Our conversation centered around whether or not Dr. Holmes is correct in asserting that that peace time militaries shy away from making scenario’s too difficult, and whether or not our Navy should “make the simulation harder than real life.”
My reply to the good LT was that I agree with Dr. Holmes, we should be making our training harder than real life. But, I also want to know what the logical limit to such a line of thinking is–that we need to falsify ‘harder than life’ before we can say what our training should really be.
The Kobayashi Maru is a striking example from science fiction of a no-win scenario used to train a ship’s crew. But, such training immediately runs into the limits of human endurance already strained by the daily routine of shipboard life.
Tangent: I’m not sure that the purpose of the Kobayashi Maru scenario is to create a situation more difficult than those that Starfleet officers would face in real life. Rather, it was to prepare them for eventualities that some significant percentage could expect to face in the line of duty. Numerous Constitution class starships were lost, for example, even in the absence of a major war. The idea, I think, was that an appreciation of mortality could inspire a certain sense of grace in defeat.
On the broader point, there are surely benefits to making practice harder than real life, but there are also downsides. Simulations which produce unrealistically poor chances for success can serve to demoralize, as well as to make policy unnecessarily cautious. These questions came up often during the “Red Eagle” period of US fighter training, in which USAF pilots almost certainly flew MiGs with skill and tactics that typical Soviet pilots could not match. It’s not obvious that American pilots benefited from flying against MiGs using tactics that actual MiGs might never use.