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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Misconceptions About Star Wars

One of the things that I find interesting about the criticisms of Star Wars is when people tend to misunderstand or misrepresent what the series is about or what happens within the series. Sometimes this has to do with people over analyzing or simply people being idiots.
Mulluane of Dragons, Heroes, and Wizards recently brought to my attention this post by Richard Risch that somewhat irritated me with the ways in which Risch criticized Star Wars for its failures to succeed as a piece of science fiction--he argues that Star Wars is more of a science fantasy than anything else.
Now, to be fair, I have little argument against Risch's points. He is correct in placing Star Wars in the science fantasy category. Lucas's series is not at all a true science fiction story and is a prime example of why the "just because it has spaceships doesn't mean it's science fiction" rule is a good one to follow. What I take issue with are the examples Risch uses and the fallacies in logic that come with them. I suppose the best way to go about this would be to go one piece at a time.
First this:
Sadly though and even more important, authentic fighter tactics were lacking, and at times, … purely ignored. This was made quite evident by the attack on the exhaust port via the death trench. Using your fighter to block an enemy fighter (on your six o’clock), is suicidal in real warfare. That is in reality how most fighters get shot-down. A logical tactic would have been to keep a circling flight of fighters above, waiting to engage any bandits making a run for your dive-bombers. But then, that would have not lent well to the story, would it?
My initial contention with this part of his argument is his reference to the suicidal tactic of blocking an enemy fighter with your own fighter. If you've seen the movie it's pretty darn obvious that the folks doing the blocking are, in fact, being suicidal. They're there to basically be annoying. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, sure, but I don't think Risch really addresses the reality of the setting. Perhaps this all isn't much of a contention, but from the start I already had issues with the assumption that the rebels in Star Wars were doing anything other than being suicidal decoys...
I think a far more accurate criticism, one which Risch only touches on briefly here, would be to point out the idiocy behind the whole idea of having to travel down a long trench. The film never mentions any rational behind this tactic and really, as Risch says, it's there for the pretty-fying of the story.
Then there's this:
Added to this, was the attack on the exhaust port (which was purportedly ray-shielded) with photon torpedoes (borrowed from Star Trek). Funny thing, a mass of photons is considered ray. (Photon energy is produced by an electron dropping from a higher orbit to a lower orbit as it travels around in an atom.) Therefore, how could photon torpedoes be realistically considered the weapon of choice for this attack?
Well, as was mentioned in the comments of his post, the Star Wars folks used proton torpedoes, not photon torpedoes, meaning that no actual "stealing" was involved (in theory). But regardless of the name, Risch's point is one worth taking up. Why must we assume that the names for all things within a fictional universe have to be related to the things they represent? For example, if I have a fish torpedo, does that mean the torpedo has to be made out of fish? Or shaped like a fish? Does it have to smell like a fish or make a fish sound when it's shot? No, it doesn't. It could be called a fish torpedo for a lot of reasons. Maybe it's called that because when the fighter pilots who shot them saw them moving through deep space they came up with a new slang term in which space became the ocean and torpedoes became fish. Who knows. Just because something is a photon or proton torpedo doesn't mean that the torpedo has to be made out of photons or protons or anything, or even resemble those things, or be made of photons or protons as we know them in our reality. It doesn't really matter what they are called. Star Wars also has ion cannons, by the way, and I imagine there are all sorts of scientifically incorrect things about those too. Let's face it, Star Wars isn't exactly the most realistic universe out there as far as science is concerned. But do any of us expect it to be? No. It's Star Wars. There are lightsabers and people who have magic powers and aliens that drool and evil guys that breathe funny.
Then:
All well and to the good except for one minor problem, it took the samurais and ninjas many years to develop their bodies and skills through training, discipline, and actual combat. I ought to know, I trained at and taught Karate for over twenty-five years. For Luke Skywalker to become an accomplished Jedi Knight (under several weeks of Yoda’s tutelage and training) is laughable and cannot possibly happen even with most gifted human beings. Again, you are expected to accept this with blind faith.
Let's take this one apart piece by piece.
  1. Time
    It's never indicated with any certainty how much time passes between the separation of Luke Skywalker/R2-D2 (traveling to Dagobah) and Han Solo/Chewie/Leia/C-3PO (running from the Empire). The most we can assume is that it didn't take more than a few years lest we might have seen some drastic changes in the physical appearances of the characters (as in someone getting old all of a sudden). It's likely, however, that the second film spanned only a few months. Remember, Han Solo gets tortured during this period. I can think of a lot of real world examples where tortures took place for months and even years. Lucas only establishes that the torture is occurring and doesn't make it clear that it only occurs once in the story.
    (For the record: While the movies aren't too specific, Star Wars geeks and Star Wars writers have nailed down the trilogy to having lasted about 4ish years)
  2. Training
    True, it can take a lot of training to become anything resembling a Jedi (whether it be a Samurai or martial artist or whatever). But, here's the problem: Risch says Luke becomes an "accomplished Jedi Knight." What? No, he doesn't. Luke never becomes a Jedi Knight in the second film. In fact, he doesn't actually become a true Jedi until the very end of the third film, and only barely there.
    And accomplished? If you've seen the Star Wars movies you'll know that Luke Skywalker wasn't exactly the most graceful of fighters. He had a weak understanding of the Force even after several weeks of Yoda's training (and it can be assumed that the years prior to meeting up with Yoda involved personal training, because Luke does learn how to move around objects and the like). Then there's that part where he took on a guy that was mostly machine and got his hand chopped off. Real accomplished. He lost his hand to a walking toaster oven that could barely take out a 70-year-old geezer.
    It is blatantly obvious throughout the Star Wars movies (and I'm only talking the originals here) that Luke Skywalker is not an accomplished Jedi. He was severely ill-trained in all aspects of the Force and arrogant. He had anger, fear, and hate, all aspects of a Jedi-in-training.
    Luke Skywalker, by the way, was almost exclusively self taught. Yoda and Ben gave him a rudimentary education in the Force and the way of the Jedi. Everything else he did on his own, and it shows. The films don't even try to pretend that Luke Skywalker magically learned how to be a Jedi Knight in a few weeks (this is contrary to a lot of fantasy novels in which the main character magically becomes a great swordsman after two chapters). Even his teachers tried to tell him he wasn't ready when he went to take on Vader...
One of my favorite criticisms of Star Wars is this one:
Also, some of Star Wars characters have problems with concepts found in astronomy and physics. Take Han Solo for example, who boasted that the Millennium Falcon “made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs” or “can make 0.5 past light speed.” Well, a parsec is an astronomic unit of distance, not time. (A parsec is the distance equal to light traveling for 3.26 light years.) As for “making 0.5 past light speed”, any matter traveling at the speed of light would have infinite mass and cannot travel any faster.
I'm not going to argue the bit about light speed. Risch is right and so was Einstein. But that's not what I like about this argument. I like the part about the parsec. Okay, so a parsec is a unit of measurement. Great. But the Kessel Run isn't easily fixed, as Risch implies here. It's possible that Lucas was just an idiot and didn't know what a parsec was (thus making what should have been "the Kessel Run in 12 seconds" into "the Kessel run in 12 parsecs"). But what if the Kessel Run is actually referring to a standard time and the parsecs are referring to the distance traveled in that time? Let's say the Kessel Run refers to a race in which ships are given thirty minutes to travel the farthest distance. Well, then wouldn't the "12 parsecs" bit make sense then? Course it would.
And something else:
Light Sabers are mighty fancy weapons, but hardly practical in future warfare. True, they would be nice cut wood or start a fire with for survival purposes, but I would rather stake my life on a simple laser blaster, which could kill at greater speed (light speed) and distance. And as for Darth Vader absorbing the energy of a laser blast (Empire Strikes Back), he wouldn’t need a Light Saber since he apparently possesses the powers of God. (I don’t think so!).
Umm, no. True, blasters may have more use in warfare, but Jedi, according to the Star Wars Universe, train extensively to learn the skills needed to be able to deflect laser blasts and the like. So, in theory, if you and a trained Jedi were facing off and all you had was a laser blaster, you would lose badly and the Jedi wouldn't break a sweat.
But then there's that bit about Darth Vader blocking blaster shots. Okay, sounds like a big hole, right? Well, no, actually. If you think about it, if Darth Vader could do that whenever he wanted to, then wouldn't he? He can't. That's the point. The Force, being a source of "magic," has limitations. Darth Vader can't just run around crushing star ships with his mind. He doesn't have that sort of power, nor the energy. He can't block blaster shots all the time either, because that takes a lot of power that even someone as powerful as he doesn't have an unlimited supply of. It's not indicated in the movies for a very good reason: wouldn't it be stupid if Vader nearly passed out and then said, "Goodness, that took a lot out of me. Phew. I'm pooped."? I thought so.

That's basically it. Again, I actually agree with Risch. Star Wars is not science fiction, but he chose some really bad examples. You'd be much better off pointing to the fact that, gasp, there's magic and people shooting lightning out of their hands and crazy crap like that--maybe the fact that everything in Star Wars makes sound in space, even though that's technically not possible. This other stuff is more along the lines of nitpicking. Stick to the good stuff, because that stuff is unquestionable.

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26 comments:

  1. The comment about fighters blocking an enemy coming up from behind WOULD be correct, save for one fact the author have overlooked: Rebel fighters have rearward shields, which can be doubled up to provide extra cover.

    Moreover, if the author cares to check, many soldiers are given "suicide" mission orders, and carry them out without much complaint. A quick read of Medal of Honor citations reveals people willing to surrender their own lives willingly for those of their comrades.

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  2. You know, I hadn't thought about the rearward shields. I know the fighters have them, but I never got the impression throughout the movies that the shields were particularly strong. The games give you strong shields because I imagine they wouldn't be very fun to play if getting shot once meant instant death.
    Then again, you've written enough Star Wars books to know more about it than I do!

    And the last point: exactly! I didn't quite understand why that particular bit of criticism was made in Risch's initial post. Suicide missions happen in real life. Seems realistic (even if the situation in which a fighter pilot acts suicidal is unfortunately ridiculous).

    And thanks for stopping by!

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  3. In regard to the Jedi using lightsabers to deflect the shots of blasters its always seemed to me that it would be easy for the enemy of jedi to design a blaster that makes this impossible. A double or triple barrelled jedi-killer where not all the simultaneous shots could be deflected at once. Or machine guns for that matter.

    And why don't those droids coordinate their fire? If they simply trained to fire at the same momemt against Jedi they'd take one down pretty easily.

    One of my biggest problems in Star Wars isn't the plot holes or silly science. Its an ethical problem that goes unremarked and unacknowledged throughout the series. C3PO and R2D2 are intelligent sentient beings with emotional lives as fully complex and rich as a human being---yet they're bought and sold (not to mention memory-wiped). That's slavery. And its practiced by the "good guys" with no sign of the slightest moral qualms over it.

    Hardly any star wars fans I've talked to ever seem to have noticed this. The insidious thing about it is that the droids aren't depicted as being bothered by it so the audience, for the most part, never even recognizes the moral problem it should raise in our minds.

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  4. Well, there are machine guns in the Star Wars universe (sorta), but I don't know why they aren't tremendously common, even in pre-fall SW.

    I think the whole point of droids in the SW universe is that they're not really all that smart. Sure, C-3PO and R2D2 are intelligent, but perhaps they're computing power is dedicated to subjects of thought and the other droids have their power dedicated to weaponry. But that's a guess.

    Robert J. Sawyer has brought up your point about slavery. It is rather clear in the series that the droids are built for servitude, though. That doesn't necessarily make it right, but it does make it a little different. Being built for servitude and being born into it are different.

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  6. Being built for servitude and being born into it are different.


    Not morally different so far as I can see.

    The means by which a sentient being comes into existence has no bearing on what is ethical and unethical in regard to its treatment.

    Perhaps what you mean to say is that droids are designed to be happy with their lack of freedom and that this makes it morally acceptable while a living sentient being would chafe under such treatment.

    But this doesn't seem to be an adequate reason either. Suppose, for example, that you genetically engineered from the ground up a highly sentient, emotionally complex biological slave race which was happy being enslaved. That certainly seems moral problematic to me. Wouldn't you have a problem with it?

    I don't see how the sentient slave race having a machine mind rather than an organic one makes it any less morally problematic.


    I think the whole point of droids in the SW universe is that they're not really all that smart. Sure, C-3PO and R2D2 are intelligent, but perhaps they're computing power is dedicated to subjects of thought and the other droids have their power dedicated to weaponry.


    Many of the droids in SW are clearly of such low sentience that their servitude is not morally problematic (at least that's my opinion). But C3PO and R2D2 and others of their type are depicted as so fully sentient and fully emotionally complex that their lack of freedom SHOULD be objectionable.

    Instead, like most of the SW fans I've spoken to on the subject, you seem to be trying to come up with some rationale which makes it OK.

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  7. I think what's going on with my fellow SW fans (and I like as much as anyone--I saw Star Wars when I was 6 and its what sparked my interest in science fiction) is that we like the heroes of SW so much that we hate the idea of our SW protagonists being slaveowners---and so the rationalizations commence.

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  8. "Many of the droids in SW are clearly of such low sentience that their servitude is not morally problematic (at least that's my opinion). But C3PO and R2D2 and others of their type are depicted as so fully sentient and fully emotionally complex that their lack of freedom SHOULD be objectionable.

    Instead, like most of the SW fans I've spoken to on the subject, you seem to be trying to come up with some rationale which makes it OK."

    How can you be entirely sure that C-3PO and R2-D2 are, in fact, sentient and emotionally complex beings? Just because they ACT that way doesn't mean they actually are that way. Could be they're programmed to be that way, and therefore the emotions you see aren't actually real emotions, but programmed reactions designed by whoever built them.

    And don't put words in my mouth. I am not making a rationale for slavery. I'm simply questioning whether it is comparable to slavery as we know it and pointing out that while you might readily accept that they are emotional beings, there may be factors that make them otherwise. The way something or someone acts isn't always the way things really are (otherwise con-men and other criminal types wouldn't get away with their crimes). The world isn't black and white.

    Besides, the beginning of your sentence reads very much like a double standard. Well, it's okay in some cases, as long as they're stupid, but not okay in other cases, assuming they're smart. And if, as you put it later in your comment, organic materials and mechanical materials should be treated the same, then really stupid organic beings (such as the mentally handicapped or George W. Bush) should be put into servitude, because of the fact that they aren't intelligent like the rest.

    But you probably didn't mean to imply that...

    That and I would have issues with the assumption that we can ever determine that line between stupid machine and smart machine. How would we determine it? If it talks, it's smart? If it doesn't, it isn't?

    "The means by which a sentient being comes into existence has no bearing on what is ethical and unethical in regard to its treatment."

    But it should, because otherwise we as a species should have far more ethical and moral concerns about the things we do all the time that aren't, by definition, seen as inherently immoral or unethical.

    "I don't see how the sentient slave race having a machine mind rather than an organic one makes it any less morally problematic."

    I don't see machines and organic material as being the same thing. That's the problem for me. You could design a machine that would have complete free thought and then it would be immoral to enslave them, but if the machine is designed to be placed into servitude with a mechanical mind that knows this is its purpose, then that is far different than designing a living creature made of flesh and bone to be the same thing. Machines are, by definition, meant to assist in human tasks. No machines in the Star Wars universe are designed for any other purpose (except in the case where the machines are designed to assist in alien tasks, but that's simply because SW has aliens and we haven't had to deal with that yet in our current existence).

    "I think what's going on with my fellow SW fans (and I like as much as anyone--I saw Star Wars when I was 6 and its what sparked my interest in science fiction) is that we like the heroes of SW so much that we hate the idea of our SW protagonists being slaveowners---and so the rationalizations commence."

    Yes, of course, because all of us SW fans, excluding you and some others, are totally cool with Luke Skywalker, et al. being bastard slave owners. If trying to understand the situation based on very little information is rationalizing it, then so be it.

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  9. How can you be entirely sure that C-3PO and R2-D2 are, in fact, sentient and emotionally complex beings? Just because they ACT that way doesn't mean they actually are that way.


    Of course I don't know for a fact that they are (they're fictional characters after all). I only know that they appear to be and that this appearance isn't explained away in the context of the series---I don't think more than that is required for it to be disturbing and morally problematic.

    This, by the way, is the most popular rationalization I've encountered. Nearly every SW fan I talk about this to brings this one up.


    And don't put words in my mouth. I am not making a rationale for slavery.


    I'm not saying you're trying to make a rationale for slavery. What I'm saying is that almost every SW fan (including you) tries to come up with rationalization to explain away what clearly appears to be slavery as being, for some reason, not slavery (as in the one the example above).


    Well, it's okay in some cases, as long as they're stupid, but not okay in other cases, assuming they're smart.


    Its hardly a double standard---unless I consider owning pets and domesticated animals to be slavery. Which I don't. The droid soldiers show little indication of sentience. If they are, however, against appearances as sentient and emotionally complex as R2D2, then the problem extends to them as well. They aren't clearly depicted as such though.


    And if, as you put it later in your comment, organic materials and mechanical materials should be treated the same, then really stupid organic beings (such as the mentally handicapped .....


    The mentally handicapped are still quite emotionally complex. I put forward intelligent, emotionally complex beings as being definitely deserving of freedom.....not as necessarily the only beings deserving of it. Good point, though, its something that needed clarifying.


    "The means by which a sentient being comes into existence has no bearing on what is ethical and unethical in regard to its treatment."

    But it should, because otherwise we as a species should have far more ethical and moral concerns about the things we do all the time that aren't, by definition, seen as inherently immoral or unethical.


    Why should it? Give examples and reasons.

    Take, to bring in another popular TV and movies series, Data from Star Trek. Do you recall the episode in which his autonomy was put on trial? Or use another example of you prefer.


    You could design a machine that would have complete free thought and then it would be immoral to enslave them, but if the machine is designed to be placed into servitude with a mechanical mind that knows this is its purpose, then that is far different than designing a living creature made of flesh and bone to be the same thing.


    It the two servitor beings, mechanical and organic, are mentally identical then, it seems very obvious to me, the moral situation is identical.

    As a basic principle I propose the idea that no being, machine or organic or anything else, should be created with intelligence or emotional complexity on a par with humans and other sentient species if it is also to be a mere servitor.

    Servitor entities should, preferably, lack emotion and self-consciousness. Or, at most, only a bare minimum of such.

    This seems an obviously sound moral principle to me.

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  10. "Of course I don't know for a fact that they are (they're fictional characters after all). I only know that they appear to be and that this appearance isn't explained away in the context of the series---I don't think more than that is required for it to be disturbing and morally problematic."

    I think this is a problem on both our ends, though. We're treating Star Wars as if it is like the real world here, as in knowable. But Star Wars isn't knowable like the real world. We can't sit down with C-3PO or the battle droids or Luke Skywalker and ask them questions. We can't dig into the minds, primitive or otherwise, of the characters that populate Lucas's vision. With that in mind, since we can't really know anything, unless Lucas has come out and said "yup, that's it," it seems silly to make any sort of absolutist judgment on the films. The droids may, in fact, be super intelligent, almost human machines, or they could just be programmed to seem that way.

    This is sort of too close to obsessing over some minute detail for me...

    "Its hardly a double standard---unless I consider owning pets and domesticated animals to be slavery. Which I don't. The droid soldiers show little indication of sentience. If they are, however, against appearances as sentient and emotionally complex as R2D2, then the problem extends to them as well. They aren't clearly depicted as such though."

    I don't know. If you watch the movies it doesn't seem so black and white. The droid soldiers do have some sort of sentience, but they're played off as stupid on purpose--sort of the multiplicity thing in cloning, I guess. But they do seem to have some sort of sentience, which brings me back to the double standard. If C-3PO deserves freedom and rights, so do the battle droids...

    "The mentally handicapped are still quite emotionally complex. I put forward intelligent, emotionally complex beings as being definitely deserving of freedom.....not as necessarily the only beings deserving of it. Good point, though, its something that needed clarifying."

    What about people who do not have emotions, or at least can't display them? Some autustic adults lack the ability to present emotion. The problem here is that this is too simplistic of a way to deal with this issue. Human beings are as emotionally varied as members of the great ape family or even "lesser" mammals. There's no black and white.

    "Why should it? Give examples and reasons."

    I was thinking of the animals we raise for slaughter, but I don't know if you would agree that they are emotionally complex and thus comparable to what we're talking about. For the record, I have no problem killing cows for my consumption. I like beef and other meats...

    "It the two servitor beings, mechanical and organic, are mentally identical then, it seems very obvious to me, the moral situation is identical."

    Technically they never would be mentally identical. Machine minds and organic minds work differently. At least, in theory. We won't know that for sure unless we actually create a self-aware robot...

    "As a basic principle I propose the idea that no being, machine or organic or anything else, should be created with intelligence or emotional complexity on a par with humans and other sentient species if it is also to be a mere servitor."

    I disagree. I think some emotion and free thought would be beneficial in robots designed to aid human beings.

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  11. With that in mind, since we can't really know anything, unless Lucas has come out and said "yup, that's it," it seems silly to make any sort of absolutist judgment on the films.


    What we can know is how they are presented to the audience---as people. Nothing whatsoever in the films indicates them to be merely simulating emotions, fears, etc without actually experiencing them. The audience identifies with and cares about them as people and to all appearances is intended to. Therefore, to not address the fact that they are treated as property is, I think, a serious moral problem with the series.


    But they do seem to have some sort of sentience, which brings me back to the double standard. If C-3PO deserves freedom and rights, so do the battle droids...


    I focus on C-3PO and R2D2 because the the traits that make their being property morally problematic are most clearly depicted with them. The battle droids might well deserve to be treated as persons rather than property as well.

    And that's the issue isn't it? Are these droids depicted by the series as persons? It seems to me that the audience is intended to think of them as such. But if this is the case to also present them as property is a serious problem. The fact that we mostly fail to notice this (it didn't cross my own mind until a few years ago---despite seeing the film for the first time at age 6. 31 years ago.) is something we should probably think about. It says something unflattering about our moral perceptiveness.


    What about people who do not have emotions, or at least can't display them? Some autustic adults lack the ability to present emotion. The problem here is that this is too simplistic of a way to deal with this issue. Human beings are as emotionally varied as members of the great ape family or even "lesser" mammals. There's no black and white.


    I'm defending the position that beings which have the traits the droids seem to have are people and, therefore, should not be property. I am most definitely NOT saying that ONLY beings which have these traits should be considered persons and should have rights as such.


    Technically they never would be mentally identical. Machine minds and organic minds work differently. At least, in theory.


    There's no reason to assume that. If, for example, one could duplicate a human mind in a robot body with an artificial "skin" which sensed the environment in the same way a human skin would and the same for all the other senses (think an upgraded version of Data's body rather than a "hard shell" robot) there's no reason to think the sensory, emotional and mental experience of the artificial duplicate would necessarily be different from the original.

    But that neither here nor there. The substance of the issue is what makes something a person and do droids qualify and, of course, should persons ever be property.


    I disagree. I think some emotion and free thought would be beneficial in robots designed to aid human beings.


    Giving them very much of such traits skirts close to making property of persons.

    The very definition of slavery.

    I'm inclined to err on the side of caution on that issue.

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  12. "What we can know is how they are presented to the audience---as people. Nothing whatsoever in the films indicates them to be merely simulating emotions, fears, etc without actually experiencing them."

    Technically speaking nothing in the films indicates that they aren't merely simulating emotions either. It's an unspoken fact about the series and without that information it seems absurd to say for certain what we know. Because in reality we don't know much at all, just what's shown to us.

    "And that's the issue isn't it? Are these droids depicted by the series as persons? It seems to me that the audience is intended to think of them as such. But if this is the case to also present them as property is a serious problem. The fact that we mostly fail to notice this (it didn't cross my own mind until a few years ago---despite seeing the film for the first time at age 6. 31 years ago.) is something we should probably think about. It says something unflattering about our moral perceptiveness."

    No, it doesn't say much about our moral perceptions at all. Humans are inclined to see things like robots and the like as non-human. We haven't reached a point, which you believe has occurred in the films, where robots have become mentally comparable to humans and thus emotionally complex creatures. You're basically saying that every generation of humans now should have already gone through a breaking point where the supreme other--the robot, the android, the droid, the whatever--has removed itself from its otherness and become a part of things. This isn't so much a moral quandary as a normal human interaction with something that isn't real. Star Wars is a fiction, not a reality.

    Plus, I still stand by the fact that the droids are programmed to accept servitude. I'm not terribly concerned about it either. If you want an example of a robot that went against programming, look into IG-88, which only gets a flash on the big screen, but has a much more "glamorous" story within the Star Wars extended universe.

    "There's no reason to assume that. If, for example, one could duplicate a human mind in a robot body with an artificial "skin" which sensed the environment in the same way a human skin would and the same for all the other senses (think an upgraded version of Data's body rather than a "hard shell" robot) there's no reason to think the sensory, emotional and mental experience of the artificial duplicate would necessarily be different from the original."

    But it would never sense or feel in the SAME way as a human does unless you actually replicated our biological makeup, which means that the "robot" ceases to be a robot, but a biological construct. The argument could be made that all those sensations are simply artificial. Whether that's the correct argument to make is another story, but it would be made and it would stick until such time as people either got tired of arguing about it or people permanently ignored it.

    "Giving them very much of such traits skirts close to making property of persons.

    The very definition of slavery.

    I'm inclined to err on the side of caution on that issue."

    Again, I disagree. You could make something exhibit emotion and seem like a real person, and still have it not be. It depends how you programmed them.

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  13. One thing that I noticed (having read WAY too many Star Wars novels) is about the Kessel Run. It was basically just a smuggling path, and was dangerous because of all the black holes on the sides of it that if you got too close... POOF you are gone. He boasted the shortest distance, AKA cutting it closest without dying.

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  14. Well, there you go. The Kessel Run explained with evidence (well, word of mouth, but so be it).

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  15. Technically speaking nothing in the films indicates that they aren't merely simulating emotions either.


    Technically speaking, nothing in the films indicates that all the aliens in the films aren't P-zombies (beings who act as if they had consciousness but don't). It doesn't specifically say otherwise.

    Seriously, are we watching the same movies. C3PO's reaction when told he is being given as a gift to Jabba the Hutt. The torture and punishment of droids at his palace. None of the behavior of the droids we see the most of in the films makes sense from a perspective where the creator of the films is intending them to be viewed as other than sentient beings.


    Humans are inclined to see things like robots and the like as non-human.


    Nonhuman is not the same as nonsentient. It should take no great moral insight to extend rights to sentient beings other than humans. Be they machine mind or alien. The authors of other works of science fiction have no trouble recognizing this and we have no trouble recognizing it and agreeing with it in the context of their films or novels. That we fail to in the SW films (and most DO seem to) is, for me, a curious problem not only of ethics but of psychology. We, for the most part, recognize the rights of Data in Star Trek, of the robot in BICENTENNIAL MAN and so many other robots in fiction and yet utterly fail to see any problem with the treatment of droids in SW.


    Plus, I still stand by the fact that the droids are programmed to accept servitude.


    Of course they are. That's never been in dispute. Its the thing from the first that I pointed out as the primary reason we fail to notice the moral problem. Its the heart of the moral blind spot we have on the issue.

    But giving something human comparable sentience and also a complete acceptance of a subservient position is the engineering of a willing slave race.

    That they are programmed to be accepting of their slavery makes it no less abominable.


    You could make something exhibit emotion and seem like a real person, and still have it not be. It depends how you programmed them.


    Of course if the being didn't actually have awareness or emotions it wouldn't be a problem. That isn't in dispute.

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  16. Its interesting the quandary SW fans are put in by the film:

    either the protagonists of the films are slaveowners

    or

    a couple of the most beloved characters of the films are empty shells---only appearing to have emotion and sentience.

    Neither alternative is attractive to someone with a deep affection for the films.

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  17. "Nonhuman is not the same as nonsentient. It should take no great moral insight to extend rights to sentient beings other than humans. Be they machine mind or alien. The authors of other works of science fiction have no trouble recognizing this and we have no trouble recognizing it and agreeing with it in the context of their films or novels. That we fail to in the SW films (and most DO seem to) is, for me, a curious problem not only of ethics but of psychology. We, for the most part, recognize the rights of Data in Star Trek, of the robot in BICENTENNIAL MAN and so many other robots in fiction and yet utterly fail to see any problem with the treatment of droids in SW."

    Have you been paying attention to the last, what, 2,000+ years of human history? Heck, even the last 20 would suffice. What you think and a couple of science fiction writers have managed to project does not have any discernible influence on a population of xenophobic, other-phobic, angry, easily incensed human beings. The sad truth is that it wouldn't take much more than a few cleverly placed propoganda ads and staged attacks to incite an entire U.S. population into racial hatred (hatred towards the other). That's reality. For a lot of people, it doesn't even take propoganda.

    And for a lot of people, "nonhuman" is almost the same as "nonsentient."

    And we accept these things and ignore them in SW because it's a movie. It's not real life. It's fake. Most people don't take movies seriously enough to give it a second though. They sit down, figure out if the like it, and usually that's it.

    We're moving dangerously close to obsessed territory here. Like the Eragon-hater folks who ONLY talk about why they hate Eragon, and don't talk about what books they do like. We're treating something that isn't real, that is a fantasy, as if it should be held to the same standards as real life. Movies, and in particular, fantasy/scifi movies, are an escape from reality. Nothing in the Star Wars franchise ever indicated it would be anything but an escape. The first line of text in the whole film tells you it's not real.

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  18. Good lord. They are FILMS. Get over it. Both of you. I'm sure your ancestors owned slaves at one point, it doesn't make them evil, it makes them the same as their contemporaries. Unless y'know, they were like beating them and stuff ...

    Shaun, go do something useful before I'm forced to hack into your computer and explode it.

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  19. Good lord. They are FILMS. Get over it. Both of you.


    Popular entertainments don't just entertain. They promote ideas, attitudes, biases and values. Often quite unconsciously.

    Its worthwhile to examine the messages they're sending.

    If you disagree, you are, of course, free to refrain from entering into discussions such as this.

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  20. Popular entertainments don't just entertain. They promote ideas, attitudes, biases and values. Often quite unconsciously.


    Ok, list me three Star Wars fans who own slaves, and I'll let you continue your discussion. It's worthwhile analysing things that actually affect people, such as the rise in teenage pregnancy and STDs since the media started portraying casual relationships as normal. It's not worthwhile to discuss at length a point that really has no bearing on anything. That's the kind of thing sane people point out, then move on from.

    Unfortunately Shaun isn't sane, so he will waste large amounts of time getting annoyed for no purpose and composing lengthy replies when he could be doing something more useful. *coughshaunreadnikaracough*

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  21. Ok, list me three Star Wars fans who own slaves, and I'll let you continue your discussion.


    Ummm, red herring. How'd you know that was my favorite dish?


    It's not worthwhile to discuss at length a point that really has no bearing on anything.


    If you see no value in discussing things that you don't see immediate practical uses for then, as I said, you're free to refrain from discussing them.

    Some of us are more philosophically inclined and actually enjoy such discussions. Do you snipe at people for spending an hour watching football or whole days absorbed in video games? Is it really less worthwhile to stretch one's mind by discussing philosophical questions? Not every idea has to have obvious immediate applications to be worth discussing.

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  22. For that matter, for a writer of fantastic fiction its hardly an impractical subject to discuss.

    There are all manner of stories that could be written related to the subject of the rights on nonhuman beings.

    I'd love, for example, to see a fantasy story about golem rights. That's something I've never read before.

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  23. Or, even better, a Star Wars novel about a droid bringing a case to trial suing for his rights as a sentient being.

    Or, more action oriented, a droid uprising with Jedi sent to quell it and facing an ethical dilemma when some of them find themselves siding more with the droids.

    That's a book I'd buy.

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  24. Alright, guys, let's stop this before it gets nasty. We're flirting with the fence here and the fence doesn't much like being flirted with. The fence is old fashioned and requires traditional courting maneuvres.

    In one of the Star Wars short story collections, by the way, there is a story of a robot revolting, although not with a lawsuit. It's in the bounty hunters book, I think, and it's the story of IG-88, that really tall, thin black droid shown in Empire Strikes Back for a brief moment when Darth Vader brings in all the bounty hunters. Technically speaking, IG-88 is the kind of droid you're wanting to see, since it or he or her is a free being.

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  25. Greetings!

    This post is about Vader deflecting a blaster shot with his hand.

    I just wanted to point out, this NEVER happened. When he stuck his hand up to BLOCK the blaster shot, it not only hit him, but it left a hole in his glove/hand.

    Don't forget, it was a robotic arm, and easily fixed/replaced.

    If you actually watch the clip again, I'm sure you'll notice.

    I can't find the link, but its out there!

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  26. steffan: I think it would be fair to say that even if he blocked it with his hand, there would be burns from the bolt itself. That's unavoidable, unfortunately. He's not God, but close.

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