Beam me up, Enron Corp.

Elizabeth Nieto

Kenneth Lay is no Captain Kirk. The former Enron CEO lacked the ethical decision-making capabilities his “Star Trek” counterpart had. The ethics in popular culture lecture series kicked off on Monday with Dr. Judith Barad lecture on business ethics learned from “Star Trek.” Although she introduced a seemingly a curiously unrelated topic, the lecture merely illustrated moral and ethical dilemmas presented in the media of original “Star Trek” episodes.

The gist of Barad’s presentation was questioning whether people should base their decisions on reason or emotion. The audience watched a 20-minute clip of one particular “Star Trek” episode in which Kirk has two separate identities-one was the moral, rational, levelheaded self, the other was the irrational, impulsive, greedy character. In the meantime, Kirk’s crew was somehow teleported to a location where they could possibly freeze to death. Since Kirk’s identity was literally split between two bodies, Kirk was pressed with the moral dilemma of either saving his identity at the risk of killing his crew, or saving the crew and possibly dying himself.

Although Barad focused mostly on the ethical aspects with which the characters dealt in “Star Trek,” her argument also spilled into aspects of business. The parallel from her lecture to the business world can easily be drawn. Kirk, for instance, represents the leader, and his crew and confidants symbolize the management working under the head of the company. Then, in order to be a powerful leader in any type of business situation, the individual in charge must exemplify equilibrium between positive and negative energies. Barad presented the idea of the Aristotelian Golden Mean, in which if the manager inadvertently leans towards one vice, he or she should strive to reach the opposite vice in order to reach symmetry.

In order to have a successful business, the leader must exhibit a strong sense of control, in compliance with his judgment as well as the good of the entire group or company.

Barad stressed that all of these traits were present in Kirk and enabled him to deal with the many difficult decisions he faced, just as a business person must deal with similar ethical issues.