Two members of the CIA addressed a gathering of “Thriller” writers today on aspects of CIA “trade craft,” to help the authors create more realistic stories when they incorporate the CIA into their plots.

Marie Harf’s job description is Media Spokesperson for the CIA. “Chris” is an analyst and instructor of case officers.

Someone asked about the CIA’s poor performance over the last 50 years, in failing to correctly predict what was going to happen in various hot spots around the world. Chris responded, “If you expect us to predict what will happen, you will be disappointed — prediction is hard.” He went on to say that their work is more about “context to affect change.”

Ms. Harf said, the fact that the U.S. has not been hit since 9/11 “is not an accident.” Afterwards, I asked Chris about how the CIA balances the “data driven” mindset of society with the need for ‘human intelligence’ — beyond the data? He said there was “tension,” especially with analysts who are experts in certain areas. When I suggested that maybe the CIA could be a leader in showing society how to intregrate data collection and analysis with human wisdom, he said, “If you are looking for us to be a leader on that?…” And his voice trailed off, as he looked away.

Commentary: Progress in Information Technology is eclipsing human progress. In many areas humans are no longer the priority, but instead have become slaves to the things they created. And society is suffering because of it.

Photograph: Stephen Wise