The Washington Post

Feeling foggy? Intelligence chief James Clapper is brewing a $12 million elixir for you!


No more “high energy” drinks. No more jitters. Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) James Clapper’s office “has embarked on a multi-year research effort to develop and test methods to improve reasoning and problem-solving in healthy, high-performing adults.”

The Monday announcement says that, “If successful, proven methods developed under the Strengthening Human Adaptive Reasoning and Problem-solving (SHARP) program may enhance analysts’ capacity to reason through complex, ambiguous and often novel problems common to the Intelligence Community.”

Or maybe not. ODNI’s “Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity” folks have already awarded research contracts — total $12 million in first year and renewable based on performance — to Charles River Analytics, Honeywell Corporation and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to see if it can be done.

Sounds good. Less guesswork and wishful thinking. No Vietnam, no Bay of Pigs, no bailing out British oil companies in Iran in ’53 and no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

Who knows? As long as they figure out how to combine your “enhanced” powers with some medication to fight hubris — and to increase humility about what you think you know and awareness of what you almost certainly don’t know — this could be a game-changer.

Of course, if you’re not “healthy” or “high-performance” already, you may be reduced to thinking up program acronyms.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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