The C.I.A. and Self-Experimentation

I learned of The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture by Ishmael Jones (a pseudonym) from an interview on the New Yorker website. This comment by the author interested me:

Once the C.I.A. became a place to get rich, effective operations ended. Today, more than ninety per cent of C.I.A. employees live and work entirely within the United States, in violation of the C.I.A.’s founding charter [to supply only foreign intelligence].

I could say much the same about science: Once it became a place to get rich (or at least get large grants), effective science became a lot less common. A great deal of science is done by drug companies. They pay a lot. Some of their scientists are surely brilliant but their talents are wasted by the need to find solutions that will be highly profitable. My self-experimentation found solutions that cost nothing and make far more intellectual sense. I was able to do something that didn’t produce a lot of publications because it wasn’t my job.

Many skills make good full-time jobs. Science doesn’t. There is too much pressure for short-term results. Without short-term results, you may lose your job or your grant. (Or, in China, most of your income.) Nor is science a good source of status. If you want your science to provide your status, you will be under great pressure to conform. Yet for practically all scientists, it’s their full-time job and their main source of status. This may not make it impossible for them to do good work but I suspect it comes close to doing so. My self-experimentation was effective not only because it was fast and cheap (per experiment) but also because I could be slow (per publication) and do something low-status.

One Reply to “The C.I.A. and Self-Experimentation”

  1. Officially there are 16 “Intelligence” Agencies established for the USA
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Intelligence_Community
    Does that seem excessive to anyone besides me? I find it odd there’s need for one at all, but actually 16?

    I read somewhere that the CIA is permitted to keep its profit, which goes in line with the “get rich” part.

    And I concur with your science statements, Seth. Simplicity rules, especially with so much disinformation around; self verifiably insight is needed. And self experimentation actually gives results that are relevant to you, the one experimenting 😉

    I’m at a point where I’m sure science is heavily used to dumb society down.

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