I started writing this entry after a talk by John Kao fired up my imagination in late 2007. I have long known of his reputation as an innovative and creative thinker, but never had the opportunity to actually listen to him before. John had recently published a book about innovation as an element of national policy that was missing in the United States. Throughout his talk, he gave us great insights into some of the countries who were embracing innovation at the national level and having great success like Singapore in establishing an international relationship in life sciences innovation to include luring top talent away from their respective countries like the former director of the NIH or Stanford’s Medical College. By the time he was done, I was ready to apply even though it’s been a long time since I finished my degree in biological sciences.

“Are you on the Global Frequency” actually refers to a question that was asked during the final Q&A session about where the Intelligence Community (IC) should go – what should be the IC’s vision. John had referenced the vision put forth by Warren Ellis in his amazing book called “Global Frequency: Planet Ablaze” earlier as a means of visually communicating the story and the need for innovation. He went on to talk about the birth of the IC as a wave of innovation itself after World War II that has been forged into a deep hierarchy since then. He had no ready answers but suggested that looking to the Global Frequency to find answers.

So I picked up the book right before Christmas. Least you think this is a standard “five-steps and you’ve got it” book, guess again. This is an action packed, professionally illustrated graphic novel (aka adult comicbook) with great artwork and a scarcity of words that leaves a lot to the interpretative imagination of the reader/viewer. After reading both graphic novels, I began to wonder how it could apply. It seems to me that the concepts behind the Global Frequency include the collective intelligence of a global organization of 1001 deeply specialized experts in far-ranging skills from bio-weapons engineering to Le Parkour Runnng who are tied together by an amazing global communications system. When the call goes out to activate select members, they are “on the global frequency” and ready for action whether that includes advising a group on some aspect of an operation or conducting the actual operation itself. Members are selected when the problem arises based on the nature of the problem or threat and the unique skills of those members selected. At the heart is a centralized hub/knowledge base with access to global information run by one of the members (known as Aleph) with special skills known as “superprocessing” (handling separate inputs while performing multiple complex tasks and running deductive strings) and a true leader (vice inadequately trained manager) with a deep grasp of human nature who gets involved without getting in the way. All of them are tied together by their passionate willingness to accomplish their mission even to the point of sacrificing their lives.

Now some of what happens in the novel is unrealistic in relation to the role of the US Intelligence Community and seems a little hard to think about how it might transition into reality. Until you start thinking about concepts like Knowledge Ecosystems with extentions into virtual worlds that David Bray had been researching while at Emory University. Finally I had a chance to begin to look at some of his papers and found his video on National Security Projection 2019 . And while the video doesn’t take you into the graphic novel or virtual world, it does remind you of where we may be trying to go with the Intelligence Community and possibly even farther into full partnership in a global organization where we connect with partners in plans, policy, operations, research and acquisition as well as the more normal partnerships in intelligence analysis. Some of that is starting to unfold on various government domains (e.g. Intelink, A-Space, Bridge) and as a result of connections through social media that are creating new communities and networks for everything from disaster relief to grass roots activism to health reporting. A lot of hard work and challenges lie ahead to achieve a vision of a global collective intelligence that is “on the global frequency” and focused on the good of all. But won’t it be fun when the story of all our efforts gets written not in a graphic novel but a virtual world that is globally connected at multiple security levels.

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