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Rebecca  Costa

Rebecca Costa

Sociobiologist, Expert in Adaptive Management & Technologies, Author, On The Verge


According to Rebecca Costa, there can be no greater advantage than certainty of the future. Not in nature. Not in business. Not in governance. Never before has the information needed to avert danger, get the jump ahead of others, or prepare for the inevitable been so clearly within grasp. Advances in Big Data, predictive analytics, genomics, artificial intelligence and other technologies have made it possible to pinpoint future results with mind-blowing accuracy. In her overnight #1 Amazon bestseller On the Verge, Costa calls this power preadaptation, an almost clairvoyant ability to adapt before the fact. She also identifies 12 principles of adaptation and preadaptation used to succeed in fast-changing environments. Read More >

A global thinker in the mold of Thomas Friedman, Malcolm Gladwell, Alvin Toffler and Jared Diamond, Costa is a world-renowned sociobiologist, author, and host of the syndicated radio program The Costa Report. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, The Guardian, and other leading publications. She is a leading expert on “fast adaptation” in complex environments, and a recipient of the prestigious Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Award. Costa was the founder and CEO of one of the largest technology marketing firms in California, where she developed an extensive track record of introducing disruptive technologies. Her clients included industry innovators such as Hewlett-Packard, Apple Computer, Oracle, Siebel Systems, 3M, and General Electric Company. Retiring at the zenith of her career in Silicon Valley, Costa spent six years researching and writing the international bestseller The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse. Her new book, On the Verge, continues in that tradition, receiving glowing reviews from a wide spectrum of thought leaders including legal scholar Alan Dershowitz, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark,  PBS’ Jim Lehrer and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell. 

Audiences describe Rebecca Costa as” insightful,” “brilliant,” “funny,”  “accommodating,”  “confident,” “entertaining,” “highly informative,” “visionary” and “inspiring.”  She brings a futurist’s eye, a business executive’s savvy, and a broadcaster’s storytelling skills to shape an unforgettable presentation. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Quantifying the Future

Complexity is the Real Issue

How Complexity is Killing Wall Street

Are We Headed for Collapse

The Greatest Discovery You've Never Heard

Public Radio Tulsa

Building a Smarter University

Mission Critical Organizations

We've Broken Down the Human Genome

Speech Topics

On the Verge: Leveraging the Power of Preadaptation

The Tempo of Technology: Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Smart Sensors, Drones & the Future of Technology in Our Lives

Most technology professionals are familiar with the challenges associated with the velocity, volume, variety, and veracity of data, but Costa takes this deluge a step further. What are the ramifications to business, governance, and individuals of the unprecedented explosion of complexity? Using examples from history, Costa reveals how complexity produces gridlock as well as a “High Failure-Rate Environment,” which makes systems and organizations vulnerable to sudden collapse. Costa offers prescriptive strategies, tools, and technologies - based on the principles of “Fast Adaptation” - which are a must for tomorrow’s leaders.

Why Fast Adapters Win

An award-winning American sociobiologist, author of the international bestseller The Watchman’s Rattle, and host of the syndicated radio program, The Costa Report, Rebecca Costa is one of the most sought-after speakers in the country for industry conferences, corporate events, and university lectures. This informative presentation reveals how complexity produces situations where decision-makers must confront “more wrong choices than right ones, as the number of wrong ones grow.” According to Costa, the increasing complexity of processes, information, technology, and policies cause errors to become more prevalent and oversight to become more difficult, making unanticipated collapse more dangerous. Costa shows how leaders can prevail over complexity by mastering techniques and technologies aimed at “Fast Adaptation.” Charismatic, conversational, and often humorous, Costa weaves cutting-edge science with memorable, anecdotal stories.

Hope for Healthcare

Costa describes the detrimental effects complexity has had on the healthcare industry: from the indiscernible Affordable Healthcare Act, to the conversion, access and security of electronic patient records, from a deluge of government and insurance compliances, to the rapid growth, variability and validity of information healthcare professionals must now assimilate to remain current in their field. Costa offers prescriptive tools for navigating this new incohesive and often unsuccessful environment. She demonstrates how the Venture Capital Model can be applied to diversifying solutions, as well as how computer-assisted decision making is being used in healthcare to overcome “irrational human resistance.” A frequent keynote speaker at health conferences around the world, Costa draws upon the time-honored principles of “Fast Adaptation” to facilitate a nimble, efficient transition to a new era of patient-centric care.

Complexity & Global Finance

Costa delves into the effects complexity has had on global financial markets: from the ever-increasing assortment and amount of instant data which must be immediately vetted and acted on within pico seconds, to a plethora of indiscernible new financial instruments, and the ramifications of highly interdependent currencies, commodities, and economies. Using Bak’s “Sand Pile” as metaphor, Costa reveals the telltale warning signs which occur prior to sudden failure. She offers strategies and tools aimed at navigating through today’s erroneous, economic environments - where the number of insolvent options outweigh the number of proven, profitable ones. A popular speaker at global financial summits and conferences, Costa has a reputation for exciting, out-of-the-box insights and tools aimed at investors and managers alike.

Energy & Environment

Costa explains why - despite a historical abundance of investment capital, technologies, and favorable government regulations - the growth of alternative energies continues to fall behind expectations. From Space-Based Solar and the latest in biofuels technology, to geothermal, wind, nuclear, hydroelectric, wave energy, and recovered energy generation (REG), Costa shows how energy diversification has produced extremely complex, fast-changing markets where decisions are frequently based on unproven beliefs rather than empirical fact. Costa shows how investors and innovators can prevail in another of today’s new “High Failure-Rate Environments” by leveraging the time-honored principles of “Fast Adaptation.” Costa is an in-demand speaker at energy and environmental conferences around the world – known for her passion and knowledge of fast-moving energy technologies and markets.  

Excellence in Education: Students

Are today’s students equipped to succeed in the same unnavigable conditions that university administrators, IT directors, faculty, and alumni are presently struggling with? Costa answers this question by addressing the hazards of exponentiating complexity in every aspect of life: from today’s escalating volume, variety, and veracity of new information and difficulty of tackling fast-moving “systemic” problems, to the increasing dangers of sudden collapse. Drawing upon the time-honored principles of “Fast Adaptation,” Costa offers prescriptive strategies and tools for prevailing in a world where the number of wrong choices will often eclipse the number of right ones. A popular speaker on college campuses, Costa weaves humorous anecdotal stories with top news stories and leading-edge science.

Retail & Manufacturing

From new PCI compliances, social media, and fast moving global economies, to the volume, velocity, and variety of consumer data which must be analyzed and quickly responded to – today’s retail and manufacturing companies are overwhelmed by unprecedented layers of complexity. Costa reveals how this complexity leads to yet another “High Failure-Rate Environment,” where leaders must contend with more wrong choices than right ones. She demonstrates how new tactics, technologies (computer-assisted decision making/Big Data), and discoveries in neuroscience – aimed at “Fast Adaptation” - are essential for effective leadership and growth in another “High Failure Rate Environment.” Costa is a popular speaker at corporate and industry events, including The National Retail Association, Dole Foods, General Electric, Vistage International, Nutracon, Comdex, The Offshore technology Conference, G20 Summit, and others.

Government, Legal & Social Services

As tax codes, new legislation, financial markets, healthcare, foreign relations, and every other area of governance grows more complex, leaders require new strategies and tools designed specifically for these confusing, imperceptible environments - where the number of wrong solutions offsets and obscures our ability to recognize right ones. Costa demonstrates how exploding complexity produces gridlock and belief-based policy, rather than decisions based on empirical data. She offers a historical perspective of the relationship between complexity and governance and, using the time-honored principles of “Fast Adaptation,” demonstrates how a new breed of leaders are poised master complexity and govern more efficiently than ever before. Costa is a frequent speaker to government and government subcontractor, and social service agency events, including keynote presentations at the G20 Summit, Brookings Institution, United Nations, American Red Cross, Community Services of West Virginia, International Association of Emergency Managers, etc.

Agriculture Today

From second-by-second changes in meteorological data, Just-in-Time inventory and distribution systems, and fluctuations in global currency markets, to complex new compliances and regulations, wild swings in energy prices, water issues and new issues with contamination and disease, growing techniques, and genetic engineering – agriculture is presently overwhelmed by an historically unprecedented growth, speed, and diversity of data. Costa describes how this traditional industry is making the transition to “Smart-Ag” through the use of Big Data combined with mobile applications, and offers new strategies and tools extracted directly from hospital emergency rooms to help today’s agriculture leaders successfully navigate this frequently unproductive and economically infertile “High Failure-Rate Environment.”

The Really, Really Big Picture

Critics compare Costa’s book, The Watchman’s Rattle, to the early works of Toffler, Naisbitt, and Thomas Friedman for its groundbreaking description of the stages which precede systemic collapse. For the first time, Costa explains collapse from the perspective of evolutionary (biological) imperatives. Citing examples from the Roman, Mayan, and Khmer civilizations, Costa demonstrates how the complexity of systems, policies, and knowledge begins to accelerate - quickly surpassing the cognitive capabilities humans have evolved to that point in time. When this “cognitive threshold” is reached – repetitive behaviors emerge – behaviors which represent a “prelude” to failure. She demonstrates how solutions such as computer-assisted decision making, combined with recent discoveries in neuroscience, offer hope for preemptive measures aimed at averting failure. Costa is a frequent speaker at major learning institutions, including Harvard University, Old Dominion University, Stanford University, The University of California, New York University, The American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and has presented at the G20 Summit, TED, Chautauqua Institute, The Nantucket Project, etc.

Books & Media


The Watchman's Rattle

In The News


Rebecca Costa- The Fix

Connect with Rebecca Costa