Return of the Jedi and Big Tech

I recently watched the Stars Wars trilogy with my son, age 12, and we just finished the movie, Return of the Jedi. I can’t say my son was impressed.

It crowned our sharing together of the first three of these movies from the 1970s-1980s, which I enjoyed seeing again. The costumes are cool. The orchestral doom music was scary in a camp sort of way. Since these classics, special effects have advanced. Today’s fare have as much, or more, alternative world-building as these classics. So for my son at least, this trilogy did not blow him away.

Maybe however it’s apropos. At the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker takes off Darth Vader’s mask, and the pale and somewhat malformed face of his father looks back out of his encasement. It is clear that Darth Vader’s humanity has been merged within that black metal machine of a body suit. He can’t live in normal air anymore. In fact, his voice is modulated, and still iconic. He asks Luke, take off my mask so I can see you with my own eyes. He very quickly sees his son, breathes actual air, and dies.

Of course as we grow older, movies are just movies. Books, something to read and pass the time, for many. I recently finished, very slowly over about seven months, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, that 19th century French writer, friend of liberty and democracy, and tale-teller extraordinaire. Literature, made by the master makers, has never been meant as mere entertainment. So, anyway, as I watched the end of the movie last night, that scene with Darth Vader just struck me.

Today at work before a computer, one of the online tools I use, DOCUSIGN in fact, asked if I wished to sign in with my emailed passcode as usual or fingerprints? I was a little surprised. However, why would I want to give a random online tool provider, a subscription service really that I pay for, my fingerprints? Should I let them use my computer to scan my eyes too?

Microsoft Windows is pushing everyone to subscription services starting a few years ago. I think my personal laptop has held out with the prior version (because I own it on a disc), but they got me when I purchased my children computers during the pandemic for school use. Recently, this update system invaded my work computer. Windows updated by work computer and it destroyed some stuff. Now, the Windows on my work computer is part of that subscription. Watch out for Windows 11 updates if you are using No. 10. This past month or so, it keeps prompting me as well to save all of my data on their One Drive storage facility. Why is that? Why would I want all of my personal or business data on their One Drive cloud system?

Maybe I am being a little coy. I am leaving out what I think. However, I have a certain fondness for 15 years ago with less media, less social media, and less everything being online. What will the technology companies do with all this online information, photos, fingerprints, books, tweets? In anchoring everyone’s professional, personal, and maybe even not-public lives online, what might be a use for whatever cable bill, cellphone bill, iPhone access, or subscription service exists now – and is soon to come next?

I am a fan of questions. I have not decided the answer myself yet. However, it’s another development that, for me, at best, feels eerie.

In the end, whether looking at Victor Hugo during the French Revolution and what resulted during his lifetime, or thinking back further or to our present day, what happens does require people to take action or to suffer the consequences.

I think, as in that Camus story about the teacher who lives on a hill during a war, there’s no neutrality over such invasive events and developments.


G. H. Mosson