The Prisoners’ Dilemma in Fiction
| Peter Klein |
From Walter Miller’s dystopian classic A Canticle for Liebowitz:
It was said that God, in order to test mankind which had become swelled with pride as in the time of Noah, had commanded the wise men of that age . . . to devise great engines of war such as had never before been upon the Earth, weapons of such might that they contained the very fires of Hell, and that God had suffered these magi to place the weapons in the hands of princes, and to say to each prince, “Only because the enemies have such a thing have we devised this for thee, in order that they may know that thou hast it also, and fear to strike. See to it, m’Lord, that thou fearest them as much as they shall now fear thee, that none may unleash this dread thing which we have wrought.”
But the princes, putting the words of their wise men to naught, thought each to himself, If I but strike quickly enough, and in secret, I shall destroy those others in their sleep, and there will be none to fight back; the earth shall be mine.
Such was the folly of princes, and there followed the Flame Deluge.