CS3043: Solo (A Star Wars Story)

Joan Albert, Tyler Looney, Jared Poulos, Liam Rathke, and Javier Salido

Computing Technologies


Synthetic lifeforms complete with a full range of emotions typically built to serve a specific process. They are generally considered to be property rather than alive, and have their memories wiped to prevent them from having too much personality. Some owners may fit their droids with a restraining bolt to further control their autonomy. Droids are used for administration, piloting, repair, and security in the film.

Restraining Bolts

A restraining bolt is a piece of hardware that sticks to the outside of a droid and allows the owner to forbid certain actions or remotely disable the droid. It can be pried off without damage to the droid, which frees that droid from it’s control.

Additional Source: Episode 4

The faster-than-light travel in Star Wars is achieved through jumping to hyperspace. All hyperspace equipped ships need an onboard computer or a droid to calculate the route because, as Han says in A New Hope, “Traveling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations we could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova and that'd end your trip real quick, wouldn't it?”.

Additional Source: Episode 4
Holograms / The Holonet

Holograms in Star Wars are used to display information or receive media such as a video call. They appear to communicate at faster than light speed, since there is no lag when holoconfrencing with someone in another system. News and other programming is sent over the Empire-controlled Holonet, which seems more like a TV channel than our internet. Holograms can be traced back to their source with the right technology.

Additional Sources: Clone Wars / Rebels TV shows

Synthetic lifeforms complete with a full range of emotions typically built to serve a specific process. They are generally considered to be property rather than alive, and have their memories wiped to prevent them from having too much personality. Some owners may fit their droids with a restraining bolt to further control their autonomy. Droids are used for administration, piloting, repair, and security in the film.

Additional Source: Rebels TV show
Gravity Locks

These are computerized impound boots that connect to a ship’s landing gear and weigh themselves down far more than the normal effects of gravity would. These locks require either engineering knowledge, slicing (hacking), or a set code to safely remove. They are employed to prevent the theft of ships or to keep them grounded.

Additional Source: Rebels TV show
Real world/implied computing technologies

The Star Wars universe has audio only communicators, though there is not much to indicate they are different from our own radios/cellphones. Scomp links are a universal device used to interface with a computer, similarly to how we have ports like Ethernet or USB to connect a variety of devices. Prosthetic limbs would seemingly require an onboard computer to function, but it is not specified whether or not they do. Additionally, the speeders shown in this film may have computers on board regulating things such as their height and speed, but this is not stated specifically.

Course Topics

Networked Communication
  • Holograms enable faster-than-light communication over great distances; while they are perceived as secure, some characters in the broader Star Wars universe are able to trace their origin
  • The Holonet allows users to watch real-time broadcasts (news programs, etc…)
  • Radio communicators are used throughout, nothing special to note
  • Networks can only be accessed physically, and there is no inter-network communication (no equivalent to the internet)
Intellectual Property
  • Intellectual property and rights are not concerns in Solo, or in the Star Wars canon
    • Extreme size of galaxy means that IP rights could not be enforced
    • Existential threats (the Empire, gangs, rebels) much more immediate
  • Even if IP laws existed, since the protagonists are part of the criminal underworld, IP rights would not be respected
  • Although L3-37’s navigational data (perhaps proprietary) is uploaded to the Millenium Falcon, droids are not considered sentient; L3 has no legal claim over the data
Information Privacy
Accessing information
  • Hacking in Star Wars known as "slicing"
  • L3 uses a scomp link to plug into Kessel’s network and gain control
    • Since droids use scomp links to access data, implication that no wireless transfer methods available
  • Perhaps information is more private than on Earth; physical access is required
  • Lack of cybersecurity for scomp link ports; anyone can plug in and get control
  • Did Star Wars society reach the security limit?
      Investing in security might not be worthwhile since hacking/slicing is so advanced
  • Few characters take preventative measures to enhance security, and when they do, these efforts rarely prove to be helpful
  • Can holograms be intercepted? In The Clone Wars, holograms are traced, but never intercepted
  • Used to display information or receive media such as a video call
  • News and other programming is sent over the Empire-controlled Holonet, which seems more like a TV channel than our internet
  • Can be traced back to their source with the right technology
  • Cybercrime and privacy/government (Empire) go hand in hand
  • Cybersecurity/privacy is a recent concern, not much interest in maintaining privacy in 1970s or earlier
  • Droid memory wiping considered normal for disobedience (punishment exclusive to droids)
  • L3-37’s mind is saved by uploading it into the Falcon
    • Is her memory her property, and is such use a violation of her property?
  • Unclear how much/little information is stored on IDs
  • No privacy once a memory existing in a computer is accessed
  • Referenced when Stormtroopers ask for ID
  • Can be stolen (literal identity theft) or bought (receiveing a new identity for passage)
Privacy and the Government
  • The government (Galactic Empire) controls the galaxy, maintains the HoloNet, and uses Identichips to check personal information
  • Many individuals in the movies seem to have more anonymity than we might expect
    • This is perhaps due to the fact that the rebels need to keep off-grid to maintain a low profile
    • Or, the creators of the franchise did not anticipate the privacy violations created by major tech companies in the 21st century
  • Tracking hardware is somewhat common amongst smugglers and law-enforcement-types
  • When the Star Wars franchise was created in the 1970s, a general lack of computing technology meant that the general public did not consider cybersecurity and the issue of digital privacy
    • Since Solo is set before Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), it is somewhat bound by 1970s views on technology
  • Stealing property (ships, etc…), which might include personal data, is trivial
    • In Solo, the protagonists merely walk to the impound and fly the gravity-locked Millenium Falcon away
  • Scomp link ports are unsecured, meaning that anyone can plug personal hardware in and attempt to gain control over an unfamiliar system
    • While some communications are wireless, droids use scomp links to transfer data; physical nature could imply that data is more private and secure
  • Security is almost always an afterthought (NEED EXAMPLE)
    • Theory: security limit was reached, hackers cannot be countered, attempts to secure digital data are not worthwhile
Computer Reliability
  • Droids with self-awareness/independent thinking seen as defective in some parts of the galaxy
    • Discussion question: do we give droids purpose or do they find it themselves?
  • Built to be robust, withstand extreme amounts of abuse (warfare, neglect, “amputation”)
  • Individual weakness: can be bought (illegally), negating security aspect entirely
    • In the opening scenes of Solo, coaxium is traded for an Identichip to secure passage from Corellia
  • Much like in modern society today, identity theft is rampant
Gravity Locks
  • Although not shown directly in the movie, potentially disabled by hacking or brute force
Hyperspace Travel
  • Different levels of navigation capabilities (and hyperspace reliability) available for each ship
    • Implied when L3 is uploaded to the Millenium Falcon to use her navigation system
    • More expensive/powerful ships might skip into hyperspace more reliably
Work and Wealth
  • Sapient droids more efficient at computation-heavy tasks, unclear if they possess other advantages
  • Mass-produced droids similar to slaves in Star Wars universe; automation of forced manual intelligent labor
  • Droids perform tasks organics are unwilling to do, for example sweeper droids (Clone Wars), toll-booth droids (Solo)
Winner Take All Society
  • Wealth within criminal underworld, impoverished planets (Corellia) concentrated in hands of the few
    • Both slavery for "organics" with slave collors and for droids with restraining bolts are enabled by technology and wealth inequality
  • Organizations with more wealth able to steal more coaxium, take advantage of better resources
    • Digital Divide: some sentient droids are able to choose whom they work for (e.g. bounty hunter droids)
    • As opposed to current technology, sentience results in droids that can discriminate when providing services; while there are differences in access to technology on Earth, once such technology is acquired, it simply "works" for its owner
  • Extends to computing side as well; L3's maps allow Millenium Falcon to complete Kessel Run in fewer parsecs
  • Droids fight to the death in cage matches

Computing Events Timeline

  • Han steals an M-68 Landspeeder, which could contain an onboard computer
  • Han’s speeder chase results in a protocol droid being hit and dismembered
  • Han and Qi'ra attempt to circumvent spaceport Identichip requirements by bribing an officer
  • Han enlists in the Imperial Armed Forces and is assigned "Solo" as a last name; his information is entered into an imperial log
Main Story
  • Han and Chewie join Beckett’s Crew, steal a Y-45 Armored Transport Hauler for use in a heist (all hyperspace capable ships require an onboard computer for lightspeed calculations)
  • During the heist, Han trips a sensor which releases a group of Viper Probe Droids.
  • The crew meets with Dryden Vos on his yacht, surrounded by "lobotomized" cyborg staff and various droids
  • The crew look for a ship, find Lando and L3-37
  • L3-37 tries to save a droid from a cage fight, is threatened by the droid's owner; L3-37 expresses her interest in droid rights
  • L3 mentions that the bar does not serve her kind
  • Lando refers to L3 as his crewmate, not his property, despite admitting that he would wipe her memory had she not the best navigational data in the galaxy
  • L3 uses a circular saw attachment to break into a ship impound lot, expresses embarassement: “I can’t perform with you watching me”
  • A tracker is placed on the Millenium Falcon, presumably associated with some computing device
  • L3 implies that she is in a romantic/sexual relationship with Lando
  • L3 poses as a servant to gain access to the control room at Kessel, exploiting societal assumptions about typical droid roles
  • L3 frees a restraining-bolted droid; when it asks what to do, she instructs it to free their droid brothers and sisters
  • L3 uses a scomp link to interface with the spice mine’s computer systems
  • L3 announces that she has found her true purpose (emotional statement)
  • L3 is shot, loses her legs and is mortally wounded; Lando puts his life on the line while attempting to save her
  • After the loss of L3’s, Han replaces Lando as the captain of the Falcon; Lando is distraught over the lack of his past partner
  • Qi’ra removes parts from L3 and plugs them into the Falcon, uploading her navigational data; “She’s part of the ship now”
  • Qi’ra speaks to Maul over hologram
  • Darth Maul’s legs are mechanical and likely need a computer to operate
  • Lando gambles the Millenium Falcon away in a game of Sabaac, loses the ship to Han (Han disables Lando's hidden cheating device)
Continuation in Star Wars: Episdode V
  • C-3PO comments on the Millenium Falcon’s unusual communication methods(continuation of L3 besides her navigational charts)

Creators' Intent

The creators of Solo: A Star Wars Story are a father-duo, Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan as the writers and Ron Howard as the producer. Although the public image of the creation of this movie can be seen as a backstory of a beloved character, Han Solo, there are a few ideas that the writer, producer, and actors want to emphasize in the movie.

In an interview with producer Ron Howard, he describes how this movie shows Han’s internal conflict with wanting to be a “bad guy” or a criminal but also having a moral code (making him the “good guy”), which is why we see a lot of criminal acts [1]. As a result of wanting more criminal acts within the movie, we see how often and sometimes easy it is to bypass security, violate privacy, and steal property.

Additionally, L3-37 (known as L3) comes up in this interview, and Howard mentions how the writers loved Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s interpretation of the character [1]. The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) even have on record that during an interview with Phoebe, “She decided to play L3-37 as a human in her audition…. The casting directors … liked her original interpretation of the character, and gave her the part” [2]. In this case her original interpretation was the humanification of L3. In an interview with the Kasdan writers, they even state that “There is an emotional core to her” [3] which not only shows how they humanize L3 by giving her emotions but also referring to L3 as “her”. To gain more of an insight into the intent of L3 as a sentient droid, we can look to Phoebe Waller-Bridge herself who becomes the character L3-37. Phoebe also humanizes L3 by referencing L3 as “her” but also by saying that L3 is a revolutionary “fighting for the rights of her people” [4]. Phoebe makes the expansion that even though L3 is supposed to be more sentient than other droids based on the movie, that all droids are considered to be a group, or a species even. Lastly,in another interview with Phoebe and Donald Glover (who plays Lando Calrissian, partner of L3), says that the relationship “felt very organic” and that Glover could understand fully why Lando preferred her company [5].

[1] The Upcoming. (2018, May 12). Ron Howard interview on Han Solo, Lando, L3-37 and Val – Solo: A Star Wars Story. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYfnTPptrqw&t=175s
[2] Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Trivia - IMDb. (n.d.). Retrieved May 11, 2021, from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3778644/trivia
[3] Arthur Syne. (2018, April 19). Solo : A Star Wars Story Writers Interview - Lawrence & Jonathan Kasdan. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ksv2d5cbw5I
[4] ScreenSlam. (2018, May 11). Solo: A Star Wars Story: Phoebe Waller-Bridge “L3-37” Behind the Scenes Interview | ScreenSlam. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcwIBlwMiuw
[5] Oh My Disney. (2018, May 23). Donald Glover & Phoebe Waller-Bridge on Solo: A Star Wars Story | Oh My Disney Show by Oh My Disney. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNW8E3VJQxk

Societal Conclusions

Wireless technology is more vulnerable to unauthorized access. Wireless networks are often targeted for cyber criminal activities because people fail to create passwords to protect their networks, leaving them vulnerable to attacks [1][2]. Additionally public networks in conjunction with bad actors can gain access to the information of those who connect to this network [1]. It can be significantly more difficult to secure a network when you have many devices to manage that are not necessarily connected by a wire [2]. Despite wireless connections being vulnerable to unauthorized access, many counter measures have been created to protect oneself from these attacks. There are many varieties of wireless communication security such as signal hiding, encryption, and authentication or network security such as anti-virus or anti-spyware, firewalls, and avoiding public networks whereas wired technology doesn't have as many counter measures [3]. However, cyber crime has been increasing over the last decade because the most common cyber attacks are wireless [4][5].

A 2011 study found that viewers of films portraying intelligent robots resulted in a more positive view of Artificial Intelligence in real life, regardless of whether or not the robots were the heroes or villains. Notably, one of the films participants were shown was the original Star Wars film [6]. The franchise this film is a part of has prominently featured droids from the beginning, and it is immensely popular. Disney’s 2016 quarterly reports attributed an 86% increase in entertainment media income and a 23% in consumer products income to the release of a one Star Wars film [7]. These figures show there is a great interest in the films and related media produced for the Star Wars franchise. With such attention from the viewers it could be concluded that the creation of the Star Wars franchise has caused many people to sympathize with droids within, and thus have a more positive view of real-world AI.

[1] CISA, “Securing Wireless Networks | CISA,” us-cert.cisa.gov, May 08, 2020. https://us-cert.cisa.gov/ncas/tips/ST05-003.
[2] H. Wang, Z. Chen, J. Zhao, X. Di, and D. Liu, “A Vulnerability Assessment Method in Industrial Internet of Things Based on Attack Graph and Maximum Flow,” IEEE Access, vol. 6, no. , pp. 8599–8609, 2018, doi: 10.1109/access.2018.2805690.
[3]Min-kyu Choi, Wireless Network Security: Vulnerabilities, Threats and Countermeasures, (International Journal of Multimedia and Ubiquitous Engineering, Jul. 2008) http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi= (09 May 2021)
[4] Statista, “U.S. Data Breaches and Exposed Records 2018 | Statistic,” Statista, 2018. https://www.statista.com/statistics/273550/data-breaches-recorded-in-the-united-states-by-number-of-breaches-and-records-exposed/.
[5] Statista Research Department, “Cyber crime: Attacks Experienced by U.S. Companies 2019,” Statista, Jan. 25, 2021. https://www.statista.com/statistics/293256/cyber-crime-attacks-experienced-by-us-companies/ (accessed May 09, 2021).
[6] Laurel Reik et al, Exposure to Cinematic Depictions of Robots and Attitudes Towards Them, (University of Cambridge, 2011), https://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~pr10/publications/hri11.pdf (Accessed 5/8/2021)
[7] The Walt Disney Company, THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY REPORTS FIRST QUARTER EARNINGS FOR FISCAL 2016, (Disney, 2/9/2016), https://thewaltdisneycompany.com/app/uploads/q1-fy16-earnings.pdf (Accessed 5/8/2021)

Meeting Notes