If-Then-Else and Kobayashi Maru

ITF4In the latest episode of Person of Interest If-Then-Else, Samaritan unleashes an attack on the stock market. Root, Finch, Reese, and Fusco attempt to counter the stock market crash by installing a computer program reversing Samaritan’s virus.

Root, Finch, Reese, and Fusco walk into a trap as Samaritan operatives surround the building. Trapped inside, the machine runs through possible scenarios. In the midst of the chaos, the machine is like the eye of the storm, calmly slowing everything down and weighing options.

The machine actually participates in a Star Trek like Kobayashi Maru. The story of the Kobayashi Maru is a test from the Star Trek universe—an unwinnable scenario designed to show the true colors of a commander under intense combat—a Starfleet cadet is given a mission to rescue a distressed ship. Little do they know the test is programmed to make this impossible.

The cadet faces a decision:

  • Attempt to rescue the freighter’s crew and passengers, which involves violating the Neutral Zone and potentially provoking the Klingons into an all-out war; or
  • Abandon the ship, potentially preventing war but leaving the freighter’s crew and passengers to die.

In If-Then-Else, the machine plays various simulations, with all possibilities ending badly. Similar to the Kobayashi Maru test where both the starship and the freighter are destroyed, the Person of Interest audience is forced to wait and watch as everyone, except Fusco dies agonizing deaths.

The real world problem is that Root, Finch, Reese, Fusco and Shaw face adversaries who do not play by the rules. Yet Finch reminds to never … ever … cheat. And just like Person of Interest, we’re taught ethical manners, lest we else face expulsion and castigation. The better option, as the Kobayashi Maru teaches, is to step outside the rules of the game – that we can succeed against no-win scenarios.

Some of my fans will question and complain, that I being a Buddhist am claiming cheating is good. The same complaints were heard when Captain Kirk “cheated” in order to pass the Kobayashi Maru test.

One important lesson of If-Then-Else comes from Harold Finch. “Chess is just a game. Real people are not pieces.” And that’s true. In the everyday world, people leave for work and die. They have a heart attack, get shot, have a car accident, get murdered, fall at work, etc., etc. That’s real.

In the If-Then-Else episode, Greer states Samaritan is needed. So I ask, do we need a Samaritan? In fact, some claim we already have a version of Samaritan. If you think a Samaritan is not required, then I offer:

On January 7, at 11:30 – Car arrives in front of the building on Rue Nicolas Appert where Charlie Hebdo’s office is located. Two people dressed in black and hooded emerge from the vehicle carrying automatic weapons called Kalashnikovs. The attack lasted five minutes, 12 dead.

~Terrorist Attack on French Newspaper~

Life doesn’t always play by ethical rules. One must learn to think creatively when considering adversary behavior. I always meditate creatively.

It’s trite to observe that the cost of successes only to further damage the political system we bring forward to heal.



Categories: Life Lessons

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