The Prisoner’s Dilemma and Kobayashi Maru

An Octopus

At group today, I found a way to Kobayashi Maru the prisoner’s dilemma.

The prisoner’s dilemma is an example in game theory that has no obvious solution. John and Frank were arrested for an alleged robbery, in our example, a warehouse. The idea is that the two prisoner’s are separated and interrogated independently by the police. The police say that if you confess and implicate the other person, you’ll only get 1 year in prison and the other will get 20, but if both of you confess, you’ll both get 10 years.

The prisoner’s dilemma that pits loyalty against self-preservation. There isn’t any clear way to behave. It’s a test of character and the relationship between two people.

Kobayashi Maru is a famous incident in Star Trek history. It’s a simulation of a battle with the Klingons. Basically, the captain can’t win and will end up dying along with the rest of his crew.

Kirk, famously, cheated and reprogrammed the simulator to let him win.

So me and my partner come up with a backstory to the alleged crime. The two of us had been friends since 7th grade. When were were 20, we went to prison because of a automobile theft. Now the pair was 35. About a month before the arrest and warehouse incident, we’d had a falling out because of a mutual love interest.

So, my out-of-the-box solution: I confessed that I had done it, but the other person was innocent. He had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time and it was actually a third person who was my co-conspirator in the robbery. In my mind when we played out the game, I was telling the truth and not just making up a story for the friend. But, regardless, I think it would blow out of the water any deal that the police had proposed.

In the experiment that we did today, the other person confessed as well, so according to the rules of the dilemma, we would both get 10 years in prison. The group leader didn’t reveal my actual note….

In summary, I had used my loyalty to my friend to help him out. It threw the whole situation in the air so that a prosecutor be required to sort it all out and the police wouldn’t have the tidy mutual confession.

It certainly would not be good for me in my solution. I used my loyalty to my friend to, potentially, put my life at risk. If the third person was vengeful, he could easily arrange for me to be killed.

So, I broke the dilemma, just as Kirk had broke the Kobayashi Maru simulation.

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