Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, “What the Dog Saw” (a collection of his writings for The New Yorker) includes a piece from 2003 called “Connecting the Dots.” Gladwell introduces readers to the concept of “creeping determinism.” He defines this as the sense that the ultimate outcome of an uncertain situation seems almost inevitable given the benefit of hindsight.

The most famous example of this phenomenon concerned the attacks of Sept. 11. Given what we know now-notably the spike in cell phone traffic among suspected Al Qaeda members and warnings that Al Qaeda may attempt to send students to civilian aviation schools-it seems easy to say that the nation’s intelligence agencies should have sniffed out the plot, but when the FBI’s counterterrorism group had 68,000 outstanding leads, connecting the dots would have been nearly impossible.

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