Carmen MedinaFormer Deputy Director of Intelligence for the CIA
Expert opinion – Zachary Tyson and I posted it last week Decline in the secrets marketOur indictment of the current intelligence community is in Foreign affairs. There was a lot we wanted to say Zack and I and some ended up in the clipboard buffer. So, let me make a few of these points clear here.
One reason the ICRC is modernizing and more open is because it has a role to play in addressing the information and truth crisis eroding American democracy. I’m not quite sure what this part looks like, other than it’s a supporting role. But I am convinced that a more open and collaborative approach to understanding the world will help citizens increase confidence in information practices and the decisions of their government.
The Internet has nearly destroyed the ability of so-called experts and elites to claim they know better. Actually, let me fix this sentence. The failure of organizations, governments, scholars, companies, and academics to adapt their operations to the realities of the Internet has undermined their credibility. Many organizations, not just the intelligence community, have continued closed, archaic operations that will only sow suspicion, mistrust and conspiracy theories. When a lot of other information is available, and not all of it is important, closed networks of information and decision-making processes no longer inspire confidence.
Obviously, many parts of any intelligence operation cannot be open to the public, but some parts can be. In fact, the intelligence community is already doing some of that with it Global Trends Project, But rather than publishing a study every few years, imagine whether the intelligence community had maintained a dynamic, real-time information service for the American public and the world.
One issue that could be covered widely on such a platform is the global COVID-19 crisis. Did its presence prevent or mitigate some of the informational controversies we still live with? I think so – for example – the platform was interactive; It allows for moderate but lively debate, allows users to vote for up and down information, and adapts to changing user preferences. Perhaps this platform could be a collaboration between government, corporations and non-profit organizations. Imagine if the Gates Foundation and the Koch Foundation could support such a platform and that a diverse group of citizens served as its board?
Fancy, isn’t it? But for democracies to flourish in the future, more of these types of approaches will be necessary.
Some people comment on our site Foreign affairs We’ve noticed that we haven’t said enough about the role AI will play in the future. fair enough. But I don’t think re-engineering the current intelligence process with AI will make it much better, and it is supposed to be less human. Using AI to summarize thousands of documents will only produce the same uninspiring type of work that many human analysts are producing today.
Policymakers will find both equally beneficial … or not. The use of improved processing networks to pursue new sensory-creating ideas holds much hope. Imagine if AI, by searching through millions of images, was able to identify subconscious “tales” that would give us some insight regarding the mood or health of Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping. Now that might catch the decision maker’s attention.
Many of the article’s comments focus on the open source angle but tend to overlook another important recommendation – to supplement official intelligence products with a more dynamic, less formal, and less hierarchical approach to assessing urgent events and new information. Some of my favorite online information and analytics sites work this way: The most informative and provocative content often lives in the comment sections attached to articles. And of course, this is the power of Twitter: interconnected debates where hundreds of individuals comment and offer perspective on issues of common interest.
Quality assurance on such a platform will be essential but there are many useful techniques here, from moderation to some kind of certification form before intelligence officers can participate. If the medical profession can perform a similar model, I hope committed National Security Professionals will succeed as well.
But at the very least, efforts to reform the intelligence community should avoid the Athena complex: the tendency of reformers to over-design their own proposals for change as if they had an idealistic vision of new ideas that would work better in the future. (Like the wisdom goddess Athena who is fully featured from the front of Zeus.) As Zach and I suggest, it would be better for us to start small and let the user community decide where the platform goes.
Who knows where fate will take us!
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