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Starman

Lucas talks to Inc. Technology's editor about digital technology in films, education and more.
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Star Wars creator George Lucas reflects on the great technological adventure

The moment when the Empire's galactic cruiser roars across the screen in pursuit of a rebel fighter in the opening of Star Wars was, for many of us, a technological awakening. In the 18 years since he brought us the celebrated film trilogy, George Lucas has been a primary force in the rapid digitization of the entertainment industry, the blooming of multimedia computer programs, and the growing role that computers play in education.

Lucas is now in seclusion writing the stories for the next three Star Wars movies. The day before he settled in, he spoke with Inc. Technology editor David Freedman. Here are some of Lucas's thoughts, along with images from software producer LucasArts Entertainment Co. and Lucasfilm Ltd., part of the small empire of companies Lucas has founded.

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On the digital revolution in the film industry
The entertainment industry is going to reinvent itself, just as it did in the beginning of the century. When we go to all-digital movies and celluloid is gone, the world will revolve around a completely new delivery system of digital networks that come into the home through both telephone and cable companies. Right now the gatekeepers of the entertainment marketplace are five or six studios and four television networks. But as the new technology gives small groups and artists more direct links to the marketplace, you'll find lots of very interesting entertainment venues, targeted to specific markets. I don't think they will replace the theater experience, because as technology causes people to become isolated, there will be a demand for social experiences like the circus or the opera.

The biggest issue right now is who will pay for the digital networks and the entertainment. People are struggling to come up with an economic model that provides a way of selling tickets.

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On how technology will change education
The process of learning is going to be more closely linked with real-life experience through multimedia simulations. Instead of learning geometry, physics, language skills, and art in the traditional way, you'll build a simulation of a house. Every- thing will have to be engineered correctly, and you'll have to use the right kind of insulation. Kids will be able to see they're dealing with real-life issues, not with abstract principles of thermodynamics.

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On returning to Star Wars
I'm really a storyteller. The technological adventures I've gotten myself involved in surely came about because I found myself out in the middle of the wilderness with no fire. I had no choice but to try to build a fire so that I could sit by it and tell stories. I've wanted to finish the Star Wars story for a long time so that the first three weren't left hanging out there. But it's a lot of work; you've got to take a deep breath and prepare yourself for four years of hard labor. But, you know, I look forward to the whole process.

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On how society is being transformed
What computers and telecommunications are doing to us now is similar to what the world of trade did to society back in the middle of this millennium. New markets were opening up at the crossroads of East and West, and there were dramatic changes in everything from clothing to food. Now we're sort of sitting here in this new version of 1450, and we're wondering what it's going to be like 50 years from now. We're just beginning to understand the possibilities.

For one thing, there's an awareness that the controlling of geographic space is no longer really possible or even necessary, partly because there is another reality -- a digital reality. That puts an end to Alexander the Great's dream of plundering the world, which has been the model for many people over several centuries and has caused the world great pain. But for the first time in history, we're facing an interconnected, interdependent world, and we need a new social structure to cope with that.




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