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When Technology Disturbs the Force

Habibe Deniz Seval
SciFi Editor and PhD candidate at University of Ottawa | + posts

Habibe Deniz Seval is a PhD candidate in Law at the University of Ottawa Centre for Law, Technology, and Society. She is also a Geek and SciFi editor of DigiCon.

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Technology often “disturbs the Force” of law, pushing it to adapt and find balance amidst the turbulence of rapid innovation. Just as disturbances in the Force signal major shifts in the Star Wars universe, technological advancements compel legal systems to respond quickly to restore harmony and address the emerging challenges of our time. But does it really disturb the Force of law? What can we learn from Star Wars’ lens to navigate these challenges effectively?

In a galaxy far, far away, the Force binds the universe together, influencing both the light of the Jedi and the darkness of the Sith. So, as the DigiCon Sci-Fi team, we believe that the philosophies of these ancient orders extend beyond the screen, providing a ground for exploration into ethical dilemmas, legal principles, and technological advancement. The Jedi, guardians of peace, often grapple with the ethical complexities of using their abilities, embodying a framework of balance and moral responsibility. Conversely, the Sith’s pursuit of power and dominance through technology, manipulation, and control reveals a darker, yet equally instructive, ethical paradigm.

The Star Wars saga transcends mere storytelling, resonating with contemporary debates in law and technology. Consider the Jedi philosophy, deeply rooted in the ideas of balance, respect for all life forms, empathy, and mastery over one’s emotions and passions. The Jedi Code presents the true challenge in its practical application. It embodies the Order’s philosophical tenets, such as discipline, self-control, and introspection, while helping the Jedi uphold their commitment to the light side of the Force by rejecting the allure of the dark side. Conversely, the Sith sought to transcend their limitations, aspiring to achieve perfection through breaking the chains that bind them. As Yuthura Ban articulated, the chains represent the restrictions placed on all beings, whether self-imposed or externally enforced. The Sith believed that by freeing themselves from these chains, they could fulfill their potential and achieve ultimate perfection in strength, power, and destiny. So, the tension between these opposing philosophies mirrors our struggles in defining the boundaries between law and technology. This fictional universe acts as a mirror to our own society, presenting an allegory for the complexities of balancing power, justice, and innovation.

Exploring Star Wars through the lens of legal theory and technology illuminates the intersection of these domains, compelling us to reflect on our own world. The ethical challenges posed by the Jedi and Sith offer a unique perspective on how emerging technologies could reshape legal systems, societal norms, and ethical frameworks. By drawing on the rich tapestry of Star Wars, we aim to uncover lessons that resonate with today’s evolving landscape, inviting us to question our own understanding of power, justice, and technological responsibility.

Technology stands as a beacon of enlightenment, offering solutions to age-old problems, improving living standards, and promoting global connectivity. Yet, it also brings its own challenges, deepening social inequalities, compromising privacy, and fostering new forms of control and dependence. This dual nature poses a significant challenge for regulatory frameworks striving to balance the advantages of technology while minimizing its darker aspects.

Viewing technology through the lens of the Jedi and Sith dichotomy informs our understanding of law as a tool, a framework, or, as Kieran Tranter suggest, a monster. Law, like technology, can yield unintended consequences when used without nuance. The metaphor of law as a monster emphasizes the irony that while law aims to control and regulate technology, its implementation may inadvertently lead to complications, much like Frankenstein’s monster did.

In the realm of Star Wars, the complexities of regulating technology can be seen through the tension between the Light and Dark sides of the Force. Just as the effectiveness of the Jedi and the Sith hinges on their understanding of the Force, the impact of legal frameworks depends on the wisdom and intent of those who enforce them. So here, the metaphor of law as a monster underscores the importance of considering how well-intentioned legal measures might inadvertently create unforeseen problems. For instance, regulations designed to protect privacy might hinder innovation or inadvertently open doors for those seeking to exploit loopholes.

Not all of us possess the Force sensitivity of Princess Leia, so achieving mastery over the delicate balance requires conscious effort just like how navigating the regulation of technology requires a delicate balance between innovation and the supremacy of law.

The Jedi strive for balance and seek wisdom in their use of power, just as lawmakers must craft adaptable laws that anticipate technological change while being grounded in ethical principles. This balance ensures that regulations do not suppress innovation while still safeguarding societal welfare. In Star Wars terms, it is the difference between wielding power responsibly, as the Jedi aspire to do, and succumbing to the allure of absolute control, as the Sith do. Hence, understanding law through the lens of the Star Wars universe encourages a deeper exploration of the nuances of technological regulation. By acknowledging that the law, much like the Force, is not a straightforward tool or framework, we can better navigate its potential for both enlightenment and darkness, and more thoughtfully engage with the ethical challenges posed by technological advancements.

That’s why we chose Star Wars as our guiding star to navigate the dilemmas and complexities between law and technology. From the Jedi’s pursuit of justice in a galaxy fraught with Sith manipulation, we see how crucial it is to wield law with the wisdom of Yoda. Meanwhile, the dark side of technology, akin to the Empire’s Death Star, reveals the potential for great harm if left unchecked. Through our exploration of this universe, we aim to strike a balance between the light of ethical regulation and the dark potential of technological misuse, ensuring that our collective future remains as bright as the twin suns of Tatooine.

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