NEWS | March 31, 2022

Collective Intelligence and Why Diversity Matters

By U.S. Army Capt. Emily Otto

Like blazes on a trail, the women who came before remind me to stay the course: this is my path. President George H. W. Bush once said, "Public service is a noble calling." A calling to love, fight, and, if required, lay down your life for the idea of America. Each day public servants strive to do what they were born to do, what they were trained to do--build a more perfect and secure union.

                I attended the "Women in Intelligence" conference at The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M; I represented both the Army, the oldest organization, and USCYBERCOM, the youngest organization in attendance. I had the pleasure of meeting other female speakers from different intelligence agencies and hearing their stories. Although joining different organizations for various reasons, they are unified in their dedication to serving and protecting Americans.

                Although the conference highlighted women's contributions to U.S. National Security, war and autocracy do not care if you are female or male; they will target you just the same. As a result, we witness Ukrainians-- people who desire to live their lives, raise their children, and enjoy each day--being robbed of autonomy, safety, and the pursuit of happiness. Did the world forget the terror of great power conflict? Will we be painfully reminded over the next decade? We are reminded that without people to stand up and say, "if not me, then who?" we have doomed liberty and freedom to be forgotten, crushed under a new history written by tyrants and dictators.

                Humans are built for struggle. Throughout the conference, these women's constant refrain was taking life each day: struggling to attend to family, relationships, work, and health. The consensus was there is no balance; you juggle. You will drop things periodically, but you pick it back up and keep juggling because that's life: you do your best and treasure each moment. To be human is to toil, working to be present to your family and friends when you can, and laboring to give your best to do your part for securing the nation.

                Women are just one of many minority groups engaged in the work to secure the nation. But we need more voices, more perspectives, and more involvement to leverage America's collective intelligence.

                Collective intelligence is a system made from many smaller intellects. Yet, combined, the system's performance will outstrip any current cognitive system.  Although the women featured in the conference and I may bring significant capability to the fight,  the next decades will require not just us but all Americans to contribute. I look forward to seeing you beside me.