On Star Wars

Written by members of BIRG

In Episode I, Qui-Gon Jinn tries to use a Jedi mind trick on Watto to bend him to his will. Unfortunately for Qui-Goa, it does not work. With continual advancements in brain-machine interfaces, coupled with Elon Musk on his way to becoming a bond villain through ventures like Neuralink, mind control may be a feature of future civilizations. Is mind control ethical? Are there any possible situations when mind control is ethical (for example, the freeing of a slave like in Episode I)? How would we control this?

In Episode II, the Republic enlists a huge army of clone soldiers to combat the Sith. Cloning is a relatively common laboratory procedure and news headline. Is it ethical to develop an entirely clone army? What about for organ harvesting? Would you want a clone of yourself for “spare parts”, e.g., in the case of liver failure from drinking after you watched Episode II? What if you could genetically remove traits like fear or desire to retain function organs? Are clones disposable?

In Episode III, Anakin Skywalker a.k.a. Darth Vader has most of his limbs cut off by Obi-Wan Kenobi. His body is augmented with a multitude of robotic prosthetic devices (he’s more machine now than man) by a team of robotic doctors, and he ultimately becomes a tyrannical leader intent upon stamping out the rebellion. How does this affect the public perception of bionics? Should we be concerned with who receives prosthetic devices? Do we care what the public thinks about certain medical procedures, if it alleviates suffering in the end? Are robotic doctors, that are unable to choose who they operate on and who they refuse treatment, ethical? Is there a necessary human element to being a clinician?

Throughout the series, with its debut in Episode IV, traveling at light speed is a handy way to get from Point A to Point B (or escape from imperial pursuits). However, traveling at light speed would lead to time dilation due to large relative differences in velocities between two observers. In other words, those traveling at light speed would age slower than those they left on their home planets. Theoretically, this could lead to populations interacting with one another that age at remarkably different rates. If we are to eventually colonize our local galactic area once the Earth is no longer a viable home, is it ethical to travel from planet to planet via light speed? How would we account for the different ethical boundaries of populations that age at different rates? Are we seeing these effects now in the current administration which seems to hold dramatically different ethical boundaries than its constituents?

At the end of Episode V, (SPOILER AHEAD) Luke’s father Darth Vader cuts off his hand. Luke is fitted with a highly realistic prosthetic hand that appears to have the form and function of a normal hand. Should Luke be allowed to compete in sporting events with non-prosthetic enhanced individuals? Should he be allowed to fight the Emperor, or only Vader since Vader is outfitted with similar technology? Would it be necessary for Luke to obtain a concealed carry permit if he decides to wear gloves?

In Episode VI, the forest moon of Endor is occupied by the Empire to house a shield generator for their new Death Star, causing the removal of many healthy trees and likely supplanting several Ewok (the indigenous population of Endor IV) family. Is it ethical to invoke deforestation to protect the lives of thousands of government employees working at the Death Star? When is deforestation ethical and when is it not?

Episode VII was met with criticism that it was similar in pot to Episode IV. How should we feel about the constant rehashing of beloved intellectual property for monetary gain? Was it still a good movie, though the plot was unoriginal? What does this mean for incremental upgrades on Biomedical IP? Should there be measures in place to prevent companies and researchers from releasing incremental improvements in their work/devices in order to maximize research output and profits?

In Episode VIII, Finn and Rose travel to Canto Bight, home to a massive casino that likely accounts for a large portion of Canto Bight’s GDP. Is gambling ethical? What about the development of gambling addiction in response to medical treatment? Therapies for movement disorders (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor) include L-dopa and deep brain stimulation. Both of these therapies can, in rare cases, lead to the development of addiction to compulsive behaviors like gambling and hypersexuality. Are there ethical considerations to make when you consent to these treatments? What if you have a spouse or family that could be negatively affected by changes in compulsive behaviors? To what extent should those around you be part of your consideration in your choice in disease therapy?

Throughout the films, seemingly human species interact mostly peacefully with other forms of intelligent life. If Elon Musk were to discover intelligent life somewhere near our Earth, and the decision was made for humans and this other species to live among one another, what ethical considerations need to be made to integrate multiple forms of intelligent life into a peaceful and hopefully mutually beneficial society? Are the same ethical considerations made currently between humans of different cultures, especially as technologies like the internet and air travel (which enable rapid communication and interaction at unprecedented levels) become more widely available? Is peace an achievable goal? What if the new species was unwaveringly hostile towards humans? Is it ethical to stamp out another species of intelligent life to support our own?