In Their Shoes: The Art of Becoming Your Enemy
Sun Tzu said “to know your enemy, you must become your enemy.” After a career in counterterrorism for the CIA Clandestine Service, Amaryllis Fox adds “and once you have become your enemy, you will know he is not your enemy.” In this interactive session, Amaryllis shares the CIA’s practice of “red-teaming,” becoming method actors channeling the adversary, and explains how this practice, which helped end the Cold War and find Osama bin Laden, can enable us to stop caricaturing our adversaries and find pragmatic paths to peace. Amaryllis will invite the participants to take on roles within a particular global or community conflict, from Syria to the everyday workplace, challenging them to understand how they might make the same choices as their adversary in the same position. The session concludes with an interactive discussion about applications of red-teaming to daily life in order to solve conflicts, build empathy, and empower communities to stop finger-pointing and work together to solve their divergent needs.
Understanding Humans: Lessons from My Life in the CIA
Whether at home, at work, at school, or at war, understanding the human beings around us is the most critical, and often the hardest, step to creating the life, home, community, and planet we want. Why is that person always fighting me when I’m doing the right thing? Why is he standing in the way of my dreams? How can I get what I want when she wants something different? How could those people do such a thing? We’ve all asked ourselves these questions about our friends, spouses, bosses, political opponents, and global adversaries. In this talk, former CIA Clandestine Service Officer Amaryllis Fox shares invaluable insights on human nature from her years working with those risking their lives in conflicts around the globe. And offers lessons on how to apply these insights to daily life, vastly enriching our relationships and unlocking the power to communicate, collaborate, and together achieve our dreams.
Would You Kill?
Every nation, religion, and culture in history has instructed us not to take a human life. And yet almost a million humans are killed by other humans each year. Homicide, self defense, police action, military conflict, euthanasia, capital punishment, terrorism. In this interactive session, former CIA Clandestine Service Officer Amaryllis Fox challenges participants to answer the uncomfortable question “Would you kill?” in a variety of challenging circumstances, using a custom-designed app to immerse participants in real-life scenarios. Drawing on a career in counterterrorism and intelligence, Amaryllis will share insights into the complex choices faced by those society gives the right to take human life and the impact of lethal force on conflicts and communities around the globe. Finally, she will share the group’s own answers to the question “Would you kill?” in visually compelling slides, exploring whether their personal willingness to take human life reflects the reality of our laws and culture today.
Former CIA Clandestine Service Officer, writer, and peace activist Amaryllis Fox was born in New York City, the daughter of an English actress and American economist. Her father's work focused on the developing world, moving their family every year of her childhood, and giving her an early sense of being at home in the farthest corners of Africa, SE Asia, Europe, and the former Soviet Union.
Returning to the United States when she was 16, Amaryllis applied to two colleges -- the Naval Academy to study aerospace engineering and Oxford to study international law. Prior to making a decision, she traveled to the Thai-Burmese border to volunteer in the Mai Laa refugee camp and decided there to defer university and stay on, working with the Burmese democracy movement and eventually interviewing Aung San Suu Kyi for the BBC, which landed her a brief stint in Burmese prison at the age of 18, but also resulted in the first radio broadcast from Suu Kyi in almost a year.
Amaryllis matriculated at Oxford University in 1999 to study international law and spent much of the following three years in Dili, East Timor, working with Xanana Gusmao's team to settle IDPs in the world's newest country, and in Srebrenica, Bosnia, working on the reconciliation process to rebuild community trust in the wake of the 1995 massacre.
In 2002, Amaryllis graduated Oxford with an honors degree and started graduate work in international security at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. There she developed an algorithm to predict terrorist activity under thesis advisor Dan Byman, a leading thinker on terrorism and US security policy. Asked by the University's CIA Officer in Residence, Dallas Jones, to share the algorithm with the Agency, she soon began work as a political and terrorism analyst for SE Asia, commuting between Langley and Georgetown to finish her degree with honors in 2004. Following graduation, she moved into the operational training program and served as a Clandestine Service officer overseas until 2009.
Following government service, Amaryllis used her coding abilities and international experience to start Mulu, an e-commerce company supporting at-risk communities around the world. In 2014, Amaryllis was recruited by Twitter to run consumer products for their global e-commerce business. But as the lessons from her career in counterterrorism became ever more relevant to the national conversation, she left Twitter to focus on writing full-time in December 2015.
Amaryllis lives in San Francisco, CA, with her daughter.