9/5/2012: Okay, my hands are fried. Thanks again, Reddit, for all of the questions and comments! I'm really glad that to have the chance to talk to you all. If you want more from me, follow me on twitter (@neftimiades) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/NicholasEftimiades. I also post updates on my [blog](nicholaseftimiades.posterous.com)

My name is Nicholas Eftimiades. I’ve spent 28 years working with the US government, including:

  • The National Security Space Office, where I lead teams designing “generation after next” national security space capabilities
  • The Defense Intelligence Agency (the CIA for the armed forces), where I was Senior Technical Officer for the Future’s Division, and then later on I became Chief of the Space Division
  • The DIA’s lead for the national space policy and strategy development

In college, I earned my degree in East Asian Studies, and my first published book was Chinese Intelligence Operations, where I explored the structure, operations, and methodology of Chinese intelligence services. This book earned me a declaration from the Chinese government as an “Enemy of the People.”

In 2001, I founded a non-profit educational after school program called the Federation of Galaxy Explorers with the mission of inspiring youth to take an interest in science and engineering.

Most recently, I’ve written a sci-fi book called Edward of Planet Earth. It’s a comedic dystopian story set 200 years in the future about a man who gets caught up in a world of self-involved AIs, incompetent government, greedy corporations, and mothering robots.

I write as an author and do not represent the Department of Defense or the US Government. I can not talk about government operations, diplomatic stuff, etc.

Here's proof that I'm me: https://twitter.com/neftimiades

** Folks, thank you all so much for your questions. I'll plan on coming back some time. I will also answer any questions tomorrow that I have not got today. I'll be wrapping up in 10 minutes.**

** Thanks again folks Hope to see you all again. Remember, I will come back and answer any other questions. Best. Nick **

Comments: 2539 • Responses: 53  • Date: 

Mudjekeewis881 karma

How were you informed that China considered you an Enemy of the People? E-mail? Letter? Text Message? An arrow scroll shot into your intern's chest?

neftimiades772 karma

People's Daily Newspaper publicly identified me as "an enemy of the people".

All_Your_Base677 karma

If you're allowed to say or speculate, what do you think the X-37B was doing up there for a year?

neftimiades1125 karma

Sorry, I'm not going to touch that one.

weealex540 karma

Is being declared an enemy of an entire county good or bad for a pickup line?

neftimiades1471 karma

Bad if you are picking up Chinese.

All_Your_Base495 karma

In your opinion, does China want a peaceful, neighborly USA, or does it want to conquer it by long term attrition and side orders of investment?

neftimiades828 karma

Side orders of investment (LOL). Great comment. I don't think anyone wants conflict. The issue is going to be whether we can manage a peaceful rise of China. Remember there are factions in EVERY government. Military, diplomatic, intelligence, legislative, etc. It's like a car speeding down the highway with everybody grabbing at the wheel. Sometimes you slide into conflict; sometime you can manage your way out of it.

lainnail478 karma

What do you think the next major event between super powers will be?

neftimiades713 karma

Wow, that's the toughest one so far. I'm not so sure it is a superpower issue. Clearly the rise of China is a big issue. Friction between the developed and developing world (exacerbated by extremist religions) is going to be with us for a while.

Ganjster462 karma

Knowing what you know, are you more hopeful for the future or fearful? And is there a mind blowing tidbit of knowledge that you actually are able to share. (Just a small tiny crumb will do)

neftimiades1281 karma

Fearful in the short term (2 decades); hopeful after that. Global reach is expanding. There is going to be some friction. With destructive power going up that means people are going to die. But hopefully, after some time and exposure we all learn to live with each other a bit more. As long as people keep thinking every meteorite shower is a message from God we are going to have problems.

Flyerboy10398 karma

What does it feel like to be considered an 'enemy' by an entire country?

neftimiades1326 karma

They have no sense of humor.

BlackHairedStranger372 karma

The National Security Space Office, where I lead teams designing “generation after next” national security space capabilities

How much philosophy do you encounter on the job? Standing around a mock-up or perusing a proposal for some new space weapon, does anyone ever just wonder aloud whether or how history will judge you for making such a thing?

I'm not making any default assumptions here or asking you to look at your job entirely out of context. I'm just curious how reflective the average security contractor is or how much room there is for a broader context in the day-to-day work of trying to kill tomorrow's enemies.

neftimiades436 karma

Really great question. I wish you were there for some of the discussions. First off - just to make it clear. Space weapons were never on the table. That said, many of us did wonder about how the next generation would deal with what we were planning. But I will admit, the mass of people were far more worried about actually accomplishing it than the ramifications.

3dimka357 karma

What do you think drives US Government as a whole? The President, Congress, Senate, Public interest, Party interest, Corporate interest, etc.? Who or what has the most of decision power or influence which changes the future of the US?

neftimiades896 karma

People - definitely. Never doubt that. I have seen a congressman make a 3 star general wait in the lobby because the head of the local PTA was visiting.

neftimiades1003 karma

The inside truth is that this government was set up for an activist population. You scream the most, people will listen. You get others to scream, Congress listens, etc. It is all about leadership and caring. The only problem is that most of us are so busy it is hard to make a difference.

Pillowpanties302 karma

Just wanted to say I've been to your house. Your garage is awesome.

edit: I had no clue you did all this until I saw this familiar last name appear. You sir, are ballin.

neftimiades615 karma

I know someone named pillow panties?

coolpixer290 karma

How long till we go back to the moon? What about colonization of other moons/planets in the solar system?

neftimiades548 karma

I've actually had this discussion with Buzz Aldrin and a group of congressmen one evening. Hopefully we go in the next decade (+). I think Mars will be the following decade.

thegreatgazoo273 karma

For future tech - How will we be getting around in 50 years?

neftimiades495 karma

It won't be flying cars. Green transportation is coming into being. Legacy systems (gas pump) will slow that down a bit but eventually fuel cell cars and much more efficient solar power.

neftimiades466 karma

P.S. you can add along to that smart highways, smart vehicles, and more efficient jet fuels and designs. I don't think anyone has a business case yet for Mach+ speeds for commercial transport. Something else to think about is that the advance of telecommunications will eliminate lots of business travel.

Sportyboard273 karma

Aside from China, are there any other nations you believe potentially could rise to superpower status in the next few decades?

neftimiades664 karma

Superpower - certainly Russia is getting enough money to elevate themselves. But a superpower is more than an economy and military. Great nations must export ideas. That is ultimately why the Soviet Union crumbled. People just didn't like what they had to offer. This is also China's problem for the future.

ExdigguserPies262 karma

What will be the first battle that can said to have been held "in space"? What weapons will it involve, what will it be fought over (comm. satellites for example?)

neftimiades472 karma

We wargame this stuff all the time so I can't comment. Sorry.

neftimiades410 karma

P.S. given the short list of space assets this is easy to figure out. I just don't want anyone point a finger at me saying "you got that from such and such game".

parallellogic227 karma

I am an engineering student working in a university lab developing satellites. I hope to pursue a career in satellite design. Politics will undoubtedly shape my career path. What do you think I should be aware of? Your opinion on the future of the space industry and how it will affect the engineers working in the field? I am currently through the first few pages of "Space as a Strategic Asset", but otherwise I have very little exposure to the current or historical politics of the space industry.

neftimiades336 karma

First, don't worry about politics. It will come and go over the years and you don't base a career on it. If you want to build spacecraft then go for it. Period. Build spacecraft. I do think you have understand the way the industry is going - smaller vehicles. Notice it is all happening in universities? That is because it is not profitable for big companies (except Surrey). In decades to come satellite size is going to get much smaller.

baldrad212 karma

Multi part question. A) What do you think of the decline of NASA (budget cuts and closing of the shuttle program)

B) What do you see is the biggest threat to the United States?

C) Do you have an opinion on anonymous and the other activist communities that have been popping up that you can share? if so do you think they will be a large force in changing america?

neftimiades303 karma

A. I think I'm one of the few space supporters that is not worried about the NASA budget. Considering we are coming out of a recession they did pretty well. Also, there is enough waste in the space community to make up for the budget cuts (and more)

B. WMD in the hands of radicals. Is it going to bring down the whole nation? No. But how do you explain that to a million people in a city.

C. Interesting question. Probably. There are a whole lot of groups and people that are attacking infrastructure. That is not good for a society. I'm really a believer they needs to be addressed. Their actions threaten us all.

baldrad92 karma

With A, What waste would you cut?

With C, What about all the good they do (not talking about wikileaks and trapwire and all that, but about their takedown of pedophile rings and all that). Do you believe that it is okay to have a balance of good and bad?

neftimiades155 karma

Synergize programs between NASA centers. Synergize technology developments with DoD.

neftimiades167 karma

There is always a balance. But if we lose faith in the electrons in internet then this component of the economy is going to drop. That is scary.

baldrad125 karma

hmm, Thanks for answering and for your service.

neftimiades187 karma

Thank you. I really appreciate that.

raziphel209 karma

Someone somewhere mentioned that the Chinese government uses students sent to the US as spies, who report back anything of value (in business and otherwise) that they can get their hands on. does this have any truth to it or is it just another of the internet's xenophobic conspiracy theories?

neftimiades352 karma

Using students and scholars is very popular collection means for the Chinese government. In fact, if you look at some of the academy's web sites they offer free trips to China. You fill in the engineering project you are working. It is pretty pervasive.

Sarapeno179 karma

I read a lot of articles and watched a few documentaries about how first world countries will ultimately end up in conflict over fresh water supply, which is obviously critical for human survival. We've already seen the impact of natural resources on international tension (primarily oil obviously), and most of the reasoning seems sound, but I don't generally hear about people who are concerned about this.

Is this something you agree will generate political tension between major powers in the near future? If so, are you willing to say how you think that might play out? And if not, can you explain why you think it's not a valid concern?

neftimiades337 karma

Fresh water is going to be a concern for the near future. But necessity is still the mother of invention. There has already been progress in efficiencies in desalination plants. Australia recently contracted for 11 new ones using currants and providing electrical power as well. I thin technology will provide a solution (mid term).

LongDistanceJamz164 karma

What is the best way, in your opinion, for science educators and advocates to convince policymakers in Washington to allocate more funding into NASA?

neftimiades390 karma

Educate the next generation. You have very limited time in the classroom so this must be done outside. As long as Americans spend 10B a year on make up, 55B on pets, and way more on entertainment this is going to be a challenge. This requires a cultural change. That is why I started Galaxy Explorers www.foge.org.

Ahh_Venice156 karma

28 years? Sounds like you're up for retirement soon. What does a mandarin-speaking, space strategist, sci-fi nerd do next?

neftimiades264 karma

Write books? Been asking myself the same thing. I have been teaching at Kings College in the evenings here in London.

[deleted]141 karma


neftimiades348 karma

I take one very 5 years. As does everyone else I know.

kkurbs150 karma

As a side note to this: Cal Lightman makes a good point in Lie to Me, about a cutting edge polygraph, as compared to holding an ostrich egg, and if it breaks, the person is guilty: "It faces the same problems as the egg, it only tells you THAT the person is having an emotional response, not WHICH emotion, or WHY." or something to that effect.

neftimiades217 karma

That's why it is only used as an investigative tool.

fefejones131 karma

What would happen to you if you attempted to enter China as an "Enemy of the People"?

neftimiades481 karma

I don't think they would let me come in. But truthfully getting out would be my greater concern.

canhazinternets123 karma

You must be up to date with all this SOPA/PIPA/Net Neutrality business. What are your thoughts regarding privacy and freedom of information concerns for users of the web and the probability of organizations like the RIAA and MPAA successfully pushing through legislation that hurts net neutrality?

neftimiades420 karma

Not as up on it as I should be. I'm generally very much against government regulating of the internet in any way.

[deleted]122 karma


neftimiades243 karma

In total, we have put 30k or so through the program - i.e. summer camps, after school programs, special events (astronaut visits, science museum trips, etc.). We are active in 10 states.

[deleted]91 karma


neftimiades172 karma

Thanks. You can check us out at www.foge.org

lettheidiotspeak111 karma

1) There's the pretty commonly held belief that Sci-Fi is simply a way of predicting the future through fiction. Do you see the world of today heading towards the world of "Edward of Planet Earth?" How do we keep that from happening?

2) Can you tell us about any crazy ideas that went through the future division while you were there and were seriously considered before being shot down for one reason or another?

neftimiades149 karma

Let me address the second question first - Yes, Quantum Communications was pushed. That's okay, but not in the twenty year time frame we were working for that problem set. I've heard a few outlandish ones but they are so mostly for the costs, technology direction, utility, etc; not for the physics. (seems like you've had some experience in this area?).

Yes, I do see the world heading that direction. I think education and a different value system is the only way we would avoid it. That is SLOWLY happening but it will take time. It is a race is some ways.

cja1005109 karma

Given that you have had a major impact in programs like "Space Division" and "Future's Division" I am quite surprised this question has not been asked yet. What future "spacey" accomplishment would you personally like to see the human race obtain? (Manned mission to mars, near light speed travel, intergalactic Wal-Mart, etc.)

neftimiades208 karma

The people have actually spoken on this. Studies show the American people want NASA to explore. I know there is the tradeoff with how much science robots can do but great nations tend to do great things. And let's face it. Putting a person Mars would probably be the greatest accomplishment of the century. So I'm going to go with manned colonization of teh solar system starting with teh moon then mars.

ServerGeek102 karma

How many classified facts do you know about, but can't share with us?

LukePhillips150 karma

I'm sure the actual quantity of classified facts is also classified.

neftimiades303 karma

SO many thousands that I honestly look forward to retiring and hopefully forgetting them.

the_thunder94 karma

What are your impressions on the future of cyber warfare? Are there any good defenses for malicious programs or viruses?

neftimiades182 karma

This is like the wild, wild west. There will always be an evolving set of defenses and new offensive techniques. I speculate this will be the future of warfare along with advanced robotics. People are getting very tired of shedding their blood (of that of their kids/parents etc.). We will move towards forms of conflict that allow us (everyone) to wage war with minimal loss of one's own population. Cyber is in the lead here.

All_Your_Base88 karma

People joke a lot about Skynet, but really it's not that far off.

neftimiades182 karma

It might not be; and then fast forward two hundred years. Think of how fast the technology is progressing now.

Fishian196991 karma

I have two questions:

1.) What is the most serious threat to security both on a personal and national scale

2.) What do you believe is the largest security risk (person and national) is on the horizon?

neftimiades171 karma

Personal - being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You don't want to be in the city in which someone has decided to set off something bad.

National - probably a WMD incident. It won't take down the country but it will hurt us. This is probably the highest risk (in my opinion). It's not that difficult and teh knowledge to do it is spreading rapidly.

UMDSmith87 karma

Being a sci-fan fan, and involved in future tech, have you watched a series called Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex?

My focus is in the realm of IT, specifically cyber security, and I find that a lot of the tech in that show aren't very far off (100 years or so).

neftimiades95 karma

No, but if you recommend it I'll check it out.

UMDSmith64 karma

It is worth a watch, and one of my personal favorites.

How would you recommend beginning employment within the defense agencies. I have a fairly extensive IT background (13 years), with the last 7 dealing with enterprise level systems, and will have a Masters degree in cybersecurity by December. Any tips you can pass along beyond USAJobs.gov.;)

neftimiades92 karma

The same advice I would give to a friend. Start with a contractor. Focus on non DoD. Budget cuts look severe in the near future.

Marylandman10183 karma

is there going to be a war with Iran? Also I've been hearing about how North Korea and Iran have been working together. Thoughts on that?

neftimiades148 karma

A war with Iran; probably not. Military action? I don't think anyone really knows. There are a lot of variables in that equation. I;m not sure what is in the public arena on North Korea.

TurboSS79 karma

How many redditors in this thread do you think are chinese spies? btw i never knew about your book. I am going to purchase it now.

neftimiades113 karma

Probably none. And thanks. Love to hear your comments.

Lewis7777 karma

Have you ever lived in China? And what were the sources you used for your research on the Chinese Intelligence Operations?

neftimiades119 karma

I went to undergrad and did grad work on Taiwan. I traveled in China. In my research I used open source documents, media publications, and interviews with current and former Chinese Intelligence Officer and recruited assets.

Lewis7763 karma

So, give us a spoiler of your book: are there big differences between the way they operate in Intelligence and the way Western services do?

neftimiades147 karma

Yes, very big differences. There focus on human intelligence (HUMINT) employees many more people overwhelming counterintelligence capabilities. In addition, there aggressive use of cyber espionage is changing the dynamics of intelligence.

[deleted]75 karma

I just read that successful people do not value a formal education as much as the general public does. I'm sure you've interacted with quite a few people that are leading in their respective fields or ventures; do you think they would agree with that statement?

Edit: Yourself included of course. Just noticed my wording was off.

neftimiades190 karma

Really disagree on that one. I know a lot of PhDs, policy officials, etc. I don't think anyone would agree with that statement. I can't speak for the business community. I suspect they might have a different view.

funkarama72 karma

How did you piss off the Chinese?

neftimiades169 karma

I wrote a book "Chinese Intelligence Operations" that exposed their operational methodologies, structure and organization, and operatives. They even listed me in the "things to be careful of" notice that went to Chinese studying overseas.

soulsreddit58 karma

I'm interested in your thoughts on Iran and Syria. Do think there will be any American intervention in Syria? Also do you believe that Israel will actually attack Iran? If so, what do you believe the consequences would be.

neftimiades128 karma

I don't think this is a good area for me to speculate. Whatever happens is likely going to be messy.

LittlePinger51 karma

What is your opinion on the effectiveness of Special Operating Forces in the modern war on terror? Do you have any opinion about MARSOC?

I'm hearing good things about your book on Chinese intelligence. Looking forward to reading it.

neftimiades161 karma

No question that SOF has become tool of choice for the near-to-mid future. Effective and cost efficient. I have respect and admiration for any US Marine. You can doubt a lot in life, but you cannot doubt the abilities, drive, dedication,and faithfulness of those men and women.

thegouch48 karma

I'm not asking for a prediction, but what do you think the USA's best course of action should be for the chest beating going on with Iran and Israel? If Iran attacks first? What about if Israel?

neftimiades137 karma

I was never big on chest thumping. Eventually anyone who wants to, is going to get a nuclear capability. Nations have to start dealing with that inevitability.

Elias281648 karma


neftimiades121 karma

China might not be that much of an economic power. They have a LOT of internal problems; corruption, pollution, riots (by the 10s of thousands). etc. The biggest problem for the US is going to be adjusting to the technology that is changing our democratic way of like. i.e. Decision making in governments is moving to local and international levels, etc. I've written on this at wordpress.

TheBaconator199048 karma

You can bring 3 objects to a deserted island to keep you entertained as the Rescue Party attempts to locate you. You will be rescued in 24 hours but you must be awake the entire time. What do you bring?

neftimiades116 karma

Nothing that needs wifi

Evercloser41 karma

Who were your major influences when you were writing Edward of Planet Earth?

neftimiades58 karma

I did have the benefit of knowing advanced technology development trends, potential commercial applications, and the science behind it. From there, it was a serious look at humanity to extrapolate what the future might hold. Remember, it is a comedy as well. And that's what I think you get when humans are influenced by all the technology that is in their future.

[deleted]36 karma

Fav sci-fi books? Have you read Peter Hamilton's stufF?

neftimiades108 karma

No and I should. Doug Adams is my favorite. Of course, Arthur Clarke as well.