Mirror Mirror - 2017

The Kobyashi Maru: How the Modern World has reached its own No-Win Scenario

By Jennifer Allen

For those who have followed Star Trek over the decades, they may have heard of a Starfleet cadet test where the cadet (as an acting captain during the test) must decide whether to save a civilian vessel while being attacked by Klingons or Romulans (depending on who's taking the test). Unfortunately the test usually ends with either the civilians killed or the Starfleet vessel destroyed, or both. Very few cadets have managed to “beat" the test, but the primary purpose has always been to see how he or she would be able to improvise during a no-win scenario.

Captain James T. Kirk has been famously known in both shown timelines to have simply cheated to beat the test. He was also famous over the years to have never accepted a no-win scenario, despite facing those odds on quite a few occasions in the books and films.

The real world has been going through its own series of events in recent memory that could also been seen as unwinnable. As the old saying goes, violence begets violence… and that is extremely true now.

It always starts with someone or a group of someones who feel they have been wronged in some fashion, whether intentional or not. This could be something that happened an hour ago or a few hundred years ago. Regardless, the target of this initial wrongdoing feels that some comeuppance must be distributed.

The other end is those who are the targets of this retaliation. Often they are faced with one of two reactions. One of these is to stay passive in hopes that the problem will just “go away." More often than not, this will be seen as a cowardly act and offers the impression that they are pushovers who can continuously be abused. The other reaction is, of course, to reciprocate with equal or more violence. Obviously that just turns the confrontation into an endless cycle of revenge with more and more destruction each time.

But in history there has occasionally been a third reaction which has a much more passive aggressive tone. Often the violence is met with some sort of ban or restriction. Most of the time, this ban or restriction is in the form of tradeable goods such as food or textiles. Sometimes the laborers go on strike until their demands can be met. Sometimes these same laborers will even go so far as to destroy those tradeable goods to make a point. This method requires a considerable amount of stamina on both sides, but eventually one will bend to the other purely out of necessity.

In most recent memory the passive aggressive approach of banning has taken to a completely different strategy. Now some countries are telling immigrants or potential immigrants that they cannot stay. In some cases this is due to lack of space or jobs, but in others it's because of potential terrorism and therefore the emphasis is on protection.

So these people, who are migrating for the sole purpose of escaping the corruption and violence in their own countries, are then met with barricades that tell them to go elsewhere. Often they end up in a location that's worse because they have no other choice.

In all of these situations, the outcome is the same. Whether through resentment or bloodshed, the entire world is stuck in their own Kobyashi Maru.

At least for now, there is no James T. Kirk in the real world who can cheat the system. But really is there even a possible cheat at all? Kirk (in both cases) just reprogrammed the test so that he could beat it. He often broke the rules and wrote new ones in order to get his way.

Some thought that the “no immigrants allowed" method would solve the problem, but all that does is make civilians go elsewhere with resentment. If they don't get killed in the militant states they are forced to go to, then they will no doubt see this as a good reason to repay the hatred with more… and we all reach the cycle of revenge that started this whole mess.

If there is a cheat to break this continuous chain of eye for an eye, I hope we find it soon. Perhaps “reprogamming the test" is the way to go... but where should we start?