Talking to Luke
Hidden behind a bookshelf console is the family’s other comm device. When they first use it in the show, Malla and Itchy have a quick discussion and approach the console and slide two panels aside. The device is small and rectangular, like an oscilloscope, sitting on a shelf about eye level. It has a small, palm sized color cathode ray tube on the left. On the right is an LED display strip and an array of red buttons over an array of yellow buttons. Along the bottom are two dials.
Without any other interaction, the screen goes from static to a direct connection to a hangar where Luke Skywalker is working with R2-D2 to repair some mechanical part. He simply looks up to the camera, sees Malla and Itchy, and starts talking. He does nothing to accept the call or end it. Neither do they.
We also see the conversation from Luke’s perspective as well. It’s even more oscillioscopey, with lots of dials, switches, and sliders to either side.
So this all might be intriguing (and right in line with agentive design) but before we start to investigate, we need to look at another instance of its use. Just like the Imperial-issie Media Console, this functions differently later in the same show.
Talking to Leia
After the Erotic Brain Chair sequence (a later post), the camera cuts to Leia and C-3PO in an unspecified office somewhere. The droid works at a console for a moment and finally turns a dial. In the Wookie household, a loud dee-DEEP dee-DEEP sounds until Malla rushes to the console, and slides the panels aside. C-3PO sees Malla’s face, and turns to Leia saying, “Ah. I have made the connection. You may speak now if you wish.”
They do, and when the conversation is over, the feed just shuts off, with neither party doing anything to make it happen.
How is it turned on? One possibility is an architectural switch activated by sliding the panels. It would be a good design decision, as it is an action that needs to be undertaken anyway to use it. But that doesn’t explain Luke’s use.
How does Malla’s device know to call Luke once it’s on? It could be that it’s a fixed connection, like an intercom, that only calls that one other device. But it’s a Rebel garage. That doesn’t make sense. Why would Malla need to only call there? And of course they receive a call from Leia, who isn’t in that same garage, so it’s not exactly fixed.
The device contains incriminating evidence, i.e. the direct connection to the Rebel base, and so it needs some sort of security. Why is that not in evidence?
One technological concept that would answer a lot of these questions is that of agentive technology, i.e. artificial narrow intelligence that does things on behalf of its users.
It could explain how the device turns on and (some of) the security: the camera has hairy face recognition and persistently watches for authorized users, turning on when it sees one of them. Conceptually that would be far beyond common sci-fi tropes of the time, but in keeping with the New Criticism stance of the blog, should be considered.
It could explain how it knew to call Luke: It understands Shyriiwook and listened to the conversation that Itchy and Malla had before they opened the panel, knew they wanted to call Luke, and found him in the garage.
It could explain how it turns off: It’s smart enough to understand the linguistic, social, and physical cues that the conversation has ended.
The world of Star Wars even has this technology in evidence. The droids all exhibit artificial general intelligence, and it is only a failure of imagination that this intelligence should not be incorporated into important devices, or spaceships, or architecture.
This would also explain why c-3PO is managing the interface on his end but nobody else has to bother: An AI does not need another AI, just an API.
It would even explain why the damned thing rings. Take a moment to appreciate that. This is an illegal device on the Empire-controlled Kazook. We know this because it’s deliberately hidden, and our protagonists really work to avoid the Empire’s finding it. Yet when an unexpected call comes in, it shrilly announces the fact of itself to everyone within screeching range. The only way this is not the most moronic feature possible of an illegal object is if it can scan the surroundings and verify that it’s OK to ring. Because otherwise, it would be the most stupid feature of a stupidly stupid technology made in haste for a stupid show slopped together in haste and without any respect for a logical or consistent diegesis.
Thank The Maker for apologetics.