Star Wars and AI: Why Han Solo absolutely can’t do without droids

Han Solo wants to be the best pilot in the galaxy. He’s a renegade, a smuggler, out for himself until he comes through in the end. He’s also dependent on machine intelligence.


In the world of Star Wars, Han Solo has a more subtle relationship with technology than many of the main characters – for better or for worse. 

He is not a cyborg like Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader.  He does not have an AI-powered robot as a loyal companion, whether it is R2D2, BB-8 or C-3PO.

C-3PO: Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.

Han Solo: Never tell me the odds.  

Droids can fly the Millennium Falcon

Star Wars is not much about ubiquitous connectivity – see this very cool post from our blog on How to make the Death Star indestructible with hyperscale in which Michael Bennett Cohn talks about how Star Wars technology is in many ways stuck in the 1970s.

In the films, the droids are often their own, programmed for certain tasks and often have their memories wiped – but not constantly monitored and connected to networks.

But droids can fly spaceships and they do it a lot (though not as much as they fix them).  The featured droid in the new Solo movie is a co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon, for instance.  The humans just don’t let them all that often, it seems, especially a maverick like Han Solo who has built his identity around his piloting skills.

Drone animation

While I’m personally looking forward to the day we have self-driving vehicles, this gets straight to how Ericsson sees machine intelligence.  It is there to augment human abilities, not replace them.

The author James Kahn once wrote that “Star Wars is also very much concerned with the tension between humanity and technology.”  I’d say in Han Solo that tension is resolved more than with the other main characters.  He likes technology.  He trusts it to a certain degree.  But then he makes the final call.

Do you want your own R2D2?

Machine intelligence (MI) includes all technologies that make machines intelligent enough to solve complex problems without a predefined set of rules for a specific case. It uses both machine learning and artificial intelligence methods, tools and techniques to create data driven, intelligent, non-fragile systems for automation and network evolution.

Machine Intelligence

 Erik Ekudden, Ericsson’s CTO, wrote last year about technology trends for 2017 that

“MI will create a new type of autonomous coaching environment where humans and machines can train and mentor each other. This situation is comparable to a teacher in a classroom guiding, mentoring, discussing with and learning from the students.

Human-machine communication will further evolve toward a multifaceted communication platform that includes capabilities such as situation and social awareness. A deeper dialogue between humans and machines will emerge, moving beyond cognitive intelligence toward augmented human intelligence.”

The interaction between the droids and humans – especially Han Solo – in Star Wars is a lot rougher and more organic than Ekudden’s text makes it sounds.  But that’s the point: our AI will have to communicate with us in real life, while we’re on the run from Imperial troops and entering, say, an asteroid belt.  And at that point, we need to work together no matter what mood we’re in.

Explore machine intelligence

For a deeper dive into MI at Ericsson, Erika Ernfors’ post on Machine intelligence when automation is not an option.  Discover more on our site and explore how Machine Intelligence differentiates Ericsson’s portfolio and services.

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