Star Wars IV-VI

See also: The Phantom Menace

Movie made: 1977-1983 | Set in: distant past

Summary Table
Event Likelihood Time frame
Regular interstellar travel in a multispecies galaxy very low? beyond 2100
Interstellar warfare extremely low beyond 2100
Sophisticated robots medium 2030+
Large walking combat vehicles very low 2030+
Planet-destroying battle stations extremely low beyond 2100+
Handheld laser firearms very low 2030+
Light sabers extremely low 2040+
Holographic communications and games medium 2015+

Note: While the series is meant to be futuristic, it is not meant to depict the human future. It is set in the past, and Lucas made it clear that it is more a tribute to old adventure movies than an attempt at hard science fiction.

Approach to the future

Storytelling backdrop


Futurism: 4

Entertainment: 9

Plausibility: 3

Interesting depictions

The ground combat sequences on Hoth and Endor are unusual and striking, especially the walking scout vehicles and troop transports, and the flying Imperial reconnaissance robot on Hoth.

Large-scale walking combat vehicles are unlikely: in coming decades all large vehicles are going to be threatened by intelligent munitions and guided missiles, and may disappear from the battlefield. Small walking robots might be used as reconnaissance and combat units, if mobility problems can be overcome.

The flying reconnaissance robot is going to appear. There are already unmanned, small spy aircraft, and the Defense Department is working on tiny fixed-wing and helicopter vehicles. Some would be operated by individual soldiers on the front line.

Overall, ground warfare in Star Wars is subservient to storytelling: the hand weapons are inaccurate and ineffectual, and the Imperial battle armor can’t even protect the troops from primitive Ewok weapons.

The mechanism behind the light saber is unclear, and shows no sign of plausibility. Perhaps it is a powerful laser whose beam decays after a meter.

The Death Star is an elegant and sensible weapon for the truly ruthless empire. Its technology is not clear, and would require an extraordinary power source.

Chewbacca and C-3PO play a chess-like holographic battle game on the Millennium Falcon.

Given the insatiable appetite that gaming has for display technology, this will be developed if at all practical; a rudimentary version could probably already be built.

Other technologies/topics depicted

Space travel:
Space travel is routine, and can be accomplished by even small ships like the Millennium Falcon. The basic problem is that faster-than-light travel is impossible according to the laws of physics as we now understand them.

See: A note on space travel.

Robots / AI:
Robots are employed widely, often in specialized functions where they could sensibly replace humans.

Many, such as R2-D2 and C-3PO, are highly capable and complex. Their behavior strongly suggests that they are sentient and possess something like emotions.

Yet they are treated as property, ordered about, and sent into danger, even by the good rebels. This seems to be a form of slavery.

See: A note on artificial intelligence.

Princess Leia records a holographic message to be carried and displayed by a robot.

This could be done now, with effort and expensive equipment. It probably will not become the general display technology, but is likely for specialized applications, probably including some games.

Star Wars aliens are unexceptional: largely humanoid, and closely resembling people in their nature and motivations.

See: A note on aliens.

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The futures depicted in the movies