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Riddle Me This, Batman: What Do You Call Someone Who is Too Anxious for the Trust Protocol Test?

Discover the power of the smallest of things with this exploration of the Prime Directive, the Trust Protocol, and the Butterfly Effect. Learn how Batman uses the Riddler to test for trustworthiness, and how we can all strive to be like him.

I Took the Trust Protocol Test - Here's What I Learned

By Michael Levin

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Sometimes a friend tries to tell you what to read, and you only take partial advice. I read Ready Player One and Player One is indeed ready. But I would have been better off if I also read the Star Wars books, or probably one or two particular ones my Flying Point friend was trying to get me to read.

No worries. I got the lessons from RP1. And I am a huge Dune fan and am pretty sure there’s nothing in Star Wars I didn’t get in a better, more original form from Dune… even if it’s from Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson who are vastly underrated. It’s so easy for snooty tootie critics to put down, they way they did the actual blueprints for this whole disclosure shindig, Enterprise.

The Enterprise

The series is named for the ship which is named for the Endeavor. Oh wait, that’s an entirely other ship. Is it going to be all geek in-jokes or are you going to get to the point? Remember explicit (saying it plainly and directly) is better than implicit (beating around the bush). But it comes off so boring if you just come out and say it.

Oh, okay. Star Trek has just about everything right. Humanity get to become a a high tech secular humanist species that is very powerful in a Galactic Federation where money does not exist (wink wink nudge nudge) and everyone gets along after avoiding a disastrous first concat encounter.

Uh duhhh. Was it really that hard to figure out. And the Prime Directive exits but it’s controversial and abided by to different degrees. And the Federation itself is a bit of a mess, but it’s a good mess. It’s a mess that works.

The Prime Directive

The Prime Directive is the most important thing in Star Trek. It’s the directive that says you don’t interfere with the natural development of a society. It’s the directive that says you don’t give a society technology that they are not ready for. And if the tech doesn’t ruin them, the Smallpox will. Enough about Star Trek. Now onto War of The Worlds.

War of The Worlds

War of The Worlds is a story about a society that is not ready for the technology that is given to them. And it’s not just the technology that ruins them. It’s the biological directives that are given to them. Their biological directives cause them to be “greedy aliens”. They can’t help it and it’s not really even particularly wrong if they were in a sanctuary designed to support their biological imperatives. Predators will be predators. There’s a great Lower Decks episode with Ensign Bradward “Brad” Boimler about it. Great stuff, you should watch it.

But with the event of the WoTW story, they were not in a sanctuary. They were in a world that was not ready for them. And they were given technology that they were not ready for. And so they tried bullying a new society into submission. And they were defeated by the smallest of things.

The Smallest of Things

The smallest of things is the most important thing in the world. It’s the smallest of things that can make the biggest of differences. There’s a list of “common fallacies” out there in which you’ll find all the usual suspects such as “appeal to authority”, “appeal to popularity”, and the ever-popular “straw man”. But you won’t find the “smallest of things” fallacy (a.k.a. The Butterfly Effect) on the list. That’s because we intuitively know that a butterfly can flap its wings and cause a hurricane. It’s just it’s statistically unlikely.

The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect is the most important of all effects in the world. The tiniest pebble dropped into the surface of a pond to cause ripples that can be felt on the other side of the world. Our brains themselves are of physical matter and are subject to the laws of physics. Therefore all that wacky sounding Close Encounters of the N’th kind is possible. Not common. Highly unlikely. But possible. Every once in awhile, a butterfly flaps its wings and causes a hurricane. And that’s why we have the Prime Directive. And that’s why we have the Trust Protocol.

The Trust Protocol

The Trust Protocol is the most important protocol in the world. Two strangers are traveling in the woods. Or two strangers are travelling in the vast interstellar void of space. Same thing. They meet. They greet. They project a demeanor of calm friendliness first, for what more can they do? Each thinking to themselves: “Is this a bandit? Is this a pirate? Is this a predator?”

The journey is a long one and now that they met, it’s life or death. Each knows of the others existence, whereabouts and general direction of travel. Each has to go to sleep during the night or otherwise lower their guard from time to time. A legendary Samurai Miyamoto Musashi used to not bathe for fear of having a moment of vulnerability in the bath. Miyamoto Musashi was very stinky, but he was undefeated in 61 recorded duals and died peacefully of cancer.

We are not Miyamoto Musashi. We are not Samurai. None of us want to be that, though we all equally admire Batman. Every team in this nutty galactic alliance of ours loves Batman and “get” or for the SyFi buffs out there grok the fact that Batman doesn’t and will never use a gun out of a sense of morals or ethics. We can never remember which, as our brains work somewhat differently and we find your monkey chatter confusing. But we do know that Batman is a good guy and we all want to be like him.

Batman’s Solution: Tap The Riddler

Batman’s solution to the problem of the Riddler is to tap the Riddler. Batman knows that the Riddler is a genius and that he can figure out any puzzle. Batman hates to admit it, but the Riddler is smarter than him. And so Batman consults with Riddler who says he has the answer, but you’re not going to like it. Batman says, “I don’t care. Just tell me.” And the Riddler says, “You have to take out a knife. One or the other side initiates this. If the other side freaks out at the site of the knife, they are untrustworthy. They are projecting what they would do to you in that situation and will not be able to believe you are not like them. The dangerous ones are like this. They lack imagination. Present the knife in the most non-threatening way possible. Maybe in a clear box that is visibly easy to open.

The person initiating the trust test places knife box at feet of stranger. Takes a pace or two in the opposite direction, turns back to stranger. Sets feet firmly rooted, says whatever they want to say to greater powers and raises arms over head clearly presenting back for a stabbing.

Let’s just get this over with now says initiator of test. Stranger no matter what language spoken will understand the gesture. Stranger will either stab or not stab. If stranger stabs, they are untrustworthy.

Riddler says “See, I told you you wouldn’t like it.” Batman says, “I don’t like it. But I understand it. And I will do it.”

More to come, but methinks it’s a good time for:

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