Augmented Intelligence = Human Intelligence X Machine Intelligence
In the world today we are drowning in information; we are overwhelmed by torrents of conflicting information competing for our attention and the lion’s share of the conflict is that viewpoints, although expert, have become dangerously specialized — one dimensional thinking, a world of monopaths. Think carpenters and nails. This invokes Isaiah Berlin’s essay of The Hedgehog and the Fox: “a fox knows many things, but a hedgehog one important thing.” A hedgehog crossing the road will curl up into a defensive ball if it sees a Mack truck coming. Why? Two reasons: Because he is awesome at it and it worked well before.
A hedgehog’s specialized, narrow worldview and skill set will not survive — let alone flourish — in today’s complex and mercurial world.
DEEP CONNECTIONS (DC) is a fox that seeks to clarify the big picture whilst being vigilant of the dangers of four lethal excesses: oversimplification, overreach, overconfidence and over-reliance on quantification. My process of clarification underwritten by wisdom separates signal from noise given the messiness of the real world whereas oversimplification by conveniently abandoning society’s messiness collapses the big picture to black-and-white, stickman cartoons sans nuance — think of the impact on decision-making assuming a swamp is replaced by a pool. Once you substitute a pool in your models for a swamp and believe it behaves “just like a swamp” you grease the skids for quantification. With quantification — the wholesale reduction of analog reality to digital numbers — you open the door to overreach with statistical overconfidence serving as its cheerleader: “For fools rush in where angels fear to tread” (Alexander Pope, 1711). Confidence is euphorically emboldened by probabilities derived from the pool but if you do not know all the possibilities then you cannot know the probabilities — probabilities based on what? If your model is based on a pool, then isn’t your model predicting the future behavior of a pool, not a swamp? “Fat tails” become obese — the unaccounted difference between the swamp and the pool rears its ugly head in the tail.
The lack of comprehensiveness is tantamount to having no peripheral vision and invites being blindsided by forces outside of expert but myopic views.
Additionally, there is a natural tendency to listen to views that resonate with one’s own beliefs while tuning out contrarian views or potentially invaluable insights from experts in disciplines you don’t understand because of their incomprehensible jargon. You automatically reject them as “irrelevant” simply because they don’t fit into one of your pre-existing mental boxes but in today’s world being closed-minded — thus embracing ignorance — is risky business. Studying different experts from multiple disciplines is not a solution either; this approach — although better — is time consuming, difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, and fails to produce prioritization, judgement and synthesis — only aggregation with weak linkages. DC begins — not ends — with aggregation and appraisement of source materials and then proceeds with integrating and synthesizing the six knowledge dimensions that shape our world today: economics, finance, politics, sociology, military strategy, and technology**. These six disciplinary drivers are then interwoven into a unified view in the form of an intelligence briefing that evolves in sync with the dynamic world we live in today.
The richer the network fabric is the more that reality comes into focus. But in order to connect the dots you must have all the dots first: cogent intelligence can only emerge from a swamp — whereas from a pool, inherent cognitive biases will fabricate dots that are not there and then connect those to the few you have to create a “logical” but unsound narrative. The holy grail of connecting the dots is a “deep connection”: a deep connection is a profound insight where from the broad and deep pool of dots that span many disciplines an association is made between seemingly unrelated or incompatible concepts. A new vision emerges that re-frames your worldview: in the flip of a switch you “think different” — your now more expanded vibrant mind will never think those old frail thoughts again no matter the age and depth of their origins.
Expanding your mental horizons through discovery is the best means to prune incompetent assumptions, expectations, and beliefs. This path leads to sublime mental fitness within your sphere of influence.
The first suite of weekly intelligence briefings will address the most prominent clear and present dangers in the world and why they matter to you. It will be derived from multiple high quality sources in their individual disciplines and will not be swayed by polarized, prejudiced perspectives such as political agendas and media propaganda — either domestic or international — or presenting blindly hubristic or morbidly depressing views that capture eyeballs and media due to knee-jerk sensationalism. It is blind to relative inclinations like Left or Right, dove and hawk, bull and bear, and good or bad: it is about causes and effects, effects that impact your quality of life.
DC seeks a neutral, 30,000 foot view of the terrain balanced with boots-on-the-ground inputs and will present as close-to-the-truth view as possible even if it is not what you want to hear — face it, there is a lot of dark matter lurking out there. By not being shackled to the sunk costs and tyranny of biases, DC is inherently agile. We live in a fluid world, a world that demands quick perception to changing trends. DC is not just a fox but a fox on its toes, eyes wide open, ears to the ground and nimble afoot.
Making consistent, high-quality decisions regarding opportunities and hazards is ultimately founded on awareness of one’s assumptions — either wrong assumptions or ignorance of assumptions is a recipe for certain disaster. I believe that knowing our assumptions is mandatory for both contextualizing what is really going on “out there” in our complex, messy world and for taking bold but well-measured, decisive action ahead of the curve — well before the hedgehog herd gets wind of it and figures it out.
Do you agree that there is an urgent need to have a sound means of knowing what is really going on in the world that is not degraded by:
- the inherent structural flaws of hedgehog-centric expert advisors;
- the intelligence-insulting propaganda of international and domestic main street media;
- the atomized, deluge of social media feeds; and
- the wild, wild west of alternative media’s kooks-on-the-loose?
I am seeking clients that highly value comprehensive qualitative deductive and inductive skill sets founded on deep forensic research which function as a complementary counterbalance to quantitative analytics, big data and AI skill sets. Computers, Moore’s Law and the internet have obviously amplified quantification prowess but these same advances can also amplify human qualitative skill sets via leveraging human collective intelligence. This is particularly powerful in the discovery of strategic trends best revealed by deep connections between disparate knowledge domains elusive to algorithms.
Elbert Hubbard in 1911 said: “One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.” One hundred years later we can revise that to: “One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man but one extraordinary man using machines as a learning accelerator can do the work of many extraordinary men.” I believe that these complementary approaches realize “1 + 1 = 3” or augmented intelligence when organized correctly. For example, from 1997 onward machines could reliably defeat the best humans at chess and more recently at Go. But humans plus machines — provided their unique strengths are organized synergistically so that they recursively feedback creating a human-machine amplifier circuit, a “learning accelerator” — can defeat the best machines or humans in isolation and even poorly organized combinations of humans and machines:
Weak human + machine + better process was superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkably, superior to a strong human + machine + inferior process.
So what does this mean to you?
In strategic conditions, success is most assured when humans — using vastly different processes of computation than machine approaches — agree on likely future scenarios. But what about when they disagree? Food for thought: what is the value to your enterprise of a different source of intelligence that reliably gains visibility to your hidden universe of potential blindsides, when what you didn’t know what you didn’t know all of a sudden you know? This is what DC means by “intelligence agency”: machines crunch numbers + humans crunch concepts → optimal allocation of resources + maximal fitness. The objective of DC is to evolve this “intelligence agency” process to increase the frequency of deep connections.
My intention is to provide critical insights for astute individuals that desire a sharply-focused view of logical arguments that cast a wide net over complex, swampy terrain — all things considered. Under the hood, DC does all the intellectual heavy lifting for you in the process of transforming raw informational inputs into quality intelligence outputs. Using the sample intelligence briefings on this site as evidence of DC capabilities, I seek to build one-on-one relationships tailored to specific client needs. You ask questions and provide a time frame and the deliverable is custom-tailored intelligence briefings and follow-up communications until a logical endpoint is achieved and/or have open-ended discovery projects. It’s up to you.
If you pay homage to pragmatism, a concrete reason to want to engage in some capacity with DC is an insurance policy to avoid being run over by a Mack truck. Another way to look at it is that DC — departing from the legacy connotation of “intelligence agency” — is really a new business species whose objective is to harness and deepen multiple perspectives and domains of knowledge that affect our world and use them as navigable tools to help us make wise decisions that cultivate higher quality of life in multiple dimensions — biological, social, educational and financial.
What About Beyond DC?
DC is an exploratory project that I started this May. I have built out a portfolio of intelligence briefings spanning a very broad disciplinary scope, all of which are available on this site. The challenge was to be able to go from question to published answer within 10 days with no other human assistance. As Jack Dorsey of Twitter says in defense of Twitter’s 140 character limit: “Constraint inspires creativity.” Instead of 140 characters my constraint is 10 days.
I haven’t decided to make it a company or use my skill sets in the employ of another company. One fit would be a venture capital firm wishing to gain three valuable capacities:
- a broader perspective of global risk than is normally surveilled (watching all of your back);
- to have access on the turn-of-a-dime (say within a 10-day time frame; think “military Rapid Deployment Force” but for intelligence gathering, synthesis and communication) to deep forensic analysis to questions you need answers to of similar quality as presented herein on subject domains within the scope of the portfolio of intelligence briefings; and
- given a pitch deck or equivalent for a startup on the short list, perform the process of #2 on a time frame optimizing speed and depth (all three of these capacities could be done in the role as a “personal intelligence agent” for an individual in lieu of a venture capital firm like for a corporate board member, etc.).
For example, even the largest and most complex intelligence briefing, the one on “Financial Bubbles”, was first published in that time frame:
Prevailing Gray Swans (7): November 18, 2016
7. Bursting of the global sovereign bond bubble and the interconnected financial derivatives network
This is possible without outside human help because of my methodology which is becoming quite powerful. Adding one more person (a skilled “digital hunter and gatherer”), some graphic design/chart making capabilities and a few digital resources and what I (we) could achieve would cross the threshold of David v. Goliath, a metaphor of true disruption for cradle-to-grave assembly of state-of-the-art intelligence briefings or qualitative forensic analysis. Whether this can be systematized and generalized is an open question I am open to exploring.
But the Ideal Job Description Is…
The ideal fit for my unique (and expanding skill set of augmented intelligence capabilities and capacities…) would be a tech business that is a hybrid between AI and any discipline addressed in the portfolio of intelligence briefings here or between AI and biological sciences in general. Particularly of note are embodied cognition applications and the neurobiology of adaptive response but I have conceptual understanding of the computational branch of cognitive neuroscience as well but not in mathematical or coding capacities (I was a software engineer but no longer) but in terms of broad ranges of theoretical biology that could open doors you didn’t know existed. After all, domesticating our biology is the next frontier. An ideal fit for the both of us would be the continuum of subject matter in my intelligence briefing on the “Technology of Influence Singularity” aka TIS:
Media As a Shaping Agent of Society: Wherefore Art Thou Treacherous?
8. The Co-Evolution of Media, Technology and Society: Past, Present, and Future — The Technology of Influence…
This document is very representative of how I see, approach, and manage complex subject matter. Most importantly, I know who to hire to make TIS happen and what is needed — a a symbiosis between two distinct branches of the cognitive sciences (and a few other sub-disciplines) that are then unified by a common purpose. If you are a company wishing to pursue this end full throttle and do something insanely great, then buckle up and wheels up!
*No, I am not out to disrupt the business model of the CIA!
**Global energy issues are interwoven with economics, finance, politics, military strategy and technology. Law is interwoven with economics, sociology and politics. Culture is integrated with politics and sociology.