Oh, boy what to start out with today? There’s so much to cover. I’m going to focus on two things today. The first is the difference between predictions and intelligence analysis. And the second is a really great article I read and I’ll add some thoughts about where we are in society, as well.
FOTV – YouTube
Ah, on April 6th and 7th, Charley Hogwood and I will be hosting an Area Intelligence Workshop, where we’ll lead students through the process of building an Area Study. I’m still working on course details, but it will be in the Atlanta area, probably north of Atlanta. If you’d like more information, go to forwardobserver.com/events and you can see upcoming courses, as well as sign up for occasional email updates.
Also, at the end of April, I believe, we’re going to get K from Combat Studies Group down to Austin for his Groundrod courses.
And I’ll be hitting the road again this Spring and Summer to teach some SHTF Intelligence Courses.
Again, forwardobserver.com/events has a sign up form if you’d like to be emailed our course schedule for 2019 as we add dates. And, of course, get in touch with me if you want to schedule something for your area.
Moving on… I just saw a clip of David Stockman again calling for a financial doomsday. I’ve seen him say this no fewer than six times in the past few years. In four days, the market is going to crash! He recorded an entire video on that, and it mysteriously disappeared five days later. Next week! Next month! Next year!
How many times can someone be so frequently and substantially wrong about one specific thing… a stock market crash, and still be invited to opine on financial news shows? I guess because predictions get headlines. There’s actually a really good book about that by Philip Tetlock.
Look, I’m not saying that the market will never crash. It could crash tomorrow for all we know, but I don’t know, David Stockman doesn’t know, you don’t know, and no one knows except the guys who are going to trigger it. And maybe eventually Stockman will be right, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
A week or two ago, I was talking about the Paul Krugman heuristic. A heuristic is a mental short cut. It’s a short cut for thinking. Our paleo-lithic ancestors saw a shadow or something that could threaten them, and they ran away. They didn’t take the time to investigate, they knew that the chances were really good that whatever they saw or think they saw could kill them, and they ran.
And they survived. And that’s why we’re all here today, because human beings developed heuristic thinking to err on the side of caution.
But that’s a really bad way to do business in intelligence, and we see this kind of heuristic thinking in the preparedness community quite a bit.
So I’m coming around full-circle here back to Krugman and then to Stockman.
The Krugman heuristic says that if Paul Krugman says something is good, then it’s probably bad. If Krugman says something is bad then it’s probably good.
So when David Stockman was on Fox Business, he was warning about the pending collapse. He says it’s here, and Neil Cavuto pushes back a bit: “You’ve been warning about this for a while.” Stockman kind of stutters, because Cavuto is clearly right: Stockman has been warning about this every few months for years.
And Stockman has been wrong every time he’s predicted this because I honestly think he assumes too much. He’s using his own heuristic thinking, which is obviously leading him to some very poor conclusions.
And, frankly, we in the prepper community assume a lot, as well. We assume too often that something bad is going to happen because there are reasons to believe something bad is going to happen. The national debt, the budget deficit, unfunded liabilities — yeah, all this is really bad news. But I don’t think it necessarily portends some magnificent, overnight economic collapse scenario that many people think it does.
Now, my personal judgement is quite a bit different. I still don’t expect an overnight “collapse” scenario. I think things are okay for now, so take a deep breath. There certainly could be some disruption in the future, but I don’t think it’s imminent. I think that disruption is more likely to be social and political, rather than economic and financial, but we could get there if things get bad enough socially or politically.
Like I’ve been saying for months, my top concern remains the lead up to the 2020 election; the social and political instability. And at some point beyond that, we could get into a pretty bad economic scenario… but just how bad things get really depends on the policies of future presidents and future Fed chairmen. And they could possibly keep this thing running indefinitely, without a catastrophic meltdown.
By the way, I’m sitting in this desk every morning at 5:30 to begin writing my Early Warning report. Every morning, I take a look at the latest economic indicators, what’s happening around the globe, and through research and information gathering, I’ve been able to build a pretty clear picture of where we are.
And let me say this real quick, because some people fundamentally misunderstand this… I see this every so often, where people say that there’s no way to tell what’s going to happen in the future. By extension, they would say that intelligence analysis can’t predict the future…
And that ENTIRELY misses the point. When someone says that intelligence analysis can’t predict the future, so there’s no reason to do it, they’re sadly mistaken about a major point…
The purpose of intelligence is not to predict the future. The purpose of intelligence is to reduce uncertainty about the future. I can’t predict what will happen and I won’t try. I don’t make predictions.
Instead what I try to do is lay out all the potential options and look for evidence that either supports or contradicts those options. These pieces of information are called indicators. Then I can start listing out these potential future scenarios in order of likelihood.
So intelligence analysis allows us to anticipate future events, and refine our expectations so that we have more accurate expectations, rather than inaccurate expectations of the future.
And you want to talk about having an advantage in SHTF preparedness… being able to anticipate what’s likely to happen is an incredibly undervalued advantage… to the point that I think it’s incredibly sad every time I get an email from some prepper blog telling me to buy the latest gizmo or device because it’s the prepper’s #1 survival tool.
The prepper’s #1 survival tool is his brain, not some $15 piece of Chinese-made crap that’s going to break when you need it.
But I digress…
My first point is that we shouldn’t be taking tips on the future from David Stockman, nor from any of the other doom and gloomers out there who predict collapse every chance they get.
For me, it’s enough to know that things could collapse. Things could get ugly, quick, fast, and in a hurry. They absolutely could and there’s no denying it. But there’s also no predicting it months or years into the future.
The best I can do as an intelligence analyst is to recognize that a split-instant collapse-causing event could occur, and I should prepare for the follow-on, second- and third-order effects that are going to occur locally.
I think what’s more likely is that we maintain our current trend of things getting progressively worse, because we already live in a society in collapse.
I read a really great piece over at City Journal, which is published by the Manhattan Institute. It’s entitled, “No Need for Thanks. America rescued Ilhan Omar and her family, but to hear her tell it, we are the ones who should be grateful.” [source: https://www.city-journal.org/ilhan-omar-immigration] It’s by Seth Barron, and I’ll link to it in the show notes because I think you should read it.
Interviewed on the popular Pod Save America podcast, Omar explained that when her family was preparing for resettlement in America, they watched orientation videos “about the life that they are to expect once they arrive here . . . happy families, and dinner tables where there is an abundance of food, images of happy young children running off to their school buses . . . images of a country where people are happy and leading a life that is prosperous. You are really looking forward to life as you see it on that screen.”
Life in American was not like the images she saw in the welcome video, Omar insists. “When we landed,” she recalls, “I saw panhandlers on the side of the streets, there being trash everywhere, and graffiti on the side of the walls.” Omar asked her father why America fell so short of what she had been promised, and he told her to “hold on, we will get to our America.” Omar has still not arrived in the America she was promised, though she has now been elected to Congress. We continue to disappoint her.
One reason our society is already in collapse is because we can’t even agree on what American is. We’ve always had competing sides, but I think it could actually be different this time because so many on the Left are pushing so hard towards the Far Left. I don’t think it will be this election cycle that we swing hard left. But my concern is still that inequality is exploited so greatly and capitalism is so widely blamed for economic turmoil that in another decade we’ll have a legitimately far left government.
Our society is in collapse because half of America believes our Founders and their ideals are evil. Our society is in collapse because somewhere around one-third to one-half of us believe that government’s sole purpose is to take care of its citizens from cradle to grave, and to provide universal, fundamental human rights like healthcare and the freedom from want. Our society is in collapse because we’ve lost the one thing that used to unite us, which is the desire for freedom and liberty. We’ve lost our freedom and liberty incrementally since this country’s founding. And I say country, because we’re are no longer a nation. We are a country made of numerous nations, and that’s why I’m pessimistic about social cohesion.
Yes, it is an assumption; in fact, it’s my key assumption, that as things get worse financially and economically in America, that things will also get tougher socially and politically. I feel safe in making that assumption, because we’re already seeing this “low intensity conflict” bubbling beneath the surface of our country. And I’m concerned that the next election will make things much, much worse.
And if you want to talk about the value of intelligence analysis applied to SHTF preparedness, we really have to start with what Democrats are planning once they return to power. That, by the way, ends with how national-level politics will affect you locally.
If you’re not going down the local rabbit hole, then you are missing a major opportunity to increase your level of preparedness.
Samuel Culper is a former military intelligence NCO and contract Intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.