Rogue One: an "engineering ethics" case-study disguised as a Star Wars movie [SPOILERS]


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/12/19/rogue-one-an-engineering-et.html


#2

A complementary point to Winner is to think through how we have to labor to maintain existing systems. Historians Andy Russell and Lee Vinsel have started a social movement called The Maintainers, which tries to call attention to the neglected role of maintenance in society.

This point it pretty timely and worthy of it’s own discussion. My neighborhood had a water main break last week and on our local board people with poor understanding of how gravity fed water systems work tried to blame it on excess development. The fact is our water and sewer systems are crumbling and inadequate because, besides the usual corruption and waste, no politician ever gave a speech about all the great things he maintained. There’s no glory in being a caretaker so resources get diverted. NJ hit a roads maintenance crisis because the roads fund was diverted to the general fund to avoid a tax increase that would damage a certain ambitious governor’s Conservative credentials.


#3

It’s one of the few things about Trump’s campaign that actually resonated with me. He promised to invest in infrastructure, which is something that is sorely needed.

Whether or not he’ll follow through, on the other hand…


#4

After the GOP spent 8 years castigating and obstructing Obama for stimulus money spent on infrastructure.


#5

Well, you know, a Republican politician has no problem admitting the sky is blue, unless it means agreeing with a Democrat.


#6

While Galen’s change to the Death Star is an extreme case, akin to modifying a nuclear weapon design

I would disagree with this. The Death Star is a single Weapon of Mass Destruction; one not balanced by any other power or entity in the SW universe. As such, putting a fatal flaw inside its design could eliminate a wildly unbalancing weapon. That’s not the same at all as nuclear weapons in our modern world… numerous countries have them, and could use them to devastate other countries, if not the entire planet. One engineer, sabotaging only his own country’s weapons, would not change the outcome of a nuclear war… it would only leave his country’s opponents untouched by direct attack.


#7

story of a refusenik who will not work on a weapon being coerced into doing so anyway – shades of the Iranian nuclear scientists – and then deliberately introducing a vulnerability into this system

Where is it documented that any “Iranian nuclear scientists” were coerced into working on a weapon? I know we live in a comfortable fake news bubble over here in the US, but everything I’ve ever seen suggests that there are plenty of Iranian scientists who love their country just as much as we may love our own, and I don’t think they need to be coerced into protecting it from what they regard as serious external threats. In fact, I’ve seen it reported that several scientists working on nuclear-related projects have been assassinated by “unknown” parties, which suggests that one has to have a certain level of bravery to continue doing such work.


#8

The ethical objector’s name is Galen? (I haven’t seen it yet.)

This could, possibly, be a pretty sophisticated reference to Karel Čapek:

Doctor Galén (a reference to famous Roman doctor Galen) has discovered a cure for the disease. However, being politically minded and apparently quite disdainful of the Hippocratic Oath, he requires his prospective patients to bring income statements, and only cures the poor. He promises to cure everybody else as soon as the government stops preparations for war and explains that, by withholding the cure from the rich, he wants to force them to get the government to change its mind.


#9

He already didn’t. He turned that promise into a vehicle by which he could deliver greater tax relief to the corporations he promised to punish and protect the little guy from.


#10

I think I have an appropriate reaction here somewhere… Let me find it…


#11

And here I thought the sabotage was just a device to further the plot of the movie, because they had to explain a lot otherwise.


#12

The movies themselves explicitly state the dark side of the Force is much more powerful than the good side, and then go on to show how it is as a series of Sith pairs completely subvert and destroy a galaxy-spanning golden age of Jedi within a manner of years.

The Death Star is not a “force magnifier” (pardon the pun) that the Sith need to scale up their rule - they are already in charge - in Rogue One it’s explicitly identified as a weapon of such destructive power that the mere terror of its use should serve as a deterrent to opposition. Maybe it needed one of those political cartoon scribbles across it saying “NUCLEAR WEAPONS” on it?

Galen owes his existence solely to decades of people making jokes about how the Death Star had such a simple vulnerability such as “shoot down hole”, which as a vulnerability only existed in the first place to serve as a challenge to which ultimately only space wizard neophyte Luke “womp rats” Skywalker can rise to because that’s how stories work. He is, of narrative necessity, just a way to justify a proactive attempt to steal the plans rather than what would otherwise be a passive process of having discovered the plans and someone realising there was a vulnerability.


#13

Excuse me?!

I haven’t watched Episode V in a while, but I’m pretty sure Yoda said…

Let me find it…

Luke: Is the dark side stronger?
Yoda: No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.


#14

Obligatory post:


#15

Counterpoint:

“…now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb.” -Dark Helmet


#16

Counter-counterpoint:


#17

I can’t imagine any reason Yoda would have to lie about the power of the dark side to the untrained apprentice who is anxious to learn as quickly as possible and who could become quite angry and fearful if he discovers the truth that Vader is his father. That’s even assuming that he’s answering “stronger” as a synonym for “powerful” rather than giving Luke the reassurance that he was looking for that the light side can conquer the dark and all is not lost.


#18

All right, then.

You said that it was “explicitly stated” that the dark side is more powerful, but didn’t quote that statement.

I’ve provided, and quoted, an explicit statement that it’s not.

Can you back up your statement?


#19

Didn’t Treya teach us that it is mastery of the whole spectrum of the force, from the centre, that is most powerful?


#20

The Death Star is intended to be The Emperor’s seat of power for, essentially, ever.

He intends to subvert the rule of two, keeping Vader in his shadow for as long as he can transfer his force-spirit into the clones of himself he has being grown in secrit. And he only resorted to that technique for extending his life because he could not master Darth Plagueis’ resurrection power.

Shoulda looked up this guy in the holocrons

Oh.

Spoilers.