Thursday, January 14, 2010

Interlude in a Galaxy Far, Far, Away

Stopping the traditional fantasy train to stretch my legs at the science fantasy station...

I've been working my way through The Clone Wars: Season One on blu-ray.  While notably a kid's show in some ways (every episode starts with a moral, for instance) it is, in some ways, more complex and thoughtful than the prequel films.

Anyway, some half-formed observations about Star Wars' ubiquitous droids have been nagging at me for sometime.  Watching an episode the other day, and seeing those bird-headed (and brained) battle droids not only make poor tactical decisions, but do so due to over-confidence, it finally crystallized for me.

The humanoid species of the galaxy programmed these droids?  I think not.

Follow me here: I can buy that people might program artificial intelligences that make bad decisions--maybe that's just an unavoidable sequelae of having that level of AI.  But AI that are arrogant, boneheaded, dishonest, or overconfident?  That seems unlikely.  Yes, AIs like this do show up in science fiction, but they're typically unique entites, not armies of fretting domestics and slow-on-the-uptake battlebots.  I mean, if that was just the inevitable downside to sapient droids, then I think people would just choose to do without them.  Seems like they're more trouble than they're worth a lot of the time. 

So how does one explain the evidence before us in the canon--the fact that pain-in-the-ass droids are found all over the galaxy?

My theory is that the humanoid races don't actual make droids.  Those droid-foundries on Genosis are apocryphal.  I think droids are machine-life enslaved by the biologic sapients of the galaxy. 

I don't really envision Walrus Man or Snaggletooth out on slaving runs (though Jabba's treatment of Oola the Dancing Girl, and Watto's ownership of the Skywalkers might suggest that I'm being naive).  I think maybe certain fringe biologic races or perhaps other droids, sell the droids to galactic society.  These droids aren't manufactured in the sense of being designed by teams of engineers and rolled out of factories, but instead droids are self-replicating.  They "reproduce" in some way (not likely sexual, despite what your thinking), and the resultant neonate intelligences go through some sort of growth/maturation process.  This allows for their (many) personality quirks. 

I don't know if droids "evolved" naturally--I doubt it.  Probably they were initially created by a long-vanished precursor race, or by the transcendent AIs that succeeded a precursor race.  Since that time droids have been undergoing evolution, changing in ways that have made them as complicated and flawed as any biologic sapients.

So the slavery thing...Well, apparently galactic society is just hugely bio-chauvinist.  The bio-sapients are just culturally incapable of viewing droids as anything but machines.

I know this won't fit well with everyone's version of the "Star Wars Universe."  There are also probably some details from the films I haven't addressed.  But I find the nuance this adds to the universe compelling. 

All this speculation is making me consider an unconventional Star Wars campaign sometime in the future...


Desdichado said...

Could be that the "sentiences" of the droids are enslaved and self-replicating, but that the bodies of them are not; hence the need for factories on Geonosis and elsewhere.

Totally agree that the Clone Wars cartoon series is much better Star Wars than the last three Star Wars movies have been. Possibly the last four Star Wars movies, although Return of the Jedi still had its moments.

Trey said...

Good thought. Perhaps control of the bodies is part of the way they keep the machine intelligences enslaved.

I think Jedi gets unfairly maligned, chiefly because those who were young (and uncritical) for ANH and ESB, were now older and more citical when they saw it.

Why I'll allow its a bit more toyetic than its predessors, its got better realized dramatic tension (will Luke fall or won't he?) than ANH, and better dialogue.