What every spaceship needs: a self-distract button
The example of movie after movie should give clear guidance to astrophysical engineers. Time and again Our Hero manages to keep the spaceship Galactro, or Phaeson, or Whatever, from destroying itself with only 3 seconds to spare. Why? Because somebody put their coffee mug on the self-destruct button, and Our Hero must race to the other side of the ship to access manual override…again! Sheesh.
This is a problem created by engineers, so it should be a problem that engineers can solve. The engineeers at Microsoft Research will insist that the answer is to add a pop-up window asking if you really want to do this, and then not let you do it even if you click “OK” because you don’t have administrative privileges, which you can’t get without accessing the Microsoft Life account you don’t have. Apple engineers would solve the problem by forbidding you from self-destructing your ship because that feature is an in-app upgrade, which you bought for your iPad, and then again for your iPhone, but not for your iShip, and the Terms of Service clearly state in Esperanto on page 4834 that in-app upgrades do not transfer across devices. Android engineers would have sold you an operating system for your ship that doesn’t have enough working memory to load the self-destruct sequence while that kid piloting the ship is playing Minecraft on his console, which he is doing like all the time. Problem solved!
A social engineer would trace the bug farther back to its source: that ubiquitous, gnawing impulse for self-destructive behavior among humans. As any behavioral therapist knows, the key is to knock people out of their cycles of self-harm with other habits that withdraw attention from that basic psychological dysfunction and allow it to wither unattended. In that line, I suggest that all existing spaceships be refitted to replace auto-destruct buttons with auto-distract buttons. Imagine that the Plarathian Battle General has taken over your ship and is trying to blow it up by pressing that pesky auto-destruct button. You’re busy punching him, he’s got his massive fingers around your throat, and your crew busy tilting wildly and falling over chairs. Now imagine it’s been replaced by an auto-distract button. General Xodd reaches that button and finally presses it, and all of a sudden… he can’t remember why he rushed onto the bridge a moment ago. Was he maybe looking for his keys? You’re too dazed to throw another punch, and your crew has started thinking about taking up macrame. Everybody wins and nobody gets hurt. That’s a double bonus.
And hey, if it works for spaceships, why not the Ship of State? Think about it. Wow, that cloud kind of looks like a duck.