Snipers see the world in a way not dissimilar to a semantic search engine

Anyone remotely familiar with search knows what metadata is. Basically it’s data about data that helps quantify it, classify it and put it in context. A flock of birds flying high in the sky, for instance, is more than a flock of birds flying high in the sky when you know that most birds have the Vitali Organ, a special middle-ear receptor that can sense extremely small changes in atmospheric pressure. This allows them to predict the weather, sometimes days in advance. When birds fly high in the sky then the weather is most likely to be clear.

Snipers are more than just people who can shoot a gun well. Trained to observe they are a complex amalgam of knowledge and experience, inference and deduction. They are trained to be methodical, analytical, cool under pressure and capable of thinking creatively.

Even within the realm of fiction snipers are a breed apart in the way they see the world which means that they are also different in the way they think, act and behave. Just how different becomes evident once you realize that their job involves assessing threat levels, calculating risk and understanding intent. This is a mix of soft and hard skills that is bound together through human psychology and the prediction of human behavior.

Most of the time a sniper’s job is to gather information. In order for that to be useful there are three distinct skillsets a sniper is trained to use:

  • Knowledge – snipers are repositories of knowledge. They understand wind speeds and trajectories. The impact of air temperature and barrel speed on bullet ballistics. They know how to take the Coriolis effect. They know about average walking speed, running speed and the way human biomechanics govern a person’s movement across a plane. The things they see are a construct of modalities where everything means something that leads to something else.
  • Memory – the ability to remember a tableau, to examine it to see how it has changed and understand why is a crucial skill for all snipers. Not only is change a reliable indicator of potential risk but it can also reveal intent. In intent we decipher motivation which, in turn, determines behavior. Memory plays a key role in understanding when and why something may happen.
  • Observation – snipers learn to see instead of just look. Because everything is a potential signal to them what they see is never just noise. They carefully filter everything through the contextual layer of their own intent and derive the information they need from what they see. The glint of light at the side of a road is more than just light being reflected from a shiny surface. The slight move of reeds in tall grass at odds with the breeze means more than just the factual information transmitted by its movement.

If we substitute a sniper’s skillset of Knowledge, Memory and observation for the knowledge graph, Google Index and web Crawling we can see that what snipers are trained to do is function like highly intelligent, semantic search machines.

There are two key takeaways here: First, such skills are directly transferable in the business domain and even in most life situations. Second, in order to use their brain in this way snipers need training. The mental training and the psychological aids that are developed as a result of it is what I detailed in The Sniper Mind: Eliminate Fear, Deal with Uncertainty, and Make Better Decisions.

These are basic skills which snipers then use as a foundation to build on the more complex tools they need that make them so formidable.

And now get ready for some Jack Reacher time at the Shooting Range time:

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