Death Stars, Design, and the Force

Be a digital jedi


May 2022

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George Lucas claims that his inspiration to write Star Wars was that he wanted to create a film that taught kids the difference between right and wrong. As the classic western was fading from cinema, he felt that children were losing stories that provided a moral compass. (Side note: As a Gen Xer, realizing that Boomers like Lucas used westerns to define their morality is very, very telling). So Lucas created the Star Wars universe to provide a backdrop for these life lessons. 



  1. George Lucas went back in 1997 and remastered the original film. This was largely due because he felt that the original movie did not reflect his actual vision for the film (I am sure that the absurd amount of money it would haul in was an incentive too). Additionally, the studio execs – insert Darth Vader music here – didn’t think anyone would want to see a picture with model spaceships and puppets. They just didn’t think that people would buy into the special effects.

    What’s the takeaway? Technology is secondary to the audience experience. Despite the limitations of the special effects and the technology of the time, audiences flocked to the cinema. It is one of the highest grossing movies of all time. People’s experience of the film was what mattered. It had a great story. It was different than anything else out there. The characters were interesting. Audiences experienced the entire film, not just the special effects. This is true for digital transformation as well. Technology is secondary to the experience of the user. It’s about how their experience made them feel.

  2. Now let’s examine the actual technology used in the story. The Empire seems to have the best and baddest arsenal in the galaxy. Not only did they build an entire space station that was the size of a moon, but that same space station could wipe out entire planets. Not significantly wound the planet or make it unlivable or hurt its feelings – it could turn a planet into space dust. Poof. Gone. In all, The Empire seems to have a distinct tactical advantage over the Rebellion. But despite all of this destructive technology what’s the weapon of choice Star Wars’ most fierce warriors? A light saber: “an elegant weapon from a simpler time.”
    What’s the takeaway? If you have the Force, you don’t need all the fancy technology. That’s not to say that technology is not important. Even the Jedi have cool spaceships and weapons. But great technology is no match for understanding what really drives user experience.

  3. When you watch Star Wars Episode IV for the first time, you are sort of left wondering why the Empire would design a moon-sized space station with a massive design flaw. So the bad guys are so ingenious that they can create a laser that destroys planets, but they never considered a small hole that could be hit with one little torpedo that would blow up the entire thing? It’s only after you watch it a few times that you realize that this was an exhaust port. (And when you create a giant space station, you are going to create quite a bit of exhaust.) As Dorkly points out in their video from the Death Star designer, this wasn’t a design flaw. In fact, it took a “space wizard” to make a one in a million shot. (Although he’s not a true Jedi at this point, when Luke makes the fateful shot into the Death Star, what did he do? He turned off his guidance system and trusted Obi Wan. Here’s another example of the Force being superior to technology.)

    So what’s the takeaway from this apparent design flaw in the Death Star? No matter how big or bad you may be, there is always some young space wizard that may come along and change everything. Here on Earth the space wizard may be Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, or Pat Benetar, but someone is going to come along and change everything. Be ready.

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