Nicholas Schweitzer introduces this report for the CIA by briefly discussing one problem intelligence analysts face today: the 'information explosion'; intelligence analysts struggle to filter through the copious amount of information with their limited resources. Another problem Schweitzer acknowledges is the difficult questions analysts have to answer in an increasingly complex world. One way to ease these problems is through the application of analytic methods.
Schweitzer introduces the Bayesian analysis as a simple mathematical equation: A = B x C. He explains it further as "the probability of an underlying cause (hypothesis) equals its previous probability multiplied by the probability of the observed event was caused by that hypothesis". Schweitzer describes how analysts use Bayes to predict complex political outcomes. Analysts use estimated probabilities since the exact probability is impossible to evaluate. To generate these probabilities, analysts can use historical or expert opinion. Schweitzer even says analysts can incorporate the Delphi method, which uses expert opinions, alongside Bayes. The approximated probabilities provide a "starting point" of analysis
- Provides a wide range of expertise instead of depending on a single analyst
- More information can be extracted from data
- The process is reproducible
- The end result can be displayed on a numerical scale
- Analysts are forced to look at other perspectives
- Can only be applied to certain questions (i.e. war or no war?)
- Must be expressed as a specific set of hypothetical outcomes
- Must follow mathematical principles
- Needs to have a large amount of data which increases the probability of unreliable or even negative information
- Can be manipulated by cognitive bias
- Cannot be applied to crisis situations due to the need for time
The author uses great examples, especially to stress the complexity of intelligence questions and defining the kinds of questions that work with Bayes. I also liked how Schweitzer discussed its applicability with the Delphi method because it is unlikely an analyst will only use one technique to come to a final conclusion on a difficult issue. However, there was not much explanation into the process of setting up Bayesian analysis (especially regarding the examples of the Middle East), and interpreting the results. I think this report does provide readers with a basic grasp on how Bayes works, but would not be enough of an explanation for analysts to use as a how-to guide.