Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 


Occasionally, I get emails from engineers. Occasionally, the first word starts with an "F." They can be forthright souls.

Sometimes, though, I hear of their new ideas, expressions of fear or even wonderment. And sometimes I just hear about their parties.

So it is that the engineering team at Aryaka sent me a missive longer than most movies. I hadn't heard of Aryaka, but it claims to be "the only software defined, ultra optimized, cloud delivered, private WAN [wide area network]."

I assume, therefore, that it's the Obi-WAN Kenobi of enterprise software. Or something.

These Obi-WANs wanted to tell me about a party they held. It involved sitting around the office and watching the Star Wars trilogy.

As engineers do, they apparently got into a (no doubt heated and overheated) discussion about what the Star Wars movies failed to predict, technologically speaking.

I offer their words below with minimal comment and commercial interruption. You may feel free to differ in their assessments of this cultural artifact that's about to be reawakened worldwide starting December 17.

1. Robots and artificial intelligence.

In the original trilogy, the Galactic Empire used an army of clones, which is odd in a universe filled with interstellar space travel, force fields and faster-than-light communication. This move is flimsily explained away in "The Attack of the Clones" by claiming that human clones are more creative than robots in their decision-making.

But even in 1997, chess champion Garry Kasparov was "spooked" by the "unexpected creativity" of IBM's chess-playing robot. It shouldn't be hard to imagine that robots with advanced artificial intelligence (AI) might one day exhibit human-like behaviors and creativity. Even R2-D2 shows extraordinary presence of mind (through machine learning) in saving the day.

In any case, why were the B-1 battle droids of the prequels so utterly dumb? How difficult would it really be to put R2D2's "brain" in mass-produced droids?

Also, there is little sense in anyone building a robot as rigid and inflexible as C3PO (except for, perhaps, comic relief), especially when relatively nimble robots exist even today.

2. High-quality holograms and the HoloNet.

Hologram technology seen in the Star Wars movies clearly leaves a lot to be desired. The holograms were always grainy, as if they were recorded on old VHS tapes. Today, in an age of lossless compression and storage, this just wouldn't make sense.

The technology to create moving 3D holographic displays has come a long way. Tupac Shakur's dramatic holographic rebirth at Coachella in 2012 was leaps and bounds beyond those grainy images of Princess Leia.

Moreover, Japanese scientists have created a plasma-based hologram that can be touched and felt. The day isn't far away when you might shake hands with the hologram of a far-flung business colleague.

In the Star Wars universe, however, holograms seem to be inspired by images from 1950's antennae-based television sets located in remote suburbs.

Holograms in Star Wars are transmitted over the HoloNet, which, in many ways, is a cloud-based network solution.

Today, blazing fast file transfers and application performance -- for all kinds of traffic including voice, video and data -- is commonplace.

It's not hard to imagine that the Galactic Republic could use similar principles to improve their Holographic traffic. If we can do it, an advanced future civilization surely could. Why didn't they?

3. Virtual reality.

In the Star Wars universe, floating droids with limited intelligence called "remotes" are used to train young Jedi (and Luke Skywalker) in the use of lightsabers.

Here's the problem. Those remotes look more like drones, but drones are not and probably won't be used in this way. Why? Because this type of training would make more sense in a virtual world, just like contemporary VR, like that of Oculus Rift.

It won't be long before nano-computers could be embedded into contact lenses, which could project images into the wearer's field of view.

By scaling down Oculus Rift-like virtual-reality modules into such contact lenses, people would soon be capable of walking around seemingly unhindered, while experiencing an alternate, customizable world of their own.

This form of virtual-reality technology would certainly be used by defense forces around the world for training their soldiers, without the use of bulky, poor-quality simulators. Ditto, for the Star Wars universe.

4. 3-D-printing technology.

The story-arcs at the center of two Star Wars movies involved malfunctioning spaceship parts that led to dire consequences. In "The Phantom Menace," Queen Amidala's ship gets damaged with a "leaky hyperdrive" and the Jedi are forced to land on Tatooine, a planet filled with thugs, for spare parts.

And in "The Empire Strikes Back," a malfunctioning hyperdrive of the Millennium Falcon sparks a set of events that leads to the capture of Han Solo. Clearly, there's a demand for a simple solution that solves the problems of malfunctioning equipment and spare parts in short supply.

3D printing, aka additive manufacturing, is just what the captain ordered.

Both Queen Amidala's ship and the Millennium Falcon could've been fixed simply by printing the hyperdrives using a more advanced version of 3D printers.

Unfortunately for George Lucas though, if that were the case, he would have had to think up of a more creative way to move the story forward.

5. Next-generation device communications.

Communications technology has advanced dramatically since the 1970s, and this progress has shoved the world into the information age.

The Star Wars movies do look a bit dated to our generation.

"Sir, I don't know where your ship learned to communicate, but it has the most peculiar dialect," C3PO said in the"Empire Strikes Back." With Google Translate promising to erase verbal boundaries of human communication, this now seems a bit far-fetched.

Worse, even people residing on the same planet don't seem to have any instantaneous way to communicate with each other in the original Star Wars universe.

In our world, R2D2 wouldn't have had to physically "dock" with other devices in order to communicate with them, like it frequently does. It would have performed wirelessly.

On the other hand, even though short-range mobile communication was practically non-existent in the movies, intergalactic communication was near-instantaneous.

So, in the end, perhaps the HoloNet is the one technology that wouldn't have changed too much if Star Wars were made today. Well, that...and lightsabers.

My conclusion.

Hollywood isn't as clever as it likes to think it is.