04/02/2005: How to Avoid the "Elephantiasis of Reason"....
Now, anyone who's been reading my posts, KNOWS I rarely, if ever, agree with David Brooks (NY Times) and it always *amazes* me about his wild-swings between insightful, clever, intuitive and intellegent analysis where he oft times "hits-that-nail-on-the-head"...and the other, fatuous, twisted logic of his poor reasoning which dribbles out of his mind.
But today...The Art of Intelligence is a superb example of the former. And a well written and most interesting piece. So, I am going to compliment him (via e-mail and here) on this excellent piece.
"...But the problem is not bureaucratic. It's epistemological. Individuals are good at using intuition and imagination to understand other humans. We know from recent advances in neuroscience, popularized in Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink," that the human mind can perform fantastically complicated feats of subconscious pattern recognition. There is a powerful backstage process we use to interpret the world and the people around us.
When you try to analyze human affairs using a process that is systematic, codified and bureaucratic, as the C.I.A. does, you anesthetize all of these tools. You don't produce reason - you produce what Irving Kristol called the elephantiasis of reason.
The capping irony is that Sherman Kent and the other pseudoscientists thought they were replacing the fuzzy old generalists with something modern and rigorous. But, in reality, intuitive generalists like Jane Jacobs and Donald Zagoria were more modern and rigorous than the pseudoscientific technicians who replaced them.
I'll believe the intelligence community has really changed when I see analysts being sent to training academies where they study Thucydides, Tolstoy and Churchill to get a broad understanding of the full range of human behavior. I'll believe the system has been reformed when policy makers are presented with competing reports, signed by individual thinkers, and are no longer presented with anonymous, bureaucratically homogenized, bulleted points that pretend to be the product of scientific consensus.
I'll believe it's been reformed when there's a big sign in front of C.I.A. headquarters that reads: Individuals think better than groups."
Karen on 04.02.05 @ 04:45 AM CST