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Quick notes on intelligent intelligence, 2

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — on a quote from my fellow whacky Brit, Geoffrey Pyke ]


Whacky? From a short description of the man by his biographer, Henry Hemming:

Geoffrey Pyke, an inventor, war reporter, escaped prisoner, campaigner, father, educator–and all-around misunderstood genius. In his day, he was described as one of the world’s great minds, to rank alongside Einstein, yet he remains virtually unknown today. Pyke was an unlikely hero of both world wars and, among many other things, is seen today as the father of the U.S. Special Forces. He changed the landscape of British pre-school education, earned a fortune on the stock market, wrote a bestseller and in 1942 convinced Winston Churchill to build an aircraft carrier out of reinforced ice. He escaped from a German WWI prison camp, devised an ingenious plan to help the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, and launched a private attempt to avert the outbreak of the Second World War by sending into Nazi Germany a group of pollsters disguised as golfers.


And for good measure, here’s Jami Miscik on oddballs:

To truly nurture creativity, you have to cherish your contrarians and give them opportunities to run free. Leaders in the analytic community must avoid trying to make everyone meet a preconceived notion of the intelligence community’s equivalent of the “man in the gray flannel suit.”

and Reuel Marc Gerecht:

And the service can ill-afford to lose creative personnel with a high tolerance for risk.

It’s a sad fact that the folks who are in government, especially in the “elite” services of the CIA and the State Department, aren’t what they used to be. They are, to be blunt, less interesting. There are vastly fewer “characters” -— the unconventional, often infuriating, types who give institutions color and competence.


Okay, here’s Geoffrey Pyke in his own capital letters:


And why does that interest me?

Well first, today it corroborates my comment just now on David Barno and Nora Bensahel and the importance of their suggestion that “The Army should also reinstate the requirement for every career officer to develop skills in two specialties.”

And then second, because I have been saying for a while that:

Two is the first number

and quoting along the way Aristotle, Jung, and the tenth-century Rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa’..


For these reasons, and with a hat-tip to Bryan Alexander, I cherish the contrarian intelligence of Mr Pyke.

Quick notes on intelligent intelligence, 1

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — I do believe this will be a new series ]



Intelligence, obviously, can mean something along the lines of bright thinking, but also that which is gathered, usually from the extremities of empire or the most hidden of an opponent’s or ally’s secret secrets — but for my purposes here it means the frst of these (the “intelligent” of my title) as applied in the mind of military, analytic or civilian leadership to the second (my title’s “intelligence” by which I mean “intel”).


David Barno and Nora Bensahel, Six Ways to Fix the Army’s Culture:

The Army should also reinstate the requirement for every career officer to develop skills in two specialties, rather than to focus narrowly on one. This would produce officers with a much broader range of talents, who would be educated and then employed effectively across more than one skill to support the Army’s disparate needs. These measures would help rising Army leaders think more creatively about the wide range of challenges facing the Army and contribute more effectively at the strategic level within the Department of Defense or the wider interagency arena.

I’d like to make this more explicit. Not only does the development of skills in two specialties mean that an officer can handle two dofferent kinds of problem set with greater assurance, it also and specfically opens the possibility of cross-fertilization between the two disciplines, in those places where they overlap not on the surface level but at the level of analogy and pattern.

When Barno and Bensahel say the development of skills in two specialties “would help rising Army leaders think more creatively” it’s not just that they’d be better informed and brighter than they would be with only one such skill, and it’s not just that they could handle issues involving the overlap between specialties (and I actually don’t just mean military specialties like “Transportation officer (88A)” and “Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear officer (74A)” but also realms like cutural anthropology, topology, systems dynamics, art history), it’s that analogies would leap to mind showing that allow insights from one realm, discipline, silo or specialty to illuminate another. As shown in Arthur Koestler‘s image in The Act of Creation, which I never tire of posting:


Hey, I’ll follow up immediately with related commentary — on a quote from the eccentric, brilliant mind of a British fellow, Geoffrey Pyke, recently memorialized in Henry Hemming‘s book, The Ingenious Mr. Pyke: Inventor, Fugitive, Spy.

Michael Wilson

Monday, June 20th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — quick update on Cameron’s Recomended Reading: Michael Wilson from 2008 ]

Back in 2008, Zen wrote of Michael Wilson‘s papers:

I’ve only just begun to look at these and I’m posting them here for those readers whose interests gravitate toward issues of intel analysis and futurism.

I checked recently, and most if not all of Michael’s papers are still available via the Internet Archive:

  • 7Pillars, Papers by Michael Wilson
  • Decision Support Systems, DSSi Publications
  • **

    A quick quote that caught my eye from Al-Qaida’s Endgame? A Strategic Scenario Analysis:

    Osama bin Laden has a number of viable ‘role models’ from the history of the Middle East, including Saladin and the Assassins. For example, Saladin (the enormously successful commander during the Crusades) wrote in a letter to the Caliph in Baghdad that “European merchants supply the best weaponry, contributing to their own defeat.” This is similar to Lenin’s famous comment that “the Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”

    Now there’s a DoubleQuote!


    Here’s something I hadn’t seen before — a video of Michael speaking at DefCon 9, a couple of years after we met:


    And here’s the .pdf vesion of the course I took with him, first online and then in person — if you read one piece of his, this should be the one:

  • Michael Wilson, Continual and Complete Intelligence: a 21st Century Approach
  • Doing it right, doing it wrong, & it could be your Sunday surprise

    Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a quick note about putting the mind through hoops, aka connecting dots ]

    For the record, the mind is not a phalanx but a swarm — IOW it gets creative when the links are leaps, not serried ranks.

    So when your evidence board, memory jolt, graphical display looks like this (and it’s not the unavoidable dimness of the screen-grab I’m talking about):

    wrong way to stir memories The Killing s3 e8 around 39 mins 2

    the mind won’t see as many possibilities as when it’s more like this:


    Randomize. Create uneven spaces between items. Shift items around. The idea here is to create fresh possibilities, not to look tidy.

    I had a friend once who was an artist. His studio and his life were both disasters — and in his studio, in the middle of that life, he created dazzling, gorgeously colored and delicately graduated geometric patterns — as though he was a disorder organizer, and the more disorderly his input, the greater the precision of his output.

    Think about that.

    Here is what may be a diagrammatic version of what I’m saying, or maybe not, but which stirs my mind in any case, just thinking about it — from Ron Scroggin about a year ago, shared in John Kellden‘s Conversations on G+:

    projectmixtape RC



  • Evidence board, The Killing, series 3 episode 8
  • Al Qaida board, Manhunter
  • Go googled, GBG still to go: 1

    Friday, March 18th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — games, games, games — & prepping a challenge for AI, the analytic community & CNA ]

    playing go
    Playing go, Hasegawa, Settei, 1819-1882, Library of Congress


    In the past, computers have won such games as Pong and Space Invaders:

    Google’s AI system, known as AlphaGo, was developed at DeepMind, the AI research house that Google acquired for $400 million in early 2014. DeepMind specializes in both deep learning and reinforcement learning, technologies that allow machines to learn largely on their own. Previously, founder Demis Hassabis and his team had used these techniques in building systems that could play classic Atari videos games like Pong, Breakout, and Space Invaders. In some cases, these system not only outperformed professional game players. They rendered the games ridiculous by playing them in ways no human ever would or could. Apparently, this is what prompted Google’s Larry Page to buy the company.

    Wired, Google’s Go Victory Is Just a Glimpse of How Powerful AI Will Be

    I can’t corral all the games they’ve played into a single, simple timeline here, because the most interesting discussion I’ve seen is this clip, which moves rapidly from Backgammon via Draughts and Chess to this last few days’ Go matches:

    Jeopardy should dfinitely be included somewhere in there, though:

    Facing certain defeat at the hands of a room-size I.B.M. computer on Wednesday evening, Ken Jennings, famous for winning 74 games in a row on the TV quiz show, acknowledged the obvious. “I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords,” he wrote on his video screen, borrowing a line from a “Simpsons” episode.

    NYT, Computer Wins on ‘Jeopardy!’: Trivial, It’s Not

    What’s up next? It seems that suggestions included Texas Hold’em Poker and the SAT:

    Artificial intelligence experts believe computers are now ready to take on more than board games. Some are putting AI through the ringer with two-player no-limit Texas Hold’ Em poker to see how a computer fairs when it plays against an opponent whose cards it can’t see. Others, like Oren Etzioni at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, are putting AI through standardized testing like the SATs to see if the computers can understand and answer less predictable questions.

    LA Times, AlphaGo beats human Go champ for the third straight time, wins best-of-5 contest

    And of course, there’s Rock, Paper, Scissors, which you can still play on the New York Times:

    Rock Paper Scissors


    Now therefore:

    In a follow-up post I want to present what in my view is a much tougher game-challenge to AI than any of the above, namely Hermann Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game, which is a major though not entirely defined feature of his Nobel-winning novel, Das Glasperlenspiel, also known in English as The Glass Bead Game or Magister Ludi.

    I believe a game such as my own HipBone variant on Hesse’s would not only make a fine challenge for AI, but also be of use in broadening the skillset of the analytic community, and a suitable response also to the question recently raised on PaxSIMS: Which games would you suggest to the US Navy?

    As I say, though, this needs to be written up in detail as it applies to each of those three projects — work is in progress, see you soon.


    Edited to add:

    And FWIW, this took my breath away. From The Sadness and Beauty of Watching Google’s AI Play Go:

    At first, Fan Hui thought the move was rather odd. But then he saw its beauty.

    “It’s not a human move. I’ve never seen a human play this move,” he says. “So beautiful.” It’s a word he keeps repeating. Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful.

    The move in question was the 37th in the second game of the historic Go match between Lee Sedol, one of the world’s top players, and AlphaGo, an artificially intelligent computing system built by researchers at Google.

    Now that’s remarkable, that gives me pause.

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