Welcome to my Tech Movie Review of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, a film about how the world would look without AI and automation. Spoiler alert: it leads to a lot of bad behavior trying to expand and enslave more workers to do the dirty work.
Readers of my (tongue in cheek) Tech Reviews may recall that “Star Wars: Rogue One” was an ECM-focused movie; about the challenges of finding, retrieving, and transferring mission critical content. In this installment of the Star Wars saga, director and writer Rian Johnson takes us to a place a long time ago in a galaxy with far, far less automation and AI then you would expect.
The only AI on display is from the rebel side, communicated through the blips of R2D2 and BB-8. Oh, but what about C3PO? C3PO is clearly intended to show the full heights of natural language processing (after all, it is fluent in over six million forms of communication) but has the AI capabilities of a toaster. For example, there is a scene where our heroes need a way out of a cave and all C3PO can offer is “Oh no, the tunnels here are a maze of twisting passages! We’ll never find our way out!”. Oh, you mean a problem type that a dumbed down AI robot should be able to solve with half its batteries tied behind its back? Useless.
As for automation, there isn’t any except for a passing reference to “auto-cannons” from General Hux, the First Order leader. Hoards of Stormtroopers are necessary to maintain the Dreadnought and operate every walking or flying contraption manually since the First Order doesn’t seem to have the Mobile Device Management tools necessary to support remote operation of the walkers.
The result of this stunning lack of innovation? A never-ending quest for new resources and planets to exploit. If the First Order bought a few Roombas it might have eased their desire for conquest a bit.
It’s also worth noting that whatever AI is on display comes from the good guys and the automation comes from the bad guys. It seems that AI is something we can work with and that could help us, while automation (represented here by automated weapons) is something to be feared.
In summary, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” provides a prescient warning about what a galaxy without AI and automation would look like. This reviewer will stick with his own galaxy, given the choice.
Or … maybe the message is that the future is up to us to determine. Despite all the attention of late on AI and automation, it is sometimes forgotten that this is a human story. We are in charge of what happens to the future of work and the global economy. AI and automation are just a distraction when trying to extrapolate where this journey will lead. Our best storytellers know this already. Hopefully that message sinks back into our technology innovators and enterprises too.
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