In yesterday’s post, Jessica rhetorically asked if it’s “the case that intelligence challenges are unfixable and as a nation we need to reassess how we work around them.”
The question reminded me of a meeting I was in a few weeks ago. For reasons that now escape me, someone showed the brief (3 minute and 10 second) Richard Wiseman video, featured below.
Immediately after the video was over, one of the meeting participants — who has been a member of the Intelligence Community for more than 2 decades — said, “That’s just what it’s like to be an intelligence analyst.”
The video is called “The Colour Changing Card Trick.”
Your task — should you decide to take the test — is to watch the video and see if you can figure out the trick.
The only rules are to watch the video once, and don’t look at any of the “here’s how it’s done” comments on the website. At least not before you watch the video.
So if you have a few minutes, click on the video and then come back.
In 1978, Columbia University professor Richard Betts wrote an article (in World Politics) called “Analysis, War and Decision: Why Intelligence Failures Are Inevitable.”
He argued the problems we keep running into are less about the intelligence process, and more about context. He said, “Policy premises constrict perception, and administrative workloads constrain reflection. Intelligence failure is political and psychological more often than organizational.”
If Professor Betts’ thirty year old claim remains correct (or if — like me — you failed to connect the card-trick-dots), some enduring intelligence challenges may indeed be unfixable at a fundamental level.
As a nation we will need to explore options beyond remodeling organizations and composing rules. We need to reinvent intelligence.