Monday, 23 August 2010

Selling intelligence

Welcome to intelligence 101 cadets. Now you'll have read the reading list. I'll take that as read. So today I want to pick out and focus on those poetic and prophetic words of that long gone Pentagon jerk-wad Rumsfeld: “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know.

We know there are things we don't know, sometimes we know the nature of what those unknowns are; other times we can only surmise - unless any of you here are omniscient - and that, no mater how well prepared we are for an assignment, there's always going to be something missed. Given that, we have to make a judgement call: what kind of thing or things could we have missed and, given that suspicion and our inability to confirm it either way, what impact could it have on our preparation; the actions and decisions, someone, somewhere down the line, usually on the ground, will have to make?

Take Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle: we have a trade-off between choosing one known at the expense of forgoing another. Which known or unknown we choose will be driven by context, but at the very least we know that, what we cannot know in this case, cannot be known by me, by you, by us or by God. Even you omniscients have your hands tied from time to time. So what's my point cadets?

The element of the unknown is not always a surprise?

Exactly. What you have to do - what is crucial to working in intelligence - is figuring out where the actual surprises lay. More often than not, charting the unknown, more than the know, can give us the critical edge. For example, just as we are faced with unknowns, the target – A. N. Other – is also faced with unknowns. So we create a map: the bigger picture; we fill in what we know and then, at the very least, we can begin to delineate the the scale and scope of the unknowns. We give shape to them and those shapes will begin to interlock with each other and, in turn, sharpen the boundaries of what we actually think we know. By this method, we begin to anticipate what the target's options are. Those options aren't fixed: the name of the game is survival: adapt and change; change and adapt. Now if we can change and adapt faster than the target, chart the boundaries between knows and unknowns ahead of him, we have a winning advantage.

Keep in mind Boyd's OODA loop (Observe; Orient; Decide, and Act). We need to know what he doesn't know he knows before he knows he doesn't it. Okay. Now, keeping hold of this, I want you to go out onto the shop floor and find yourself a target. These targets have been assigned specific items to buy. Your task to infiltrate their decision making process in such a way that they end up deciding - they “think” they “decide” - to buy a toaster instead. And that, cadets, is how, if you're going to make it in retail, you get rid of slow moving stock. Tomorrow we will look at signing-up schmucks to high-interest store card deals and selling worthlessly expensive extended warranties.

Finally, you will have noted in Hume's Dialogues, that one of the arguments for taking seriously the possibility of the existence of God, is that "he" may be among the the unknown unknowns. But I ask you: how do we know that? Thank you for your attention. Dismissed.

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