Sunday, March 27, 2022

Kobyashi Maru

The Kobyashi Maru is an exercise in Starfleet’s training program, designed as a no-win situation that tests ethical decision-making and leadership. During the exercise, a cadet encounters a civilian ship in distress. To save the civilians, the cadet needs to enter the Neutral Zone, violating a treaty. If the cadet honors the treaty, the civilians will be left stranded and at the mercy of the hostile Klingons.  If the treaty is broken, the Klingon armies will likely attack and board the ship being commanded by the cadet. 

What would you do faced with the original Kobyashi Maru?

What do you think of Kirk’s “success” through cheating?

What sorts of ethical decisions are in play as the Kobyashi Maru opens? How do ethical decisions who went before us influence, limit, and shape the (perceived) possibilities of our decisions and leadership today?

Do you believe in the existence of no-win situations? (Kirk didn’t.)

When faced with a no-win situation, what is the most ethical place from which to proceed? What role does self-interest play in a no-win situation? Is it the only thing that one has any power over at that point?

It matters quite a bit how we go about making decisions when it seems as though there are no good options. Kirk famously said “I don’t like to lose” when faced with the Kobyashi Maru (and then cheated to change the rules so that he could “win”). No one likes to lose, and that’s why this exercise exists, especially at the point that a cadet is being considered for leadership. The point of the no-win situation presented (which Kirk cheats his way out of) is to see what kind of character a cadet has. Clearly Kirk’s character is one that finds personal victory important enough to cheat. 

This, as you might imagine, bothers me, not just because cheating is wrong (so so so wrong!!!) but because real life isn’t about winning, it’s often about losing with integrity, or at least as much integrity as you can salvage.