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Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being. (Albert Camus)
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    The way out –revisiting the Kobayashi-Maru – The entrance Key
    Project: Polytopia
    James T. Kirk: You know, coming back in time, changing history... that's cheating.
    Spock Prime: A trick I learned from an old friend.

    Star Treck (2009)

    There are many reasons to love science fiction, but sometimes, in some rare circumstances, a sci-fi work carries a gedanken experiment of the highest import, such is the case with Star Treck, Kobayashi Maru.

    For the benefit of those not familiar with the concept, a short recap:

    “The Kobayashi Maru is a test in the fictional Star Trek universe. It is a Starfleet training exercise designed to test the character of cadets in the command track at Starfleet Academy. The Kobayashi Maru test was first depicted in the opening scene of the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and also appears in the 2009 film Star Trek. In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Dr. McCoy referenced the test euphemistically to indicate the no-win scenario that he and Captain Kirk were facing.[1] The test's name is occasionally used among Star Trek fans or those familiar with the series to describe a no-win scenario, or a solution that involves redefining the problem.” For more – Wiki




    The moment you cheat for the sake of beauty, you know you're an artist.


    David Hockney


    The Kobayashi Maru test is an interesting state of affairs that was designed by Spock to be in principle unwinnable, Spock wanted to test what he called the ‘integrity ‘ of the space cadet in front of certain defeat, in the process judging the character of the cadet, in this case Kirk’s.
    Kirk however cheated the system by rewiring the parameters of the simulation in a fashion that will permit a winning scenario to be a viable option.
    Kirk cheated the simulation, an act normally considered to be of low moral basis and character, if moral at all, and yet we cannot but admire Kirk’s initiative.

    Captain James T Kirk cheated and we perceive him as a hero!

    Why?

    There are many answers to this question but to my mind the foremost explanation is quite simple, we admire the capacity of the human mind to prevail in front of impossible circumstances, and if it involves cheating, so be it.
    That is not say that there is no place for morality or ethics, or personal integrity, the point however should always be what is the meaning of cheating the system and under what conditions, is cheating a legitimate course of action? If indeed cheating it is.

    Cheating then:

    My readers would know that I hold a worldview that is fundamentally open and flexible, always a work in progress and deeply malleable. As a Polytopian, a futurist and writer, I never take anything for granted especially when the issue at play is the future of humanity, the future of personhood and more precisely perhaps the future of our mutual engagements as hyperconnected beings. As evolutionary agents involved with all life, humans are to the best of our knowledge the top dogs on this planet at this time as concerns tool using and manipulation. Nowhere more so, than in the realm of ideas and concepts, for these are the ultimate tools we have at our disposal.
    Nevertheless it appears that somehow we have become the slaves of our own making. Of course we can trace back the history of ideas and try to disentangle the idea itself from the mesh of nonsense it has accumulated across time and culture and yet at this point we may be better off, trying not so much to find a solution as trying to understand the current state of affairs of our ideas.

    There are two main ways by which ideas operate both of which are open to what can be called cheating.
    The first is convergence the second is divergence.

    Convergence

    In convergence we may assume that a set of circumstances revolves around the finding of a particular solution to a particular problem, in the case of convergence it is assumed that only a very specific answer is a viable option and thus a black and white state of affairs is presumed. Therefore under convergence having the ‘right’ answer is the only way out of the situation. In the case of the Kobayashi-Maru the correct answer presupposed by the designer of the simulation (Spock) was to lose.
    There are three main issues at play here; the first is the total acceptance that the designer of the simulation is the ultimate authority as to the state of affairs of the circumstances. In our case here Kirk disregarded this tenet, since by changing the parameters of the simulation he took the authority into his own hands.

    The second is the acceptance that the question (or problem or event, take your pick) has one single answer (defeat), again Capt. Kirk denied this fundamental assertion, a fact which led him to think of the problem as a divergence situation implying many possible answers, one of which obviously was to win the scenario.

    The third and most important to my eyes concerns the aim of the exercise, Starfleet Academy designed the test under the aegis of Spock to test the behavior of captains under assured defeat, in other words, under a no-win state of affairs. However the mindset of Kirk did not contain such an aim, for him the point of winning was stronger, in fact changing the aim of the simulation from one of an integrity test to one of an ingenuity test (self imposed).


    *Let it be said presently that it is not my wish here to try and define the reasons or motivations behind Kirk’s decision to choose an alternative path, for though it might be as some have suggested that Kirk was motivated by personal arrogance, hubris and the like and thus took an unethical path, the question remains the same was he cheating?

    Divergence

    In divergence we may assume that a set of circumstances is fundamentally complex and open-ended, therefore implying that for every set there are a number of questions and problems asked and presented simultaneously to which a broad set of answers are available. It is my assumption that in the case of the Kobayashi-Maru Kirk did a fascinating trick in his mind (much before the actual tempering with the computer), he redefined the state of affairs of the scenario from one of convergence to one of divergence, in the process applying the three aspects I have described above.

    Transmuting a problem from one of convergence (where there exists only one answer) to one of divergence (where a broad array of answers are possible) is the first principle applicable when confronting an impossible situation.

    It is quite obvious that in the regular course of affairs of our lives some issues appear to be of the convergence kind whilst other appear as belonging to the divergence kind, however, there is a fundamental difference between these two perspectives. The difference I believe lies with the term ‘agreement as to nature’. There must be an agreement of communication between minds as to the nature of circumstances; the two basic forms of agreement come in the form of the descriptive and the prescriptive, in which the descriptive form can be said to be a suggestion and the prescriptive form can be said to be an order.
    Put differently a descriptive form of agreement refers to the state of affairs as it actually is and the prescriptive form of agreement refers to the state of affairs, as it should be.
    In the issue I am trying to portray here clearly the design of Spock is of a prescriptive nature whilst the perception of Kirk of the same state of affairs (the simulation of KM) is clearly of a descriptive nature.
    Therefore it will be easy to see that there exists a strong correlation between Convergence and Prescriptive just as there is such strong correlation between Divergence and Descriptive.
    It is my view that just as Kirk played a mind trick transmuting the problem from a convergent one to a divergent one, he also performed a different trick, transforming a prescriptive state into a descriptive one.

    Transmuting a problem from one of prescriptive (where the rules are set) to one of descriptive (where the state of affairs is factual and not normative) is the second principle applicable when confronting an impossible situation.

    The question is again with us, was it legitimate for Kirk to, as it were, play this trick and transform a prescriptive state into a descriptive state? And was it cheating?

    A short analysis

    It should be clear by now that I do not believe Kirk cheated. On the contrary, it is my view that Kirk not only performed admirably, he might be the only cadet in Starfleet Academy ever (since he is purported to be the only one to ever pass the KM test) to show with utmost clarity that he carries the features and characteristics of a great leader, a great captain and possibly a unique perspective.

    To my thinking Kirk demonstrated a number of extraordinary features of the human mind, most important of which is his demonstrably capacity for critical thought. However before indulging in the explanation of Kirk’s critical reasoning we need take heed that this critical reasoning would not have been possible had not Kirk first have an axiomatic stance.
    The axiomatic stance, which is also the argument of rebuttal Kirk gave to Spock, was simple: “ I do not accept a no-win scenario” !
    The question concerning the legitimacy of such a stance is irrelevant since a stance in such a case as we have here is nothing less than a fundamental statement of belief about the state of affairs of the universe.
    By stating such a statement and taking such a stance Kirk declares his faith and not an objective reality, such a stance is in fact the hallmark of greatness defining a supreme form of realization that the state of affairs of the world is fundamentally open-ended and released to the potential interpretation and interference by the intelligence of the mind in question.
    The stance of non acceptance or non belief as presented in the statement of Kirk:” I do not believe in a no-win scenario” is the motivational support and ethical background upon which his critical reasoning came to dismantle the Convergent and Prescriptive and rebuild the situation into one of Divergent and Descriptive.

    The critical reasoning procedure was then an easy walk, first he questioned the basic premise of the scenario, namely: the scenario is a no-win scenario. Then he questioned the ultimate authority of the designer (Spock) and the implicit prescriptive rules and intended consequences (learn to cope with assured defeat) of the simulation. But his critical thinking did not stop there, applying the skill commonly called Fluid Intelligence Kirk tackled the situation in a fashion that disregarded all previous and past failures and set himself to the task of proving his stance (by rewiring the simulation computer) that no such animal exists as a no-win scenario.

    A philosophical challenge

    There is a Greek sense, a certain myth in the making in the act of Kirk, a certain playing of the game (‘gaming’ the game in modern parlance) in hubris like fashion. Kirk to my mind demonstrates exuberance and delight in triumph not only in defeating the defeat but also in taking a deep pleasure in the act, almost self-indulgent if not outright hedonistic.
    In a very real sense I think of Kirk’s response to the Kobayashi Maru as an aesthetic act of insurgence, not unlike Nietzsche’s rebellion.

    A stance of divergence and description is an act of freedom of self-narration against the cold front of convergence and prescription.


    will probably be continued..


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    Comments:


    gamma     Sat, Aug 25, 2012  Permanent link


    The movie was probably made with the help of a challenge presented, but the limitation that was set influenced the comedy and not the advancement of skill. (?)
    Autotelic     Sun, Aug 26, 2012  Permanent link
    Real World example of the Kobayashi-Maru -

    The whole "Cheating" issue reminds me of all the sports athletes that "dope". Although the human body has been "enhanced", it is stil the human or athlete achieveing such feats. The players mind simply does not accept a no-win scenario, and does what it need to do to get the wins or break the world records needed to achieve that elusive "hero" status. Sports should do away with the doping tests and finally allow the public a true show of what the human body can really do. Wether you eat a protein heavy diet, take extra oxygen, or inject HGH, level the playing field and allow players to get their bodies into whatever condition they see fit to compete, and let the games begin.
    Wildcat     Mon, Aug 27, 2012  Permanent link
    @Autotelic Indeed so, I quite agree with your view see here:

    http://www.wired.com/underwire/2012/07/alt-text-olympics-genetic-engineering/

    and here:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18951518

    more importantly read Alva Noe's pov here:

    https://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2012/08/24/160017038/making-peace-with-our-cyborg-nature
     
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