Earlier this year, Paul Shawcross, acting on behalf of the White House, released a statement on We the People in response to a petition requesting the U.S. government to build a real-life Death Star by 2016.* Because petitions that receive 25,000 signatures require a response from the White House, there wasn't any way to avoid this humorous situation. Thankfully, they took the issue with a heavy dose of humor and succinctly reminded us that such a project is pretty much impossible -- it would cost $850,000,000,000,000,000 (or, as we poor people like to say,
"a friggin ton of money"). io9 recently explored this number in some depth, using a Centives.net article as support; they concluded that the $850 quintillion figure is more tongue-and-cheek than an accurate measurement (this is one of many conclusions, of course), but it fulfills the purpose of keeping the genocidal geek community at bay.
|Disney will probably turn this into a musical in a few years...|
First, the size of the loan necessary to build a Death Star would exceed the GDP of the entire world by a factor of approximately 12,100 (based on figures acquired here). Assuming, then, that the world agreed to sacrifice its entire GDP to pay off said monumental loan, it would still take 12,100 years to pay that loan off, assuming no growth in GDP and no interest.** And let's face it, there's no way we can assume there won't be inflation, interest, and so on for the next 12,100 years. I'm no economist, but it seems to me that taking on a project at this point in time, without any easier means for manufacturing the materials and the Death Star itself, would lead to worldwide financial disaster. Besides, what exactly would a budget debate about the Death Star look like? Imagine, if you will, the Death Star is 50% behind schedule due to 800 straight years of economic shortfalls, politicians are bickering back and forth, some running around like chickens with their heads cut off in a pathetic attempt to balance the world budget. Meanwhile, poverty rates increase exponentially, because too many resources have been pegged for the Death Star Fund; healthcare, scientific progress, and so on and so forth have likewise crumbled beneath the pressure. Perhaps stress-related baldness will become the new "epidemic" of the future...
|I'm the Death Star on a budget deficit. Any questions?|
But the even bigger question is this: Why would we bother doing this, and what would we do with a Death Star? Let's imagine the scenarios:***
1) Some large, planetary body is on a collision course with the Earth. It must be destroyed.
|Han: And that, kids, is what we call a Solo Seduction Device.|
2) An alien species attacks us with firepower that far surprises our current military might. They must be stopped.
|It's okay. There aren't any real people there.|
3) Some angry humans (presumably white men and their slave women) want to build a colony elsewhere, but need a giant floating deterrent against retaliation or subjugation by Earth governments.
|This is the Martian City of the future, controlled by a corporate oligarchy|
a la Neuromancer and filled with good shopping, sexy hotels, and reasonably-
priced sex slaves who will fulfill your every desire. Every desire.
4) We get bored or curious.
|The Curiosity Baby reaches for the stars...and burns off his fingers.|
You can come up with more scenarios as you see fit. They'll all fall apart in some way, or at least present new challenges to the discussion. The problem with a Death Star is that its primary purpose (if not its only purpose) is to destroy planets (or act as a deterrent because it can destroy planets). In the Star Wars universe, its purpose makes sense (realistically, not ethically). But we don't live in that universe, and we probably never will (physics says so).
Now to take this critical eye to the Star Trek universe...
*Most of you probably know about this story already. I think it's too funny to ignore.
**I use the word "loan" to indicate the massive borrowing required for the construction of the Death Star.
***Yes, I am over-thinking all of this. So sue me.
****You can. I'm fooling myself here.