If you aren’t a Star Trek fan, you might not know about the Kobyashi Maru test. I don’t doubt that someone (or more) has written an entire doctoral thesis on the Kobyashi Maru test. What it is – simply – is an impossible situation in which there can be no winner.
As with so many things from Star Trek, there are deeper questions, challenges, that reflect back on the lives we lead – as people, and as citizens of nations. The paradox presented in the Kobyashi Maru test is simple. A starship is given the option – break an international…let’s say…interplanetary…treaty to rescue 300 lives that are in imminent and immediate danger…risking war…or let them die.
If you do not enter the “neutral zone” – 300 lives are lost. If you do, you are surrounded by enemy forces with little chance of successfully shooting your way out.
What do you do when you find yourself in a no-win position, caught between two immovable options? Where there is no way out put to hurt someone you love…where each side presents you the option of choosing their solution or the promise of a destroyed relationship? What do nations do when they must sacrifice some lives or risk many?
What does a nation do when it is caught between the need to protect some of its citizens, which requires, in many cases, curtailing the rights of others? What happens when as a society you want peace – and to maintain whatever peace you can manage, you must be constantly ready to wage war?
What happens when you are surrounded by enemies who are ever on alert for an opportunity to destroy you. What happens when on a personal or national level you face the Kobayashi Maru test?
Of course, the difference between fiction and reality is that, in fiction at least, you can cheat.