How Han Solo Demonstrated the Limits of L3-37

I’m about to forward an idea that won’t sit well with some fans of Star Wars, and particularly with fans of Solo: A Star Wars Story. At least one person will be nonplussed.

Let me be clear that I’m a big fan of the character L3-37. She’s a dynamic, funny character created with an eye toward thinking of robotics as we understand it today, as opposed to the retrograde treatment of programming we see in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. I sat on a panel at DragonCon to discuss the question of Droid Sentience. I called out the “vague racism” of the treatment of Droids in Star Wars years ago.

We’ve discussed Droid Sentience on Aggressive Negotiations, the podcast I cohost over on The Nerd Party. It’s a fascinating topic to explore. It’s a fascinating time to be alive.

I’ve gone back and forth on the nature and limits of artificial intelligence. Some days I lean a little Kurzweil on the topic, others I lean a little Tolkien. I think that’s fairly common. But I started thinking about it again.

Like any other sensible person, I can be persuaded and I can be convinced. But I had a further thought while listening to the superb soundtrack for Solo: A Star Wars Story. The track Reminiscence Therapy, which is the cue that takes us into and through the maelstrom as the Falcon is pursued by TIE Fighters, took me back to the moment Han decides to go into the maelstrom, and I realized that there was a key here to the idea of what will separate humans from machines. It started with a simple realization.

The Millenium Falcon in Solo A Star War Story which is a Star Wars film movie featuring The Millenium Falcon in a Star Wars movie about Solo in his own Star Wars Story Hi Craigula.
This was an insane decision, and a terrific sequence.

L3-37 Wouldn’t Have Attempted the Shortcut Through the Maelstrom that Han Took in Solo: A Star Wars Story to escape Kessel.

This is where I could get in trouble on the philosophical front with someone who fancies a debate about the seemingly paradoxical nature of Free Will. Fortunately, the few of you who read this (and aren’t SEO bots) aren’t inclined to argue points. I’ll gladly just dust off my soapbox and wax philosophical then.

If I can franchise hop here to start the journey, the nature of intelligence was explored in Star Trek: The Motion Picture quite beautifully. If you recall, when Spock mind-melds with V’Ger, we’ve seen that V’Ger has been to a machine planet. Yet V’ger cannot feel. Despite the stultifying intellect, V’Ger has no context for friendship and love.

It’s core to Spock’s own journey in the film! When we first meet him, he’s working to “purge all emotion” from his self. I am completely aware of the paradoxical nature of that claim, which is belied by Spock’s intuitive sense of V’Ger through the cosmos.

After mind-melding with V’Ger, Spock tearfully admits to the limits of pure logic, which is supposedly strict adherence to an “intelligence-only” lifestyle. V’Ger is missing passion and feeling. V’Ger is missing wisdom as well, since it feels the need to basically continue its programming despite its massive “evolution” since its first beginnings.

Leonard Nimoy as Spock in Star Trek The Motion Picture a Star Trek movie that features Leonard Nimoy as Spock in a Star Trek movie.
It’s Avatar meets Cybertron! 

A Core Difference

Passion has impact. It sets us apart from machines. We’re not simply intellect.

It’s in the interest of some to convince others that we’re simply meat machines, firing along on electrical impulses that are the extension of deep-seated “programming” that merely gives the impression of Free Will.

That’s not right. If it were, no one would ever move outside the norms, or challenge existing systems. Life is defined by chaos, not order, no matter how much Mark Zuckerberg or HubSpot want to reduce people to simple impulses and mathematical factors.

Where the debate gets murky is the fact that artificial life, as portrayed in movies and other media, has the illusion of Free Will. But it is an illusion. These characters exist in the main to explore the human condition, as they’re written by humans creating human stories for other humans.

In the real world, as much as a machine may seem to have Free Will, it won’t be the real deal. It can appear that they do because people have a perception bias since they live with Free Will.

A machine may achieve “human level intelligence,” but intelligence is its starting point. As I continued to think about whether L3-37 would have flown through the maelstrom, or dumped the cargo and gone into SEO marketing, I think there’s an important inversion of the natural order that limits “machine intelligence.”

It’s About Potential…And the Willingness to Be Implusive

It’s about potential. I know that there are people who get stuck in ruts, who make the decision to follow the expected and never deviate. That doesn’t mean they don’t have the ability to decide against their own best interests, nor does it mean that they won’t make a snap decision that defies expectation.

That’s why Han, when faced with the parameters, made the one decision that had the highest probability of failure. Instinct is the first step in human development, and intelligence comes later. A child is pure instinct, pure id. They don’t have the intelligence that will come later, nor the wisdom of experience.

L3-37 would still be ruled by logic and self-preservation, core to the original programming parameters laid into her matrix. She’d be ruled by these things because the intelligence came before any sense of instinct, not vice versa. The sensible thing was to dump the cargo, get boarded, and take your chances. Han Solo – a truly human person – was willing to take that insane chance just to get what they want.

Sure, that can be a bad thing when indulged too often. In fact, Han makes the decision for the people who would have voted against it. That can open a whole other debate.

But great leaps are made by those doing things that seem “crazy” when weighed against the odds.

“One Man Alone Cannot Fight the Future”

Maybe I’m a Romantic. Maybe my wavering between belief and disbelief in the virtues and potential of AI will ensure I’m blasted into my base chemicals to fill the feeding trough of the survivors.

But I continue to believe, to my core, that Free Will isn’t merely the artificial construct of intelligence. I think people have the thinking on it flipped. We are born with Free Will.

It’s intelligence that gives us our parameters. It’s an important piece of the puzzle, but it’s still a piece. People need to stop treating it as the whole picture.

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi which is a Star Wars movie with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader talking about the Jedi in the sixth episode of the Star Wars Saga which is before The Force Awakens and still had Luke capable of maturing unlike Star Wars Episode VIII The Last Jedi where he regressed because they couldn't figure out a better reason to leave him stranded in a Star Wars movie.
Luke learned the balance between intelligence, balance, and wisdom that even Obi-Wan and Yoda forgot. And ironically, Vader was “more machine than man” but still more man than a machine. Ignore the explainer videos, just read my image captions.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

I mentioned Solo: A Star Wars Story, and how much I loved it, in the context of another post lamenting that no one seems to want to talk about the actual Star Wars movies themselves.

And so, I decided I’d take the easy way today and share the review of Solo: A Star Wars Story I wrote over on letterboxd. Just offering my own two cents, as it were. I’d love to rewrite it and make it more expansive, but I want to offer it here in its unvarnished glory.

kesseljunkie’s Original Review of Solo: A Star Wars Story

I loved this movie. It’s relentless fun, dropping all the pretense and just going for broke every step of the way. I laughed, I thrilled, I had a TREMENDOUSLY great time. This is the most satisfied I’ve been with a Star Wars film since 2005, which is the highest compliment I can possibly give it.

A few frayed edges — undoubtedly the result of its production blah blah blah blah — prevent it from hitting perfection but this is a film where, when I walked out of the theater, I couldn’t wait to see it again.

I loved it so much I want a sequel. I want to know more about who and where and why, and to see if the supporting cast goes where I think they will. It would have been so unbearably boring for them to have produced something that was simply “Guardians of the Galaxy Light,” but instead we got something complex and intriguing. This is the expansive, unconstrained galaxy that I’ve seen in my head since I was a kid.

You’ll hear plenty of naysayers and mudslingers. Whatever. In a world dominated by rote formula and predictable plot lines built over years in multiple movies, Solo: A Star Wars Story is what I never knew I needed so badly – an adventure with a big heart and infectious groove.

Anakin and Obi-Wan fight on Mustafar in Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith
It’s the most I’ve loved a Star Wars film since this gem. And considering this is my favorite Star Wars film of all time, that’s a helluva compliment.

Further Considerations Brought on by “Han Solo, The Tin Man, and Inception”

Super Death Panda at Hoth

Every good theory needs refinement. Every good boy deserves fudge, too, but that’s a topic for another time.*

A couple of comments (and thank you for comments!) asked for clarification on the impact to body processes. One of those centered on the explusion of biological waste/excrement and “where it would go,” which I answered with the idea that his physical processes are so slowed/suspended as to remove the need for such a function. Basically, my thought was that he was trapped in a mental expanse without need for menial body functions.

I mean, obviously, he doesn’t need to breathe. He wouldn’t need to poop.

Han Solo Needed to Poop on Endor
That thing I couldn’t do while I was in carbonite? I need to do that. NOW.

This apparently backed me into a corner, though. Someone then asked how Solo could, in fact, retain consciousness while expending no energy. The brain, after all, needs to expend energy to function.

It’s a good question, given the other detail considered. I started explaining in a comment and realized that it would be far better to let it breathe and be a follow-up post.

The easiest dodge would be to point out that midichlorians are in all living things, and so even Han would continue to have some sort of mental awareness by extension as they would still function within him. Remember, even though the Jedi became over-reliant on measuring midichlorians, all beings had them and so the Force would speak to, through, and with everyone regardless. But again, that seems like an easy – and potentially very contentious! – way out here.

The Solution

The solution here seems to be emphasizing that Lando state Han is in “perfect hibernation” in The Empire Strikes Back, not “suspended animation.” By examining those words — words carefully chosen by those producing the film — I think it’s fair to say that Han is perfectly capable of consciousness. Hibernation indicates a slowed process, not a suspended one.

However, since he’s not in “suspended animation,” his body is still functioning. It’s just functioning at a very, very slow pace.

I really like this, as it could add an even greater sense of urgency to Han’s rescue. While he’s not going to die in the immediate term as his processes are slowed to a crawl, he is going through an elongated starvation/dehydration process. His awareness of that is actually irrelevant as he’d still be experiencing a panoply of mental reactions that would keep him from focusing on things.

Another horrific thought is that while things are slowed, it would be a race against not just starvation and dehydration, but some form of sepsis from being unable to vent waste. While his slowed functions would make the timeline of any death a matter of (many?) years, it could still be a race to see which horrible death he slowly suffers first.

Gratned, I think that suffocation would be the first on the roster of death unless – unless! – there were some way to feed him oxygen while in there.

The Sarlacc's Sweet Embrace Takes In Yet Another of Jabba's Contract Authors
Like carbonite, only stinkier.

Closing Points

This all ties also into an old debate among fans – namely, how the Sarlacc can feed on you for a thousand years. I’ve always been of the position that it functions like a symbiont, where it keeps the “food” alive and in some sort of stasis so that it can slowly devour every succulent molecule.

This refinement continues to allow for some really fascinating opportunities for fiction that I doubt would ever be explored, and I’m out of the business of offering ideas people can pick up for free and exploit unless they’re listening to my podcast, Aggressive Negotiations, on The Nerd Party.

Maybe I’d write the fan fiction for it, but I am completely too lazy.

Or am I? (I am.)

* This is an old saying, and I just want to clarify that good girls deserve fudge, too. I advocate that any person who exhibits good behavior deserves fudge. **

** If the person in question has some sort of food allergy, I would of course not advocate giving them something that could trigger a reaction. Please check all appropriate records before giving anyone any treats. ***

*** As a final note, as someone who has struggled with weight issues in the past, I also advocate a healthy lifestyle and not to bestow or consume treats/desserts/sugary foods too frequently, though of course how you judge “frequently” is entirely up to you.

Tauntauns: Strangely Useless?

I’ve been re-listening to the Star Wars Radio Dramas.

They’re amazingly compelling theatre of the mind, highlighting the best of a lost art. Even the most ardent fan will find new layers to their love of a decidedly “visual” film, as they re-imagine how certain characters look in their mind with slight twists on familiar situations.

I lament still that the prequels will probably never be turned into radio dramas. I consider it a tragically missed opportunity. If Disney® ™ wasn’t sure to sue the living existence out of me, I’d put them together myself.

Anyway, as you’ve noticed lately, I’ve been asking provocative questions ranging in topic from interspecies sexual ethics to command structure and strategy of a fictional space empire.

So re-listening to the first couple of episodes of The Empire Strikes Back Radio Drama recently, I had cause to mull over something that happens in such short order in the film that I never really paid it much mind. Heck, I don’t think anyone else has either.

Tauntauns

As far as anyone knows, tauntauns were a part of the bafflingly still-existent animal ecosystem on the sixth planet of the Hoth system. They were the free-range meals for Wampas, and therefore useful steeds for the rebel alliance.

Luke’s tauntaun tries to warn him about the Wampa, but he doesn’t notice. Somehow those gargantuan creatures are as stealthy as T-Rexes at the end of Jurassic Park.

Han then rides a tauntaun out to find Luke. Han’s tauntaun then…freezes to death.

Now, I’m not complaining about that plot point. It increased peril, demonstrated Han’s willingness to do anything to save Luke and provided for a wonderful story that I related to my our elderly neighbors at the time about tauntaun guts looking like macaroni. (This resulted in the first of many talks about what to discuss in polite company.)

However, I was thinking as I listened this time about the fact that the tauntaun froze to death, and both Luke and Han had not. Because a species indigenous to an icy planet really shouldn’t be more susceptible to exposure death than the two humans.

There are only two possible ways it makes sense to me.

Exertion

Han’s tauntaun has been pushed to a breaking point by the time it reaches Luke. Under normal conditions, instinct would have driven it to find shelter of its own and conserved energy. Energy that its system would have needed to ensure its survival in nighttime conditions.

In other words, since Han only had to ride the tauntaun, the effects of exposure were lessened since his body had conserved energy.

Of course, then there’s Luke. Who had been wandering for a while in a blizzard as night fell on an ice planet. Which leads me to the only all-encompassing explanation.

The Force

The Force was strong in Luke and so he was able to survive the exposure. After all, his father had survived dismemberment and then being set on fire.

So the Force kept Luke alive. Not intentionally (it seems to be extremely hands-off in the fate of the galaxy), but Luke’s attenuation to it made him more capable to survival in extreme conditions.

So where do you weigh in? Have I resolved the question?

Yet Another Unanswered Question from Star Wars

It’s time to bring back the classic series to see if you’re willing to exercise that old grey matter a little bit and noodle things through.

Seriously, I give you tons of quality posts to ponder and passively enjoy. Now it’s your turn to participate.

First, let’s revisit the unanswered questions from the first iteration of this series:

  1. An Unanswered Question from Star Wars
  2. Another Unanswered Question from Star Wars
  3. An Unanswered Question from The Empire Strikes Back
  4. An Unanswered Question from Return of the Jedi
  5. An Unanswered Question from The Phantom Menace
  6. An Unanswered Question from Attack of the Clones
  7. An Unanswered Question from Revenge of the Sith

Yet, the other day I realized I had a new question that I’ve never been able to answer satisfactorily.

Where the Hell did Luke stow his lightsaber while he was in the stormtrooper armor?

Seriously. Pay attention to the armor. Besides being clunky, it’s missing pockets and no bit on the utility belt is large enough to house a lightsaber.

The “backpack” part of the stormtrooper uniform lacks the apparent depth or accessibility to suggest that it’s there. It’s not in his helmet and Han didn’t have it hidden anywhere either.

It’s not in a holster, and I’m not willing to entertain the thought that he housed it…um, somewhere awful.

Amazingly, the first time I thought of this was just the other day, while watching the film with my daughters. I watched the cell bay fight and thought, “Wait. Where is his lightsaber?” All these years, I never thought about it.

I guess as we suggested on a recent Words With Nerds, we’re all willing to overlook certain plot holes and contrivances when we enjoy the film. But the question is unanswered still.

As usual, I have a solution in my head, but I want to see you if anyone comes to the same solution I did for this mystery of the illustrious Star Wars.