The Human Brain is this week’s subject on Dara O Briain’s Science Club. There is (as ever) a lot of humorous and thought provoking stuff in the there, but one bit in particular should probably be of interest to the intelligence analyst.
At around 48:05, researcher Alok Jha has a look at ‘smart drugs’ – drugs which may improve the efficiency of the human brain. These drugs have been developed to counter specific medical conditions – Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and so on, but they have come into widespread use in the academic community in an attempt to increase mental capability. These drugs can (allegedly) enhance information flow, improve the signal-to-noise ratio in the brain and improve our ability to concentrate.
As intelligence analysts we’re constantly striving to improve what we do. People have put a lot of effort into developing robust mechanisms for handling intelligence, and identifying potential pit-falls in the analytical process. Other people have applied their intellect to improving the tools of the trade, so we can exploit more complex data, and do so more quickly and easily. But as far as I’m aware, nobody has been able to improve the organ which is the very basis of the analytical process. Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could improve the quality of our analysis simply by popping a pill or two?
Now, it’s probably worth putting a disclaimer in here: No-one is claiming that it’s safe to take these drugs in an attempt to improve your mental capabilities, and it doesn’t take a genius to speculate that messing about with the way that your brain works might have unintended consequences of an unpleasant nature…