North Korea lit some nasty fireworks on July 4th, successfully testing a long-range missile capable of hitting Alaska. The test sent jitters up the spines of American national security officials—for good reason. The Hermit Kingdom hasn’t yet been able to put a nuclear warhead atop an intercontinental ballistic missile, but it is getting there faster than intelligence analysts expected. All the trend lines are bad. Yields from North Korea’s nuclear tests are getting larger. Its arsenal is too, with an estimated 20-25 weapons already, and enough fissile material to crank out a new nuke about every two months. Meanwhile, launch times are getting shorter and missiles are flying longer—much longer. Not all rocket science is rocket science. Even CNN and Breitbart agree that Kim Jong Un is blowing past “nuclear breakout” with breakneck speed.
The big question is what the North Korean leader intends to do.
Think about that for a minute. The most dangerous nuclear threat to the United States requires understanding the intentions of just one man.
Here in Silicon Valley, we are used to believing that engineering can solve the toughest problems and that computers are better than humans at just about everything—from recommending books you might like to conducting complex mathematical calculations, playing chess, or even driving a car. (Okay, I admit that being better than human drivers is no great shakes—my 95-year-old grandmother used to head down one-way streets in Miami the wrong way, claiming, “It’s okay, honey, I’m allowed.”) As one tech executive told me, soon machines will be better at understanding us than us. Companies are racing to create products that can automatically answer emails just like we would and that can anticipate what we want before we even know it. Google already remembers my favorite brands better than I do. We hear it everywhere: Phones are smart. Intelligence is artificial. Crowds are wise.