Monday, May 23, 2016

The Lesser of Two Evils

A group of time travelers journey to the year 2166 to prevent a fascist from conquering the world. They discover that if they succeed, Earth will be invaded by an alien race 10 years later and destroyed because the world was not united under one leader. The time travelers are faced with an impossible choice of having to choose the lesser of two evils in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

In a dystopian future in the television series The 100, an artificial intelligence named Ally has placed humanity under mind control. The few remaining free will humans have a choice: flip a switch that will destroy Ally and free everyone from Ally’s mind control but face impending nuclear destruction, or remain safe by allowing Ally to avert the destruction but surrender humanity’s free will forever. Again, the protagonists are faced with an impossible choice of having to choose the lesser of two evils.

What would you do in those circumstances? Enslavement versus destruction: reluctantly, most would choose the lesser of two evils. At least you survive in one outcome. But it’s a really, really bad outcome. It’s the worst case scenario short of destruction. This is the Hobson’s choice we face in the 2016 presidential election. We know the Democratic choice Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt politician since Richard Nixon and Americans deserve better from their government; but we also know the Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump lacks the temperament and requisite knowledge to be president. The danger of a Trump presidency is that he will be completely in over his head, unprepared for the role, and not know what he’s doing. The danger of a Clinton presidency is that she will know exactly what she’s doing. We are trapped in our own dystopian science-fiction reality show.

In The 100, the young leader pulls the lever destroying the artificial intelligence and restoring free will to humanity. “But you’ll be destroyed,” Ally says. The young leader replies, “We’ll find a way; we always find a way.” This is a bold statement of optimism in the face of adversity. Throughout its history, America has faced and overcome overwhelming odds, from the Axis threat in World War II to landing a man on the moon. We don’t throw in the towel. We always find a way.

Faced with the Kobayashi Maru test, Star Trek’s Capt. Kirk had to choose the lesser of two evils in a computer simulation: attempt to rescue a disabled ship with the outcome that his own ship would be destroyed or leave the disabled ship to certain destruction. Kirk found a third option: he cheated, reprogramming the computer. Perhaps the way out of our own dystopian science-fiction reality show is by thinking outside the box, as Kirk did. Perhaps we should say “No” to both Clinton and Trump; sorry, but we’ll find another way. We’ll reject this Hobson’s choice by thinking outside the box and looking for a third option that is neither Democratic nor Republican. Perhaps BernieSanders can be persuaded to run as an independent, or maybe voters will be forced to give serious consideration to existing third-party candidates like the Libertarian’s Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein. There’s always a way.

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