Government // Mobile & Wireless
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11/7/2013
03:05 PM
Shane O'Neill
Shane O'Neill
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What Star Wars Teaches Us About Technology

Luke Skywalker had it right. Push away the screen and go with The Force from time to time.

I hadn't seen the original Star Wars in about 30 years, so I figured it was time to see how the old saga holds up. As a kid, I was in awe of George Lucas's iconic sounds and images. But as a 40-year-old movie snob, I was ready -- even excited -- to not like Star Wars.

The corny dialog, the '70s-era computer graphics and '70s hair, the special effects that pale next to today's mind-blowing CGI and 3-D technology. And that C3P0! He won't shut up! I assumed it would be dated and silly.

But I was wrong.

I loved it all over again. It's still the fast-moving and fun space adventure it was back in the day. The John Williams score alone has enough power and delight to cheer up the gloomiest of viewers. And the special effects still kick butt.

While it's not exactly a deep movie, Star Wars does have layers. I'll leave the analysis about the various underlying themes and symbols to Wikipedia (and also Wookiepedia). But one theme that stuck with me as an adult is the nature vs. technology thread that runs through the movie.


Star Wars obviously permeates with technology. You see it manifested in the drones, droids, force fields, holograms, tractor beams, fighter jets and lasers. Everybody is tracking everybody else with intergalactic navigation systems. The flakiness of the hyper drive housed in Han Solo's old-school, forever-under-repair Millenium Falcon is a critical plot point in The Empire Strikes Back.

Yet Star Wars and its sequels have a distinct anti-technology slant. The wise and heroic characters -- Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, even the shifty Solo -- don't put a lot of stock in technology. They'll use it as they need it, but these are earthy men who believe in The Force, a deeply spiritual state of mind that can harness positive energy or pull you toward the dark side. The Force has nothing to do with technology.

The climactic Death Star battle scene is the centerpiece of the movie's nature vs. technology motif, a reminder to today's viewers about the perils of relying too much on gadgets and not enough on human intuition. You'll recall that Luke and his team of X-Wing fighters are attacking Darth Vader's planet-size command center. Pilots are relying on a navigation and targeting system displayed through a small screen (using gloriously outdated computer graphics) to try to drop torpedoes into the belly of the Death Star. No pilot has succeeded, and a few have been blown to bits.

Luke, an apprentice still learning the ways of The Force from the wise -- but now dead -- Obi-Wan Kenobi, decides to put The Force to work in the heat of battle. He pushes the navigation screen away from his face, shuts off his "targeting computer" and lets The Force guide his mind and his jet's torpedo to the precise target.

Luke put down his gadget, blocked out the noise and found a quiet place of Zen-like focus. George Lucas was making an anti-technology statement 36 years ago that resonates today.

For any working professional in 2013, multiple screens, devices and apps are integral instruments for success. But the multitasking can be overwhelming, and many of the apps we use only cause more worry and stress. I sometimes feel like I need a Jedi-level force to pull the screen away from my face.

Dependence on gadgets and Internet connectivity can become a full-blown addiction. We now have "Digital Detox" rehab facilities for those whose careers and relationships have been ruined by extreme gadget use.

There's no denying, of course, that we need these screens and gadgets full of information. They make us more productive at work, spark our creativity and help us connect with colleagues. The message of Star Wars isn't: "Be a Luddite and just meditate." You don't defeat Darth Vader by concentrating really hard.

The overarching message of Star Wars is to use technology for good. Use it to conquer evil, but don't let it override your own human Force. Don't let technology replace you.

The dark side of technology use isn't just about cyber spying or hacking or theft. It's also about bullying on social media, excessive self-promoting and gossiping, and spreading violent or lurid content. Darth Vader is hiring.

Take a lesson from a great Jedi warrior. Push the screen away from time to time and give your mind and personality a chance to shine. When it's time to use the screen again, use it for good.

May The Force be with you.

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J_Brandt
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J_Brandt,
User Rank: Ninja
11/14/2013 | 9:00:50 PM
re: What Star Wars Teaches Us About Technology
WeG«÷ve now got G«£Phantom Vibration/Ringing SyndromeG«• and other obsessive compulsive behaviors associated with our smart phones. It is nice every so often to leave C3PO and R2D2 back in the ship, get outside, smell the banthas, socialize with some friends with some karaoke at Mos Eisley Cantina so simply watch the three moons rise.
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
11/14/2013 | 2:09:06 PM
re: What Star Wars Teaches Us About Technology
I stopped getting email on my phone for this same reason, never found a good reason to put it down when it was going off every few minutes!
Chuck Brooks
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Chuck Brooks,
User Rank: Author
11/13/2013 | 10:11:10 PM
re: What Star Wars Teaches Us About Technology
It is true, we are all becoming addicted to the technology, especially smart phones. As our education institution digitize learning and our children grow up in the new technology age, the addiction will continue and grow stronger. Taking a break and putting the screen down is a good idea for everyone.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
11/12/2013 | 1:00:49 PM
re: What Star Wars Teaches Us About Technology
One thing that you missed is that it teaches us that technology is going to peak one day then head into decline until it is a utility. Look at the Episodes in sequential order not date order and you go from Shiny skinned luxury ships and pretty fighters to dumpy falling apart cargo ships and fighters that look like they are one hard turn away from the junk yard. Eventually we'll get to a point where shiny new phones give way to clunky terminals that just barely give us a flickering green image of the person on the other end.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/11/2013 | 8:28:52 PM
re: What Star Wars Teaches Us About Technology
I'm not a big Star Wars buff, but I completely agree with the idea of putting our devices to the side every once in awhile. A couple years back I broke my phone while on vacation and was forced to be out of the loop for a few weeks. Though inconvenient at times, it was pretty relaxing to take a break from the constant communicating that our society is so used to. I definitely recommend leaving your phone behind when out at dinner or spending time with friends and family; some things are just more important than email.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
11/11/2013 | 2:32:21 PM
re: What Star Wars Teaches Us About Technology
True, Han Solo is a skeptic. But he does say "May The Force be with you" to Luke before The Death Star battle. His way of saying, I respect your belief even though it's not my belief. Solo didn't put enough stock in tech to upgrade the hunk-of-junk Millenium Falcon! I guess he didn't have the money.
shjacks55
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shjacks55,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/11/2013 | 11:28:09 AM
re: What Star Wars Teaches Us About Technology
In 1977 Microsoft was selling (pirated?) tiny basic for S-100 systems (Altair et al) and Apple was building knock-offs of the KIM-1. Orwell's "1984" was still 7 years away. Missile guidance systems at the time were prone to jamming. "Top Gun" school was formed to teach dogfighting in response to poor accuracy of missile systems in Vietnam. Also note the vent he was aiming for was not a straight on target like another fighter but had to be "bounced" in. Certainly Tatooine was an odd mix of high tech and low tech.
Byurcan
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Byurcan,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/9/2013 | 2:26:24 PM
re: What Star Wars Teaches Us About Technology
Not to sound like too much of a Star Wars nerd, but Han in fact does put a lot of stock in technology, assopposed to Obi-Wan and Luke. He is highly suspicious of the Force, which, remember, he tells Luke is nothing "compared to a good blaster by your side, kid."
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
11/8/2013 | 11:27:34 PM
re: What Star Wars Teaches Us About Technology
"Search your feelings, you know it to be true." That also sounds like Stephen Colbert and his lead-with-the-gut obsession.
cbabcock
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cbabcock,
User Rank: Author
11/8/2013 | 11:17:00 PM
re: What Star Wars Teaches Us About Technology
The headline used to read, What Star Trek Teaches Us About Technology. My wife would be glad to explain how we made a wrong turn when we came to Star Wars.
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