Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace analysis for Social Implications Of Computing


List of Computing technologies

Movie maker's intent with regards to computing

George Lucas intends to portray the Star Wars movies as a prototypical example of The Hero's Journey (from Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces), which is a archetype of myths where a hero goes up against evil forces. The influence of Campbell's book is on Star Wars is well documented, and later, George Lucas met and became friends with Joseph Campbell.[10] The focus of the movies clearly isn't on the technologies. In both this and the original trilogy, the vast majority of enemies are a faceless interchangeable crowd, which tells us a lot about how he intended to portray the battle droids. On the other hand, the non-villainous droids are given unique personalities and appearances.
The technology in Star Wars is often artificially aged, which tells us a lot about Lucas' intent, implying that technology will not fix all our problems, and the future won't be a utopia.

Class topics

Freedom of Speech

The way that computing technologies are used, and importantly, not used in relation to the Freedom of Speech in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is a major in-universe motivation for the characters' actions.

Freedom of speech, as defined by in US Constitution [9] mostly relates to the government preventing citizens sharing political views or facts that aren't popular with the government at the time, but is a broader protection than that.

In Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the major conflict is centers around an illegal blockade and invasion by the Trade Federation on the planet of Naboo. The Trade Federation blocks all communication in and out of Naboo to the point that the Galactic Senate is unsure of if there is any evidence of the invasion.

In Star Wars, there exists both the technology to communicate instantaneously across long distances, and the technology to jam it. The Trade Federation uses this jamming technology to block communication in and out of Naboo in addition to using a droid army and automated ships to prevent citizens of Naboo from leaving to pass on information.

This also brings up the discussion of droids in the Star Wars setting. Most of them are clearly sentient enough to have emotions and capable of speech, but are treated as property. They don't appear to have any rights to legal representation, even in the more lawful regions of space.

In less lawful areas, explosive implants are used to make sure that slaves behave, which is almost certainly used to cause slaves to self-censor.

Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property is a topic never discussed or implied, but can be brought up through the movie's standardization of certain features. Notably, the uniformity of the junky pit droids on Tatooine, along with them being sold at Watto's shop, implies that they are one of three things:

  1. Mass-produced by the same organization, which holds a virtual monopoly over the pit droid market in Mos Espa
  2. Pit droids are under a common license and can be manufactured by anybody for free
  3. Pit droids are manufactured by multiple companies that infringe upon the intellectual property of the original creator

This level of uniformity is unusual in regards to the remainder of the movie, as each significant faction (the Naboo, the Gungans, and the Trade Federation) all possess vastly different technologies with different capabilities (while the Trade Federation has legions of battle droids, the Gungans have an organic, primitive standing army and the Naboo only have a small home defense force. This implies either a strict observation of patent rights (assuming patents are filed with the Galactic Senate), or implies that none of the factions felt any need to steal technologies from each other.


The movie doesn't explicitly presents the conflict of privacy issues, but some technologies did imply the privacy concerns behind them.

Faster than Light Communication

The Faster than Light communication is not only jammable but also traceable. When Naboo planet sent out the message to queen's spaceship asking queen's help, Jedi refused to reply the message because he thought it might be a trap. This scenario indicates the communication is trackable. The transmission of message exposes the senders' position. This violates sender's privacy because if senders don't want to reveal their position, they can use Faster than Light communication anymore.

The Faster than Light communication in the movie is considered to be impossible. Faster than light communication is often called superluminal communication. According to the Lorentz-invariant theory, superluminal communication allows the information being send to the past because of its speed, which contravenes the causality and causes logical paradoxes.[1] Upon till now, such technology has not been achieved in any experiment.

Even though suppose Faster than Light communication can be achieved like telephone call in real time without space constraint, it will be very likely under the universe surveillance in the same way as tracked and recorded mobile phones, that is revealed in 2013 Global surveillance disclosure. There are historical facts indicating communication information will be collected and preserved. For example, NSA collects phone records of Verizon customers.[2] Privacy of users are threatened under the surveillance and if there is any disclosure of the data, no matter what kind of communication type it is, users are the ones suffer.

Advanced Scan technology

Another technology can cause the violation of the privacy is scan. In the movie, there are two kinds of scan: planetary scan, city and building scan. Planetary 3D scan of Tatooine occurred on the spaceship; City 3D scan and building scan occurred when Naboo queue and Jedi were planning to sneak into the Nubian palace. The privacy concerns of scan technology, no matter planetary scan, city scan or building scan, is the proper storage. Any leakages of scan information can lead privacy issues. Citizen's living information can be easily understood and mined with such 3D scan technology.

A prototype of such advanced scan technology in the reality should be Google Street View. At March 12, 2013, Google admitted the Street View mapping project violated people's privacy. Multiple countries were affected. Google was fined with at least $22.5 million at that time and asked to set up a privacy program.[3] With a higher development of the scanning technology, what Google encountered may repeat in the future. Though Google Street View had already blurred car number and human faces, there were still some missing part that induced privacy lawsuits.

Search Drone

The search drone definitely involves privacy issue. In the film, the search drone flew around in the city looking for the queen. The checks of search drone not informing other people violate the privacy of oblivious because their behaviors were secretly watched by search drone and some may involve personal activities.

Though not like Search Drone in the film, the Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles(UAVs) in the real world are very like the functions of Search Drones. On Mar 15, 2017, "Senator Markey and Representative Welch introduced the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act of 2017. The Act would establish privacy safeguards to protect individuals from drone surveillance."[4] It has privacy proposal from Electronic privacy information center and EPIC is now fighting to protect public from aerial surveillance.

Blood Scan

Also in the film, Qui-Gon Jinn's behavior went against Anakin's privacy. Using convenient blood check machine, Qui-Gon Jinn tricked Anakin and checked midi-chlorian in Anakin's blood sample. The blood test information is personal. In fact, Anakin never allowed Qui-Gon Jinn to tell other people about his blood test result. However, Qui-Gon Jinn quickly shared the blood information with Jedi Council. Though the blood check machine helps to analyze the blood information if used in a good way, it also increases the risk of uncovering personal information to the public.

Taking a Blood test in the hospital is common nowadays. However, a blood test needs the consent of patients and security protection on blood database. There are not many sandals of privacy issues on blood tests, but vigilance is still needed for the health research to prevent improper data usage and leakage.

Implanted Tracker

The tracker implanted in slave's body to prevent them from escaping contravenes the privacy privileges of slaves. It is not clear in the film if the implanted tracker will send slave's personal information to the master, but the tracker did work as a monitor 24 hours to trace activity positions of the slaves.

Though the movie doesn't show a mass surveillance, with such advanced communication and convenient identification technologies, the surveillance is a possible. If a mass surveillance exists in the film, it is most likely in the Republic as it is a well-organized and high-tech constructed planet. Information interchange must be activated in this area, also the potential risk of privacy information leakages.


The main starting point of the movie shows us the first crime in the movie. The movie starts with an illegal blockade by the Trade Federation on the planet of Naboo. Later the blockade transforms into an invasion and also blockade of communications. As movie progresses the queen amidala tries to reach the senate for help, but the Trade Federation tries to block the communications so that senate won't hear what happens.

In the movie we can see that there is secret communications used for treason and also there is some government corruption that leads to a coup. After the Jedi ambassadors notice that federation landing crafts are getting ready for invasion of Naboo. Queen Amidala contacts Gunrav (the leader of the trading federation) and expresses her disapproval of the blockade of Naboo. At this moment Gunray states that they had approval of the senate to do so and they wouldn't have done so in any other case. Gunray also denies that they received any Jedi ambassadors and later commands to disrupt any communications from the planet for the invasion. Before the communications are disrupted queen Amidala talks to Palpatine and says that he got the assurance that the Jedi ambassadors did arrive. This gives us a small doubt about palpatine or senates communication with Trade federation. Later in the movie we can also see that palpatine suggests that there is a corruption in the senate asks queen Amidala to call for a vote of no confidence on supreme chancellor. The nonclear communication between trade federation, palpatines remark and senates reaction on the vote show us that senate is not working in unity and that there might be corruption there.

During the podracing we can notice crimes that we can relate to either piracy or vandalism. Looking at the panet Tatooine and seeing trades everywhere, we can assume that stealing and selling would be a possible activity for some planet residents. Although we don't see much of the jawas in this movie, we can notice that jawas, little cretures in hoods that show up during the podracing, are acting outside of jaba the hutts criminal authority. However Jaba the hutt doesn't seem angered he is more likely entertained by the shootings as he is a criminal and the jawas make the race more risky and fun too watch. We can say that jawas are pirates of the tatooine deserts. The jawas live on tatooine and they look for droids or scraps which they would capture and sell. In this case we see them shooting at podracers. We can assume that jawas are hunting for parts of the racing pods or they are persuing vandalism.

One of the parts of the movie revolves around the planet tatooine, which is full of crime and generally is a criminal world planet. The planet is ruled by the Criminal Jabba the hutt, who is treated as a king. Jabba is responsible for hosting the Boonta Eve Classic podrace largest annual podrace in the galaxy. He established his criminal empire on the remote desert world on the Tatooine of Tatoo system. His criminal empire has its criminal rules which includes slavery and black market. The market on Tatooine is outside of The republic market so it doesn't accept the republic credits. We can also see that there is slavery on tatooine, one of the main characters, Anakin Skywalker, and his mom are both slaves on the Tatooine planet. In the movie we can see how they don't have a free will and they have to work for their owners. Later in the movie the Jedi buy Anakin's freedom and let him follow them for future Jedi training.

Errors, Failures, and risks

In Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, reliability of technology is a reoccuring theme. There are numerous technologies that require very few failures (aircar autopilots, hyperdrives, weapons and shield systems), a number of technologies that account for risk and have multiple redundancies and ways to account for equipment malfunctions (pod racers, astromech repair droids on spaceships, Darth Maul's lightsaber), and a few technologies with a single point of failure (the droid control ship above Naboo).

On Coruscant, there is a constant background of aircar traffic, and no collisions are shown onscreen. A single crash could be calamitous - an aircar hitting a skyscraper could potentially bring it down, potentially killing thousands of people. If Coruscant is anything like the real world, then aircars must be incredibly robust and probably have an autopilot.

In the pod racing section of the movie, Anakin (who is 9) pilots the pod racer that he built around the track facing a number of unforseen obstacles, such as being shot at, sabotoge by other competitors, and the obstacles of the track itself. His pod, despite being built with very limited resources and having trouble even starting up has a number of fallback systems (on the fly fuel rerouting, for starters) and safety features (the pod racer can prevent itself from crashing when falling from the top of a canyon). One of the other competitors advantage that the announcer comments on is his highly competent repair crew of pit droids. This indicates that building and accounting for failure is a large part of pod races. On the other hand, another competitor's pod racer falls to pieces before it even starts up, which could be caused by anything from a mechanical failure to a programming bug. This level of redundancy and the provisions for easy repair indicates that a great deal of thought and effort has gone into accounting for system errors, sabotage, and part failures in successful pod racers.

Another place where risk and errors come up in The Phantom Menace is early in the movie - when Queen Amadila's personal spaceship is running the blockade around Naboo. Briefly the shields on the ship go down from a stray shot, and repair droids (Astromechs) are sent outside the ship to perform repairs while in flight, where all but one of them are shot off the hull of the ship. The implications of this scene aren't immediately clear, but this implies a that diplomatic vessels not only have shields, but carry around enough droids capable of creating a jury-rigged fix for those shields several times over. On the other hand, it shows that the ship doesn't have redundant shields, but overall implies a high level of preparedness for technical failures. There are a number of alternate explanations for there to be so many astromech droids onboard: The droids could be used for other manual tasks, such as cleaning or record keeping, or the number of droids onboard could be a status symbol, or they could have brought onboard a number of droids specifically for this more dangerous mission.

Perhaps the most poignant example of errors, failures and risks in the movie is the droid control ship in the final sections of the movie. In the late stages of the movie, a droid army is invading Naboo, and all the droids are controlled from spaceships that are blockading the planet. A single fighter ship (again, piloted by a 9 year old) lands in one of the docking bays of one of these ships and is capable of destroying the entire ship with a few shots to internal components reachable from the docking bay. The destruction of this ship causes all the droids on the planet to shut down, stopping the invasion in its tracks. This is a clearcut example of why redundant systems are important. There were dozens of ships that appear to be the same model as the destroyed ship which could have taken over when this one was destroyed, the ship could almost certainly have been modified to not have a single fairlure point accessible from a point that untrusted ships have access to. There is the possibility that the droid shutdown is a safety feature - having thousands of droids with lethal weapons and no easy way to shut them off sounds like a terrible idea, but there are better ways that don't have such an obvious and dramatic single point of failure.

Work and wealth


In The Phantom Menace, there are different kinds of droids such as protocol droids, pit droids like R2D2, basic battle droids in the army send by the Trade Federation. Most of them are doing menial jobs such as serving drinks, fixing spaceships. Other droids work as soldiers, driving tanks and shooting guns. Such massive use of droids can increase the productivity and efficiency of the work.

In reality, robots appearing in the industry manufactory started taking away workers. They are doing jobs of sorting, drilling, pressing and transportation. But at the same time, the demand of technicians required to do the maintains of robots is increasing. The job market is shifting focus and skill technique for the job upgrades. The robots do minor or assistant works whereas human still taking control over major decisions. This is also true in the movie.

To replace human soldiers with droids is a great idea and this idea on the way to be achieved. Less injured can occurred on organic life. TALON series from Foster-Miller were used in Afghanistan war for detecting and disarming the explosive devices.[7] There is another kind od military robot called Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot (BEAR) produced by Vecna Technologies. [8]It is used for the extraction of wounded soldiers from the battlefield with no risk to human life.

Faster than Light Comminucation

Palpatine in the movie telecommutes to play Sith Lord role at night, controlling representatives of the Trade Federation on the spaceship. Without convenient communication technology, Palpatine is not able to telework from the Republic capital planet of Coruscant. This is an obvious workplace change due to the technology.

The Trade Federation

The Trade Federation invasion to Naboo planet is a good example of "Winner-Take-All". Without much strength to fight with the droid army, Queen Amidala asked help from Gungan. The Trade Federation was obviously "Winner-Take-All". The Trade Federation was expanding relies on its technology and policy, whereas Naboo with less technology development was threatened by powerful Federation "Winner". If the combat was not as successful as the movie described, the Trade Federation would further develop their power in the universe.


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