zenpundit.com » scenario

Archive for the ‘scenario’ Category

Trolleys come to Terror

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a western koan makes it onto German TV? ]
.

What Hala Jaber calls a supermarket trolley in this tweet is not what this post is about — but it sure does connect trolley and terror!

**

Here’s the terror side of things, in a tweet from John Horgan:

The BBC halls it an “interactive courtroom drama interactive courtroom drama centred on a fictional act of terror” and notes:

The public was asked to judge whether a military pilot who downs a hijacked passenger jet due to be crashed into a football stadium is guilty of murder.

Viewers in Germany, Switzerland and Austria gave their verdict online or by phone. The programme was also aired in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The vast majority called for the pilot, Lars Koch, to be acquitted.

Here’s the setup:

In the fictional plot, militants from an al-Qaeda offshoot hijack a Lufthansa Airbus A320 with 164 people on board and aim to crash it into a stadium packed with 70,000 people during a football match between Germany and England.

“If I don’t shoot, tens of thousands will die,” German air force Major Lars Koch says as he flouts the orders of his superiors and takes aim at an engine of the plane.

The jet crashes into a field, killing everyone on board.

So, is the pilot guilty, or not guilty?

**

At the very least, he has our sympathy — but how does that play out in legal proceedings?

What’s so fascinating here is the pilot’s dilemma, which resembles nothing so much as a zen koan.

Except for the Trolley Problem:

trolley_problem
Image from Wikimedia by McGeddon under license CC-BY-SA-4.0

**

Substitute an Airbus for the trolley, 164 people for the lone individual on the trolley line, and 70,000 people for the cluster of five — and the pilot for the guy who can make a decision and switch the tracks.

There you have it: terror plot and trolley problem running in parallel.

To be honest, I think the full hour-plus movie is far more immersive, to use a term from game design, than the Trolley Problem stated verbally as a problem in logic — meaning that the viewer is in some sense projected, catapulted into the fighter-pilot’s hot seat — in his cockpit, facing a high speed, high risk emergency, and in court, on trial for murder.

It’s my guess that more people would vote for the deaths of 164 under this scenario than for the death of one in the case of the trolley — but that’s a guess.

**

The German film scenario — adapted from a play by Ferdinand von Schirach — is indeed a courtroom drama, a “case” in the sense of “case law”. And it’s suggestive that koans, too, are considered “cases” in a similar vein. Here, for instance, is a classic definition of koans :

Kung-an may be compared to the case records of the public law court. Kung, or “public”, is the single track followed by all sages and worthy men alike, the highest principle which serves as a road for the whole world. An, or “records”, are the orthodox writings which record what the sages and worthy men regard as principles [..]

This principle accords with the spiritual source, tallies with the mysterious meaning, destroys birth-and-death, and transcends the passions. It cannot be understood by logic; it cannot be transmitted in words; it cannot be explained in writing; it cannot be measured by reason. It is like a poisoned drum that kills all who hear it, or like a great fire that consumes all who come near it. [..]

The so-called venerable masters of Zen are the chief officials of the public law courts of the monastic community, as it were, and their collections of sayings are the case records of points that have been vigorously advocated.

**

Relevant texts:

  • John Daido Loori, Sitting with Koans
  • John Daido Loori, The True Dharma Eye
  • Sunday surprise: Synchronize watches!

    Sunday, June 26th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — from science and religion, two prime resources for scenario planners ]
    .

    Here are two versions of how close we may be to The End of Story. In the upper panel, a glimpse of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Dashboard, representing their version of the scientific view:

    DQ Doomsday Rapture

    In the lower panel, the current state of the Rapture Index, representing the view of a Christian website dedicated to reading the signs and keeping us updated on our proximity to a day that, per scripturam, “knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”

    **

    Sources:

  • Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Doomsday Dashboard
  • The Rapture Index, updated June 20, 2016

  • Matthew 24.36 (KJV), But of that day and hour knoweth no man
  • Subzin movie quotes, Synchronize watches
  • **

    Who you gonna believe?

    As Tim Furnish might say, BREXIT is not the Apocalypse, not even close — it hasn’t even merited an uptick in the Rapture Index.

    Hipbonegamer on the Art of Future Warfare

    Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — writing in a very different mode this time — I’m chuffed ]
    .

    Today a quasi-science-fictional scenario I wrote for The Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfare proect was posted as a “featured entry” in their “Great War” war-art challenge. You may recall my commenting on the challenge in an earlier post, Art of Future War? August Cole, who is running the project, encouraged me in a comment to write up an entry for the challenge, which I did.

    My entry begins like this:

    Flashing across my sub-eyes and a few dozen others today, those tiny edge of vision thunderclouds that when my saccade leaps to them indicate increasing war chance – lit by a single bolt of miniscule lightning. As my transport turns itself into its parkplace, too far from the Ed’s for me to throat her a quick morning buzz, I flipvision up and “Temple” appears in yellow and red across the sub-world, and an accompanying jolt from the adrenals gets me out of the comfort of my now stationary pod, through visual check-in and up to my console where I can dig into deets.

    I was the key-chooser of “Temple” for an accelerated, amplified and psychenhanced notification, having back in the day read Gorenberg on Temple Mount as the “most hotly contested piece of real estate on earth” – a phrase which haunts me still, since the clashing “end times” beliefs of the three relevant belief systems – all three messianic, one mahdist into the bargain – are undercurrents I track “out of the corner of my subs” on the principle that we shouldn’t overlook what seems vaguely irrational to us, when it’s passionately real to others. That way lies blindsiding, never a pleasant outcome.

    In out-reality, which my in-reality strives to keep accurately mapped and understood — though that’s a clear impossibility in practice… in out-reality, then, attempts to wipe one holy place off another’s sacred site are standard fare in crisis sparks, have been since the Ayodhya riots, hey, maybe since Hagia Sophia became a mosque or the Mezquita in Cordoba sprouted a cathedral. I could go back into antiquity, if any of my throatees are interested.

    And so on — you can read the whole thing on their site under the title News Enhancement In An Info Overloaded Age. I had me a great time writing this, and long time Zenpundit readers will recognize many familiar strands of my thinking, under cover of some fun futuristic jargon..

    **

    Overall project description:

    The Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfare project is driven by the Scowcroft Center on International Security’s mandate to advance thinking and planning for the future of warfare. The project’s core mission is to cultivate a community of interest in works and ideas arising from the intersection of creativity and expectations about how emerging antagonists, disruptive technologies, and novel warfighting concepts may animate tomorrow’s conflicts.

    The “Great War” challenge winning entry:

  • Nikolas Katsimpras, Coffee, Wi-Fi and the Moon
  • Other featured entries posted to date:

  • Ashley Henley, Dec. 8, 2041: Another Day of Infamy
  • Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr., Tallinn Is Burning
  • Matt Cavanaugh, Fear Paralyzes Pacific As Army Major Awaits Hearing
  • Saku, Pacific Plunged Into The Abyss!
  • **

    They’re inviting artist, writers and other creative thinkers to spin out ideas in the general direction of future preparedness — in their own way, approaching some of the same territory as the Office of Naval Research and Naval Postgraduate School‘s MMOWGLI (“Massive Multiplayer Online Wargame Leveraging the Internet”) — which Im also thinking about, and will probably dip my toes in..

    All of which is forcing me to think a whole lot about boxes and assumptions — how to recognize our assumptions and think outside our boxes — questions that are never too far from my mind in any case.

    Stay tuned, there’s more to come.

    Making Historical Analogies about 1914

    Friday, January 10th, 2014

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

    The Independent has a short, quasi-sensationalist, article featuring historian Margaret MacMillan discussing what is likely to become the first pop academic cottage industry of 2014….making historical analogies about 1914 and World War I! MacMillan is a senior scholar of international relations and administrator at Oxford ( where she is Warden of St Antony’s College)  with a wide range of research interests, including the First World War on which she has published two books.  I am just going to excerpt and comment on the historical analogies MacMillan made – or at least the ones filtered by the reporter and editor – she’s more eloquent in her own writing where each of these points are treated at greater length:

    Is it 1914 all over again? We are in danger of repeating the mistakes that started WWI, says a leading historian 

    Professor Margaret MacMillan, of the University of Cambridge, argues that the Middle East could be viewed as the modern-day equivalent of this turbulent region. A nuclear arms race that would be likely to start if Iran developed a bomb “would make for a very dangerous world indeed, which could lead to a recreation of the kind of tinderbox that exploded in the Balkans 100 years ago – only this time with mushroom clouds,”

    …..While history does not repeat itself precisely, the Middle East today bears a worrying resemblance to the Balkans then,” she says. “A similar mix of toxic nationalisms threatens to draw in outside powers as the US, Turkey, Russia, and Iran look to protect their interests and clients. 

    Several comments here. There is a similarity in that like the unstable Balkan states of the early 20th century, many of the Mideastern countries are young, autocratic, states with ancient cultures that are relatively weak  and measure their full independence from imperial rule only in decades.  The Mideast is also like the Balkans, divided internally along ethnic, tribal, religious, sectarian and linguistic lines.

    The differences though, are substantial. The world may be more polycentric now than in 1954 or 1994 but the relative and absolute preponderance of American power versus all possible rivals, even while war-weary and economically dolorous, is not comparable to Great Britain’s position in 1914.  The outside great powers MacMillan points to are far from co-equal and there is no alliance system today that would guarantee escalation of a local conflict to a general war. Unlike Russia facing Austria-Hungary over Serbia there is no chance that Iran or Russia would court a full-scale war with the United States over Syria.

    On the negative side of the ledger, the real problem  is not possible imperial conquest but the danger of regional collapse. “Toxic nationalism” is less the problem than the fact that the scale of a Mideastern Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict is so enormous, as are the implications . Nothing in the Balkans after the turn of the century compares to Syria, then Iraq and then other states sliding into a Muslim version of the Thirty Year’s War. An arc of failed states from Beirut to Islamabad is likelier than, say, a new Persian empire run by Tehran’s mullahs.

    Modern-day Islamist terrorists mirror the revolutionary communists and anarchists who carried out a string of assassinations in the name of a philosophy that sanctioned murder to achieve their vision of a better world

    Agree here. The analogy between 21st revolutionary Islamists and the 19th century revolutionary anarchists is sound.

    And in 1914, Germany was a rising force that sought to challenge the pre-eminent power of the time, the UK. Today, the growing power of China is perceived as a threat by some in the US.

    Transitions from one world power to another are always seen as dangerous times. In the late 1920s, the US drew up plans for a war with the British Empire that would have seen the invasion of Canada, partly because it was assumed conflict would break out as America took over as the world’s main superpower.

    Imperial Germany’s growing power was less troublesome to Edwardian British statesmen than the strategic error of the Kaiser and von Tirpitz to pursue a naval arms race with Great Britain that did not give Germany’even the ability to break a naval blockade but needlessly antagonized the British with an existential threat that pushed London into the French camp.

    As to military plans for invading Canada (or anywhere else), the job of military planning staffs are to create war plans to cover hypothetical contingencies so that if a crisis breaks out, there is at least a feasible starting point on the drawing board from which to begin organizing a campaign. This is what staff officers do be they American, French, Russian, German, Chinese and even British. This is not to be taken as serious evidence that the Coolidge or Hoover administrations were hatching schemes to occupy Quebec.

    More importantly, nuclear weapons create an impediment to Sino-American rivalry ending in an “August 1914” moment ( though not, arguably, an accidental or peripheral clash at sea or a nasty proxy conflict). Even bullying Japan ultimately carries a risk that at a certain point, the Japanese will get fed-up with Beijing, decide they need parity with China, and become a nuclear weapons state.

    Professor MacMillan, whose book The War That Ended Peace was published last year, said right-wing and nationalist sentiments were rising across the world and had also been a factor before the First World War

    In China and Japan, patriotic passions have been inflamed by the dispute over a string of islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyus in China. “Increased Chinese military spending and the build-up of its naval capacity suggest to many American strategists that China intends to challenge the US as a Pacific power, and we are now seeing an arms race between the two countries in that region,” she writes in her essay. “The Wall Street Journal has authoritative reports that the Pentagon is preparing war plans against China – just in case.” 

    “It is tempting – and sobering –to compare today’s relationship between China and the US with that between Germany and England a century ago,” Professor MacMillan writes. She points to the growing disquiet in the US over Chinese investment in America while “the Chinese complain that the US treats them as a second-rate power”.

    The “dispute” of the Senkakus has been intentionally and wholly created by Beijing in much the same way Chinese leaders had PLA troops provocatively infringe on Indian territory, claim the South China Sea as sovereign territory and bully ships of all nearby nations other than Russia in international or foreign national waters. This is, as Edward Luttwak recently pointed out, not an especially smart execution of strategy. China’s recent burst of nationalistic bluffing, intimidation and paranoia about encirclement are working along the path of self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Another similarity highlighted by the historian is the belief that a full-scale war between the major powers is unthinkable after such a prolonged period of peace. “Now, as then, the march of globalisation has lulled us into a false sense of safety,” she says. “The 100th anniversary of 1914 should make us reflect anew on our vulnerability to human error, sudden catastrophes, and sheer accident.

    Agree that globalization is no guarantee against human folly, ambition or the caprice of chance.

    What are your thoughts?

    Boykin and Furnish: be sober, be vigilant

    Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron — some good advice from Tim Furnish, which Jerry Boykin doesn’t appear to have heard… ]
    .

    Gen. Jerry Boykin (upper panel, below), speaking with his visionary preacher friend, Rick Joyner, naturally has the right to voice his views, including those that see Middle Eastern geopolitics through the lens of Isaiah 17:1-3

    … but he might want to listen to blog-friend Dr Timothy Furnish (lower panel, above) — a fellow Christian and conservative — first.

    **

    I fear that at the moment, Boykin sounds more vigilant than sober, though both are jointly scripturally mandated at 1 Peter 5:8.

    Here Boykin & Joyner discuss Syria, Biblical Prophecy, And The End Times:

    Rick JOYNER: And we’re seeing Biblical prophecy unfold.
    Jerry BOYKIN: We are.
    JOYNER: These are times in which things are unfolding in scripture, and one of the Scriptures that has never been fulfilled…
    BOYKIN: Unhuh…
    JOYNER: …and has to be fulfilled before this age can end, is that Damascus will be destroyed, never inhabited again.
    BOYKIN: I share your concern, Rick, and as you say, certainly, and I’ve said this for a long time, one of the ways that Damascus could be destroyed, never to be reoccupied, would be through a chemical attack. So let’s just take a scenario…

    Interested? You can hear Boykin’s scenario of Assad’s final gesture in utter defeat, here.

    **

    Sources:

  • Boykin
  • Furnish

  • I hope to discuss Boykin’s friendship with Joyner [“our only hope is a military takeover; martial law“] and what it may portend, in a subsequent post.


    Switch to our mobile site