Here's the CIA's "Phoenix Checklist" for thinking about problems

#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/02/28/heres-the-cias-phoenix-c.html

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#2

You’d be surprised how often the answer to all of these turns out to be “Install a brutal right-wing dictator!”

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#3

These are the same people who cultivated Curveball, right?

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#4

What even is a “problem?”

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#5

For the CIA? Somebody they can’t kill, blackmail, buy off or otherwise intimidate.

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#6

These seem to be the questions on the checklist that the CIA themselves seem to be bad at.:
“Overthrow a democratically-elected government? That won’t cause repercussions further down the line in a stable region like the middle east.”
or
“Let’s give arms to this bunch of violent Jihadists. That’s a sure-fire way to target the Soviets and nobody else.”

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#7

First, let’s be absolutely clear that we are not talking about Project Phoenix, the Vietnam War era assassination program:

Second, let me recommend my very favorite, can’t-recommend-it-enough book about problem solving:

The Universal Traveler (1974) by Don Koberg and Jim Bagnall:

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#8

“What is the unknown?”

“I don’t know, that’s the problem!”

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#9

The Problem:
Can the problem be solved by torturing someone? (Y/N)

The Plan
Torture someone.

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#10
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#11

“WHY IS GAMORA?”

–Drax the Destroyer

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#12

“Can the problem be solved by having a Snickers?”

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#13

lol, just another version of Project Management think. Which isn’t bad, it’s just that all these different things always boil down to the same basic principles of analytical or critical thinking.

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#14

THE PHOENIX PROBLEM

Everyone hated X-Men: The Last Stand

Why is it necessary to solve the problem?

Marvel is going to regain control of the X-Men film franchise if we don’t sort this out

What benefits will you receive by solving the problem?

Lots of ticket sales and home video revenue

What is the unknown?

Does anyone even care about the Dark Phoenix Saga anymore?

What is it you don’t yet understand?

Is there any approach to these movies other than “Dark & Gritty?”

What is the information you have?

A bunch of old comic books and unsolicited fan feedback

What isn’t the problem?

Adherence to in-franchise continuity. Screw that jazz.

Is the information sufficient? Or is it insufficient? Or redundant? Or contradictory?

Have you even read a comic book?

Should you draw a diagram of the problem? A figure?

Pretty sure it’s going to have a big “X” in it somewhere

Where are the boundaries of the problem?

265 Million Dollars

Can you separate the various parts of the problem? Can you write them down? What are the relationships of the parts of the problem? What are the constants of the problem?

The relationships between these characters are storied and complex, but somehow we need to get Xavier and Magneto back on the same team (again) in under 45 minutes of screen time.

Have you seen this problem before?

We’ve rehashed this mess like 15 times if you count animated adaptations.

Have you seen this problem in a slightly different form? Do you know a related problem?

Sophie Turner doesn’t look much like Famke Janssen but that’s what wigs are for.

Try to think of a familiar problem having the same or a similar unknown

Every superhero franchise ever

Suppose you find a problem related to yours that has already been solved. Can you use it? Can you use its method?

We erased the timeline with that Days of Future Past movie

Can you restate your problem? How many different ways can you restate it? More general? More specific? Can the rules be changed?

Oh god I’m already tired of this movie

What are the best, worst and most probable cases you can imagine?

Best: we make lots of money
Worst: we lose millions of dollars and control over the franchise
Most probable: we keep rehashing this junk for another generation or two

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#15

These questions really look like a brilliant tool for focusing your thinking.

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#16

The answer to how to make the X-Men movies look more interesting is always the same: Get Sony to make a different movie where they show how Uncle Ben died again and Spider-Man first gets his powers again.

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#17

Jeri Blank is looking a lot better these days!

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#18

I thought it was “spend six movies delving ever deeper into every detail of Wolverine’s background while somehow pretending his past still counts as something ‘mysterious’.”

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#19

Torture! Torture! Torture!

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#20

Reminds me of Donald Rumsfeld talking about unknown unknowns. Sounded ridiculous at the time but is very real. Has gradually made a big impact on my thinking.

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