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Friday, May 24, 2024

Column: Real-life Jedis?

Could the worlds of Star Wars ever become a reality?

Are the neon-streaked battle scenes between Jedi — space Buddhists — and Sith — space Nazis — that filled my childhood imagination something that could ever become a reality? Before we go discussing the likelihood of ever finding a force crystal for lightsaber construction like those on Ilum, the question that I’m really being drawn to is a xenobiological one –– will humans ever meet a sentient species from another planet?

The difference in technological development between the Native Americans and the Conquistadors seems very insignificant in comparison to an alien civilization out there that may very well have developed the iron forge some 4 million years ago. Given that the universe is about 13.7 billion years old, even if an alien species were to be within only one million years of technological or evolutionary development of us, such a minor difference would seem monumental.

Simply put, any alien species that humanity is likely to come in contact with is going to seem a god, with us seeming a bacteria, or vice versa. A galaxy-spanning government filled with bickering aliens of different species is not a very likely future to ever happen.

The next issue that I would take up with the worlds of Star Wars is their naval ship allegory for interstellar flight. Han and Kirk playing the role of ship’s captain to a crew of people all being sustained within an artificial biosphere hurtling through interstellar space is a dated fiction that I feel properly belongs much more to my parents’ generation than to my own.

The human body is a very sensitive thing, not particularly resilient to the vacuum of space. Sustaining a biosphere during interstellar flights does not sound very energy efficient in space, a veritable desert when it comes to resources and the distances between them.

While spaceflight around our solar system looks soon to be the territory of private companies like Virgin Galactic, what I think is far more likely for interstellar flight is something of a more transhuman nature. The speed at which prosthetic and nano technologies are progressing here on earth dwarfs, in my opinion, the speed at which even private companies are expanding technologies to be used out in space.

Humanity does not fully yet understand sentience — it most likely not being a finite thing at all — or what makes us different from the animals and machines. How does humanity know it deserves to be a spacefaring species when its current history is fraught with war and unabated consumption? I think it is, perhaps somewhat poetically, that through answering some of these questions here on Earth we will develop the ability to travel the many light years between stars.

I imagine interstellar travel looking a lot like beaming someone’s digitized consciousness and memories into a cybernetic body previously constructed by rovers or foglets or whatnot on the desired planet of travel. To me, progress in fields that try to move around the question of “how to pick up a box full of delicate human bodies and throw it to a planet orbiting another star” seems as though it is going to be a better use of humanity’s time than the alternative does.

Realism factor aside — not that I don’t suspend most of my disbelief when dealing with most media anyway — last I heard, Disney approached Lawrence Kasdan to write Star Wars Episode 8 and Episode 9. He is — get this — the guy who wrote The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the Lost Ark. The birth of my future child will never make me as happy as I will be if Kasdan brings Boba Fett out of the Sarlacc like they did in the Expanded Universe content.

MICHAEL FIGLOCK is a Jedi Master, is in touch with the Force and enjoys long walks on the beach. He can be reached at mpfiglock@ucdavis.edu.



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