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Embracing the Kobayashi Maru – Why You Should Teach Your Students to Cheat [pdf] (rumint.org)
47 points by danpalmer 1495 days ago | hide | past | web | 31 comments | favorite

Slight nitpick, but is that really Kobayashi Maru? From what I've remember - Kobayashi Maru is testing how examined person reacts under extreme stress of a no win scenario, not whether he cheats or not.

Clearly the article should be titled "Embracing James Tiberius Kirk's Solution to the Kobayashi Maru"

I'm just going to take the opportunity to react to reboot-Trek and say that I hope the non-angsty version of young Kirk had a slightly classier way of handling that particular hack... because as it was presented by angsty-Kirk, it was utterly uncreative and dull.

Come on, man, you should have more style than that.

Seeing as how the internet's original purpose was to facilitate Star Trek debates, I think it's relevant to the contrived title of this article to point towards what the semi-canon materials have to say about Kirk's Kobayashi Maru:


from Memory Beta (non-canon Star Trek wiki -- eg, novels and comics):

> Before his third attempt, Kirk reprogrammed the scenario, eliminating the parts of the program that made it impossible to win, thus creating a level playing field where success was not guaranteed, but at least possible. He then told the simulation's Klingon, Kozor, that he was "Captain Kirk". When they heard this, the attacking fleet instantly assisted Kirk in locating Kobayashi Maru. Kirk then tricked the Klingon ships into warping away, giving him time to evacuate the Maru. The whole thing took eighteen minutes and twenty-seven seconds. Admirals Jublik and Zheng gave Kirk a commendation for original thinking, as well as ninety-nine demerits, just short of the expulsion limit. (TOS novel: The Kobayashi Maru, TOS comic: "Star Crossed", TOS short story: "A Test of Character")



from Memory Alpha ((mostly) canon Star Trek wiki):

> Julia Ecklar's The Kobayashi Maru tells how Kirk, Pavel Chekov, Montgomery Scott and Sulu each faced the problem. In the novel, Kirk won the scenario by reprogramming the simulation so that the Klingons believed he was a famous starship captain, though he was only a cadet at the time. Chekov self-destructed his ship, taking the Klingons with him; to his humiliation, his instructor pointed out that ejecting his crew in lifepods did not save them, due to the explosions of the four warp-drive vessels and the attending radiation. Scott tricked the simulation into overestimating the effectiveness of a theoretical attack against the Klingon ships' overlapping shielding. Faced with proof that such attacks, although quite valid in theory, would not work in reality and that Scott knew this, Academy staff reassigned Scott from command school to Engineering (his true love - he had used this "solution" precisely because of these consequences). Sulu, given the consequences of entry into the Zone versus the slim chance of recovering the crew of the freighter, elected not to conduct a rescue operation.


But Kirk is a cad. Why would anything he does be classy?

Especially a young Kirk, who hasn't yet had years to develop a sense of style.

Yeah, if by classier they meant closer to upper-class, then I would have to disagree too. Kirk was clearly not upper-class.

Maybe they meant to say flashier or something else.

Oh yes. The problem is that people are coming out of college too ethical these days. Especially in business. We need much less ethical business leaders. That was sarcasm. This author has announced himself as a proud sociopath.

What does willingness to circumvent arbitrary systems of rules - which may or may not be aligned with desirable outcomes - have to do with ethics?

To me, ethics seems to have more to do with the good vs. evil dimension than with the lawful vs. chaotic.

In fact, doesn't the term "sociopath" seem more appropriate for people who source ethics in external rules rather than native conscience?

The authors also presented a talk at Shmoocon 2012: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0JHDr1oT0Y

Oh nice, didn't know about this. I'll watch this talk later!


I'm going to clarify to the following and leave it that.

The world is not a homogenous group where cheaters can dominate honest folks with their mathematically 'dominating' strategy.

instead honest folks very much do make it a top priority to avoid these cheaters.

if a top university teaches cheating, its alums will simply not have access to, for example, honest early-stage markets based on trust.

i disagree with the findings of the article for this reason.

It seems funny that professors don't think the students are cheating normally. If this is what the students are willing to share with the proctors the real 'guns' must be more amazing.

The ultimate "learn faster than your foe or die" is in my opinion counter-insurgency. There is the army manual on counter insurgency by Gen. Petraeus(free download http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/army/fm3-24.pdf), heavy on army procedures, but the general guidelines are very interesting. There are also David Kilcullen´s books, very well written with great insights on the mistakes made on Afghanistan and Irak.

Coram's Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War provides an utterly fascinating glimpse into this type of competitive thinking. Boyd's theories are regularly cited by today's Lean Startup personalities. Here's an excerpt from his magnum opus:

"To comprehend and cope with our environment we develop mental patterns or concepts of meaning. The purpose of this paper is to sketch out how we destroy and create these patterns to permit us to both shape and be shaped by a changing environment. In this sense, the discussion also literally shows why we cannot avoid this kind of activity if we intend to survive on our own terms."

I never managed to finish the one Kilcullen book I bought.

The OODA loop, always relevant. People that don't understand the concept are doomed to die upon it. Exceptionally relevant in the high-tech business world.

Funny, I was just going to chime in with a Boyd reference.

The Osinga book is excellent if you have the determination to read it. It isn't a light read.

Thanks, I'll put it on the reading list.

The "learn faster" thing only really applies when you have an actual arms race of any kind.

Which asks the question: did they repeat this, and did future students anticipate it, and did they deploy countermeasures?

Incorrect. Whoever learns faster is more fit to survive and thrive on their own terms. They have greater freedom of action.

That... doesn't even make sense. Did the professors have less freedom of action? Do the students have more?

On a somewhat unrelated topic, I've been trying to remember the name of the 'Kobayashi Maru' for months and I ket remembering it as 'Komagata Maru' which is something completely different. Thank you for jogging my memory.

For those interested in Japanese ship-naming conventions[0], from Wiki:

> The word maru (丸 meaning "circle") is often attached to Japanese ship names. The first ship known to follow this convention was the Nippon Maru, flagship of daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi's 16th century fleet.

0: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_ship-naming_convention...

The meta-cheat is asking why you should be shilling for grades in the first place.

For me it would be a red flag to study or work at any institution who expects me to memorize more than the first 6 digits of π unless some kind of cake is involved.

Well obviously, the point was only to make it impossible so that students cheated.

I guess the real takeaway from this article is that cheating encourages people to employ creative skills otherwise left unused in many class situations? I had a hard time grokking the underlying message of the article. Clearly just cheating to fake your understanding is not what's being advocated here.

Did anyone else notice the picture of the course text? It was Cory Doctorow's "Little Brother". I would love to hear what an officer training course has to say in a discussion of that book. Wow.

The article is not endorsing cheating, as many commenters seem to think. It is endorsing thinking like a cheater to anticipate cheaters' attacks.

The article is endorsing cheating as a learning methodology. Cheating helps to drive innovation. However, I agree that the article is not endorsing cheating from an ethical standpoint.

And this is why information security will always be lightyears behind any threat in the real world. If you introduce to a classroom of people a task intended to make them cheat, and then you're required to follow up with the information that they're supposed to cheat, well... Let's just say that the people they're supposed to be defending networks and systems against don't need to be told when and where to cheat a system.

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