process, a couple of things you do is collect information and do observations. So, the ADAM project is about collecting material evidence that will help us resolve and develop theories about what mechanism is being used. As I explained in the kickoff, we have a glimpse into the physics that can explain what we are seeing. The question is how do we reduce that to practice? You have to turn it from a theory into a technology that realizes the physics and embed that technology into a platform that results in capability – being that it mimics what you have observed. 

We have people who have found material evidence through various means – it’s been handed to them, they’ve witnessed something – and the challenge here is we don’t have very good chain of custody on a lot of this material. So we have to go through a very strict process, from only the evidence we can generate, to determine does this represent insight into a technology (answer the question “Does this represent insight into a technology?”), from only the evidence we can generate because we can’t prove where it came from. If somebody claims that they took it off of something or it fell off of something, there’s no way to prove any of that. 

So we collect whatever the material is and there is a multistep process that we go through to determine if there’s anything unusual about the material. And if there is, what is it about it that’s unusual? You know, our challenge here is taking very small fragments of material and trying to assess how a system works. And that’s a tough thing to do. It’s like finding an exhaust valve to a V8 engine out in the desert, not knowing it’s an exhaust value, and trying to reverse engineer the car without knowing it’s a car.

Matt – True. Or even if you found the glove compartment of a car.

Steve – Exactly. So you need to collect all these different types of material to try to build a picture of what the realization of the technology may be. It’s a giant detective situation we have. So the ADAM project is trying to quantify these materials by using standardized processes and documented approaches to see if it’s something traceable to realized technology.

Matt – So far, what’s the evidence pointing towards?

Steve – Right now I’m going to say inconclusive, but we also aren’t very far along in our testing either. 

Matt – That’s right. The project is very new (at the time of this interview the ADAM project was less than two months into operation). 

Steve – Yeah, at this point in time I hate drawing a conclusion because we are so early in the process. 

Matt – Fair enough. I’m excited to see what’s to come. 

    Throughout the book, Gods, Man, & War Vol. 1

– So the ADAM project is to address a few of those scientific methodologies. 

Matt (referencing GM&W v.1) – How do science and imagination tie into the over all mission of TTSA?

Steve – As you step back and look at it, science and imagination are absolutely linked together as we’re trying to break new ground. Because, if we try to examine the evidence that we have in the context of our current understanding, we’re going to get nowhere. So, we have to imagine things that are out beyond us. Imagine asking Ben Franklin to figure out how a computer works and what to do with a computer. His brain just can’t absorb that. So we’re challenged by having to use imagination to say this might be a path to an answer or an answer itself. Then that becomes part of a hypothesis…and this is where breakthroughs come.

I knew that I was reaching into new territory when people would laugh or giggle at what I said; because it wasn’t mainstream. But if they accepted it as a done deal then I wasn’t reaching far enough. As I said at the  October event one of the challenges is to stand in the future and look back as opposed to standing in the present and looking to the future. And that’s two very different things. So our challenge here is to use imagination to stand in the future and look back.

Matt – That’s an excellent perspective that applies to so many different areas. I will say that science and imagination are two common themes I’ve seen in Mensa. We have people who are drawn more towards the scientific or engineering side of higher intelligence and then you have people who are very accomplished artists, musicians, theatrical performers, etc. I see TTSA as an embodiment of all of that, a purposeful and controlled merging of both sides of the mind – the mathematical and imaginative. It sounds like you all are very passionate about what you’re doing.

What makes you passionate about working with TTSA?

Steve – That’s an interesting question. In the course of my career there were a lot of constraints. I mean our job was breakthroughs, but there were a lot of constraints. There were always more ideas than money. So there was a lot of stuff you never got to try. And if you need to be able to show a return on your investment within a very short time period you had to show shareholders that you were using money wisely and investing it in wise things…you know, looking at the stigma associated with this subject, that’s a hard thing to sell. The fact that the technology that we’re talking about is so advanced, how do you predict when you’re going to get a return on the investment. The return is going to be enormous because it will fundamentally change everything.   

Matt – It will.

Steve – But that in itself is incomprehensible. It’s nothing something that math equation closes. So by working with TTSA – it’s mission is to live in that domain; it appears impossible, but if we can do it, it changes the world. 

Matt – I see that as well. It’s almost like right now there’s a big hurdle to get over and there’s been so much momentum to get over it. But once you get over that hurdle it’s going to be awesome! I tell people that the things they will see will appear to be magic or even miracles with the way it will revolutionize transportation. My wife and I discuss these topics and she’s a little reluctant; I understand, many people are. She says we still have so many problems to solve here on Earth. She makes a good argument, and while I agree that we should deal with our current problems we should also look for better technology to solve them. The technology we will gain is going to benefit everyone in ways we cannot even imagine now.

For example – I’ve heard that some of the aircrafts that have crashed contain nanotechnology in ways we are only beginning to understand. Meanwhile, on Earth we have trying to use nanotechnology to treat cancerous tumors. Our most advanced medical technology treats the entire body, but nano-bots will deliver medicine straight to the tumor inside the body. Therefore, if we could get a little help to use nanotechnology the way we need it to work, we could cure cancer tomorrow. That might be a stretch of the imagination of course.

Steve – Well, no it’s not but let me add a couple of perspectives for you. First of all, we have no idea how this technology, this expanded physics, could change our lives. You know, around 2000 you didn’t know you needed a Smartphone and now you can’t live without it. Somebody had the vision to create something you didn’t know you needed. 

By the same token this is one of those weird ones where you have to…if you’re in business you have to really measure yourself. In the 1930s there was somebody in the US government that said the jet engine will never be a serious competitor to the propeller. We shouldn’t waste any time or money on it. And of course, that’s not true.  The jet engine revolutionized transportation. But if you think about it, that was an extremely pragmatic decision because in the late 30s and early 40s if we had gone and spent a ton of money on the jet engine and its development was really slow, we would not have outproduced the axis powers in WWII and would have placed ourselves in jeopardy of a much longer war, a much bloodier war. Instead, we stuck with technology that we understood and could exploit and put into mass production. So there is a balance out there and there’s room for both sets perspectives of “this is not wise to pursue at this time” and ok that’s true for that company. But there needs to be the companies that go into that huge leap and stick their neck really far out and know that the likelihood of success is threatened, but if you do pull it off – how amazing it will be.

Matt – That’s my focus as well. It might sound hokey but I have faith that this is going to happen. Just as you guys have described in videos, online, and in interviews…it’s just truly amazing times in which we are living.

In essence, I see this is a social revolution towards evolution. It echoes in the fashion and concept art in the TTSA online store, there is something about this that is inspiring the younger generations. At some point in the future, connections could be made in order to impart this plethora of new knowledge through specific content pedagogies to educate students in various settings. Therefore, how will TTSA relate itself to the communities of professional educators?

Steve – I will say we have to establish credibility. Right now the credibility for To The Stars is in the eye of the beholder. There are people who will believe you not matter what you say and there’s people who won’t believe you no matter what you say. Right now the people who believe us are the people who want to believe us. The question is, what mindset change does it take to work in that other domain – where people want to stay away from the subject. And it comes from credibility. Through credibility comes reduction of stigma and all the other benefits that comes with it. So, to really be able to engage with educators, they’re going to have to feel that we’re credible. And the way that we’re credible and the way that we’re credibly is 1. we do what we say we’re going to do, regardless of where the path goes, and then we go do it. It’s like establishing trust. The thing that will really bring credibility is by making progress. 

And that has all kinds of uncertainties. There’s going to be aspects that we don’t control. And doing what we say we’re going to do is 100% in our control. While we learn forward and want to stick our neck out, we also need to be able to present it in steps that represent a way to measure progress. 

Matt – What you said speaks volumes with credibility and consistency. Personally I see that you are doing that and I think you’re doing an excellent job. The challenge is still getting the word out and making people aware, which is one reason I want to do this interview. I feel that we, in Mensa, need to be talking about this. The realm of education the information that you have can cross curricula – it can relate to any number of academic subjects and/or schools of thought. Perhaps that could be a way of relating to professional education.

Steve – Right. You know, two of the most interesting attributes of mankind are wonder and inquisitiveness. And how dare we be selective in that. It’s like…I’m going to really wonder about this one area, but that other area doesn’t count? I’m always inspired by people who are experiencing, witnessing something that nobody else gets the witness because you hear the awe in their voice. You know the guy who did the high altitude jump from 100,000 feet?

Matt – With Red Bull? Yeah, that was amazing!

Steve – Yeah, and when he stood at the door he said “I wish everybody could see what I see.” I mean, you heard the wonder in his voice. I love that. Even when you go back to a painting by Rembrandt and you say “How did he do that?” It makes your mind spin. And why not use that energy to move us forward as opposed to constraining ourselves?

Matt – I think there’s a psychological component to it. I live in the Bible Belt and grew up in Nashville. Well, you were from Nashville too, right?

Steve – Yes…(personal details excluded)

Matt – Wow, that’s amazing…(discussing familiar locations)…That’s great that we’re both familiar with the same area. Well, you might know what I’m talking about…I’ll just say that there are some people who are more resistant to thinking outside the box than others are. And it doesn’t just come with things like this, but also with accepting someone from another culture especially with regards to immigration. I see it as a very similar issue – if we’re going to admit that we’re not alone in the universe it creates a type of instability in the construct of someone’s mind – where they have categories of subjects they understand, that little ripple is almost like a microwave in which it disrupts all of the water molecules of all the other compartments; because the schemas in the mind are all aligned and things connect. Therefore, if someone has never considered that or had an experience in life that causes them to think differently or ask the question “what if I’m wrong?” then you almost become stubbornly comfortable. And I ask myself the same question, what’s it going to take to bring an individual to the point to where they simply say “I’m willing to listen. Tell me what you know.” (end with ? or . ?)  And honestly, I don’t know the answer to that question either. I don’t know the answer.

Steve – It’s different for everybody. There are some people who aren’t going to be believe it until they shake hands with a green dude who’s standing beside his flying saucer that landed on the White House lawn. 

There’s other people who will say ‘there’s enough evidence here that I accept it.” And there will be other people who say, ‘You know, I feel it in my gut.”

One of the things we’re always challenged with is diversity, which is a big term today. You hit on it with the immigration issue, but there is also diversity of thought. In fact, when I speak at _____ AFB again this January, that’s the subject of my talk – diversity of thought. We unintentionally constrain the thought process. For some people it’s a comfort thing because to have uncertainty or ambiguity doesn’t work well with their system. They need everything very structured and aligned. And other people are willing to draw conclusions with no evidence at all. They have faith or whatever magnitude you want to call it. So we are this incredibly diverse body of human beings and there’s not a single answer for everyone. And there’s always going to be people who…well there’s still the Flat Earth Society, you know? They have the reasons that they believe what they believe. I’m not going to take that away from them; I have what I believe and they have what they believe. So that’s always going to exist. I just don’t see us as humans ever all thinking the same way.

But that’s where a lot of the richness comes from. You know, in television shows, movies, and books, and that kind of stuff one of the things you have to have in conflict to draw interest. Fortunately humans are really good at developing conflict. But there’s conflict of thought that results in discussions that take place and it’s through those discussions that we move our mindset and our arguments forward. I’m all for that. I’m all for diversity of thought. My job is not to convince anybody of anything. My job is to go out there and say “Hey, here’s what we’ve found. You draw your own conclusions.”

Matt – I really like that – giving people the freedom to assess the evidence and draw their own conclusions. In fact, psychological research has proven when you challenge somebody’s beliefs it typically makes their beliefs stronger. I’ve observed this myself many times. Therefore, presenting the evidence and allowing them to make their own conclusions is definitely the route to go. 

Steve – Absolutely. When it’s their idea it sticks. You’re not just gonna jam thoughts into people’s heads. It’s unfair. The better thing is to just look at the evidence.

Matt – Yeah, when I’m talking with friends or family that’s what I focus on, the actual evidence. The New York Times articles was pivotal. It gave a lot of concise information, factual information, it cites actual programs and actual people with solid credentials; and it’s hard for someone to see that and say “No, that’s not true.” Because, if the New York Times said we’re preparing for war with a certain country…people would believe that if it were a New York Times story. So why is it so hard to believe this one? I think it goes back to the same issue – it’s challenging people to think in a very different way.

Steve – Yeah, absolutely.

Matt – If all obstacles disappeared and every goal of To The Stars could instantly be achieved, how would our world be better?

Steve – That’s a really big question…some of the things that hold [society] back right now would be gone. Some of the obstacles that [society has] would be gone. For instance – you see that down in Florida right now the beach communities have been obliterated. It’s just a tragedy what happened there.

Matt – With hurricane Michael?

Steve – [Yes] with hurricane Michael. Let’s not go down the path of “we’ll eliminate disasters” because there’s going to be disasters no matter what. But what we can control is our response to a disaster. How could instantly get medical support, stabilizing law enforcement, search and rescue, and supplies instantly right where they’re needed? As opposed to collecting them from around the country, driving them to collection centers, loading them onto a truck, the truck driving to an airport, putting stuff on an airplane, flying the airplane down there, offloading it onto a truck, then trying to drive the supplies to the area and having the road blocked because of debris or downed trees or power lines and you have tons of supplies but they can’t get to anybody. You’d be able to place them right there. 

And when somebody’s having a medical emergency there’s something called the golden hour. Right now…you have to have paramedics to get on the spot and if necessary stabilize and transport the patient to the emergency room for the doctor to save the patient and now thirty minutes of that golden hour have passed. So what if you could place the stuff right where the person needs it? It’s those very simple ways of altering how we do things now, but the thing is it’s going to change things in ways we can’t imagine. 

Matt – You’re right. I’m just rattling off a list of things that will change as they’re popping into my head…so, obviously if we’re talking about transport that would eliminate a lot of transportation fuel costs. If we’re able to deliver medical supplies we could also deliver paper goods or other things potentially; if we assume it’s possible as you’ve said. I’ve envisioning instant air travel, instant transportation of goods, instant transport of mail and other things like that which would also improve our environment. 

Steve –  Exactly, and those are the things that we can talk about now that we understand. But realize that in 2000 we did not know that in the future the world was going to hold something in their hands that could topple governments. The power to have a social media calling that could topple governments. 

Matt – You’re exactly right. And like you said about the article in 1976 saying that a soldier could wear a backpack and it would tell him where on Earth he’s standing and now GPS gives me self-guided directions and plays music while I’m driving to my destination. 

Steve – Yeah! It boggles my mind and I hope I get to see where it goes. The future ahead of us is incredible. You know, my dad died a few years ago. He lived a long and very good life. He grew up in the midst of the depression in the city; however, my mom grew up on a farm and she never knew there was a depression. But, they both saw airplanes turn from something that was a novelty into something that is a critical part of business and life. Even communication now [compared to then] – they had a radio they would listen to, but now it’s a two way thing that communicates far more than just our voice. You just look at what they got to experience and know that we’re on an asentonic curve for technology improvement. The future and promise is just incredible!

Matt – Wow! Getting our fellow humans to unanimously consider some of these things is a challenge. On days like today I’m pumped up and optimistic. Other days I begin to wonder, “Is this going to happen?” But even on a bad day I support you and I firmly believe in what you’re doing. Even doing this interview is an honor.

Steve – When you’re having a rough day, remember this quote from a movie called Star Man. The main character’s observation of humans was that we are at out best when things are at their worst. Humans have this incredible resiliency and ability to look past some truly terrible stuff and step up and make beautiful things happen despite that. So while we’re never going to be unanimous in how we see things, I firmly believe in what we are capable of. We were just so blessed with these tools of wonder, inquisitiveness, determination, and resilience…we have no choice but to move forward. It’s just part of who we are. 

Matt – I believe that as well. In face of adversity we somehow find a way to be successful. It reminds me of the story of the National Research of Discovery Science. George Knapp said, in regards to the early days of those investigations, the researchers were “investigating the unexplained rather than continuing to explaining the uninvestigated.” And I think that the more that science is beginning to have courage to investigate the unexplained, it’s almost like we’re going into a world of mystery: imagination, creativity, and things that are supported by science which engages us intellectually as well…I’m just absolutely amazed at the mentioning of consciousness, thought, connectedness…those ideas were a little hard for me to accept at first, but now it makes so much more sense that I’ve learned more about what it means. I’ve very optimistic and hopeful. 

Is there anything else that we could add? Maybe something we can expect soon?

Steve – I would say watch us. I’m not going to ask people to arbitrarily line up behind us and chant “Go, go, go!” But what I would ask is for you to open your mind up and allow the impossible to be part of the play inside your head. The impossible is just something you haven’t seen yet and there is a lot of impossible out in front of us. So, watch not only us but look elsewhere and watch the impossible become possible. 

Matt – You know, I’ve noticed some copycats in the commercial world lately in movies, TV series, and even merchandise like posters and clothing that features astronauts and other things related to outer space mixed with Scifi. As the old saying goes, imitation is the highest form of flattery. But today it’s the highest form of profit margins as well.

Steve – Well, I don’t know if we’ve had any influence or not, but if we did that’s great. If we didn’t and it’s coincidence I’ll take it.

As I told you before, the arena is which I thrive is hard problems. If my Skunkworks career was a sentence made up of 48 point font, bold type, and in all caps, working for To The Stars would be the exclamation mark. I was incredibly blessed and fortunate in my career to work among whom I consider to be the best of the best to do something that is really important for our nation and now I get to do something that is really hard to do, it’s hard to even wrap your head around, and I get to work on something that could change the world. I may not succeed, but I get to try that. 

Matt – Would you say that there is a strong connection between what you did with Skunkworks and your career with To The Stars?

Steve – Only in the sense of ambiguity and uncertainty, having to overcome obstacles, and having a big cause as the driver.

Matt – A service to our country essentially?

Steve – Yeah. 

Matt – Wonderful.

Steve – I’d like to add one thing. It took a gigantic vision to pull this whole thing together and a lot of people see Tom as kind of the punk rocker and that kind of stuff. I want you to think about what kind of mindset it took and what kind of guts that it took leap out and establish this kind of vision and then essentially cold call people in government offices and military offices to make all this happen. You know, that is an unrelenting drive that he has. And so, it’s been a really interesting experience to hang around with Tom because he’s one of guys that just lives in the future and tries to bag everybody in that direction. That’s been just a lot of fun.

Matt – He really is a super guy. All of my college studies has been in psychology and I admire the way in which he is a forward thinker, just like you said. and he is able to make connections in innovative ways. He is able to be professional and also approachable. I am thoroughly impressed. 

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Writer, content creator, digital media producer, space enthusiast, musician, and multicultural studies instructor from Charlotte, NC. @4RILLER•Productions, LLC