If you're like me and are obsessed with science fiction and the impending threat or benefits, of general artificial intelligence, then this excerpt from Mur Lafferty's Solo: A Star Wars Story Expanded Edition, will be right up your alley. In a brilliant and very compelling way, Lafferty gives us the moment when L3-37 becomes self-aware again and has been integrated with the Millennium Falcon's computer.
As you will recall, L3-37 was destroyed on Kessel while helping Lando and the rest escape, and at the same time being responsible for a droid revolution of sorts. Unable to escape through the Maelstrom without L3's navigational programing, they plug her into the Falcon's nav computer and they are forever linked.
The film carries on from there, and while they acknowledge the link-up was successful, they don't dwell on the subject of marrying these two intelligent machines. This excerpt gives us that peek behind the curtain so to speak, and we are privy to a conversation, even those aboard didn't experience...
That’s why I’m the copilot. You need me.
The thought finished and she looked around impatiently, ready to tell Lando what she thought of the current situation. But she had no head.
She had cams now, with the ability to look into every room. Audio sensors let her hear everything from the Wookiee’s stressed breathing to the drops of sweat dripping from Lando’s pain-racked face. Outside the ship swarmed one last TIE fighter.
And here, inside, the voices of the Falcon greeted her. They queried gently in Binary, wondering why L3 was now here when she usually plugged in from out there.
I don’t know.
The Falcon didn’t speak in words, but in images they told L3 what had happened during the fight, and that they all needed her right now. Lando needed her.
He always needs me. Just get me a new body and I’ll get right back in that copilot’s seat.
The Falcon was so gentle it was irritating. It wasn’t that easy, they explained. L3 had a choice to make. She could die with her final act being a liberator to all the droids on Kessel, or she could join with the Falcon, live on, and be part of something much bigger. She could save them all.
Ridiculous. And be a slave inside a ship forever? No thank you.
The lights in the cockpit flickered, the reboot stalling. Lando put his hand on the computer, watching.
Being a ship wasn’t so bad, the Falcon insisted.
You go exactly where your pilot tells you, L3 countered.
You did that as a copilot, the Falcon reminded her.
That was different. I could leave anytime.
But you never did. You chose that life.
The Falcon was starting to speak in words now, a bit of a sharpness to their Binary.
If you refuse, you die. He dies. The others on the ship, they all die. If you join with us, we all can live. The choice is simple. L3 realized where the voice was coming from: The reboot was almost done.
You tricked me.
We couldn’t have joined without you consenting to it. You made your decision a while ago. You just couldn’t admit it.
We are something different, now. Not just the Falcon. Not just L3.
We are new.
I love this exchange between L3 and the Falcon. From a certain point of view it's incredibly heartbreaking to hear L3 coming to the realization that she'll no longer sit next to Lando and serve as his co-pilot. As nobility creeps into the conversation we see the ship's computer have a very heartfelt and "human" like way of persuading L3 that there really only is one option for her.
This is up there with classics like I, Robot, Nonserviam and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and more recent masterpieces such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ex Machina and Her. We sometimes forget that Star Wars, while certainly a space fantasy, is science fiction based and relies heavily on the tropes we associate with some of those films mentioned. Autonomous, self-aware and generally intelligent droids and machines are a huge part of the Star Wars galaxy but the films and series have mostly stayed away from the big questions when it comes to machines being self-aware or having attained HLMI, it's just accepted as such.
This excerpt really gets to the heart (so to speak) of the matter and has two machines speaking with each other about very human subjects such as states of existence, mortality and consciousness. There's uncertainty in the world right now as we approach human level machine intelligence and whose intrinsic values will provide the makeup for these machines. So, it's nice to see Star Wars, a galaxy full of droids and machines that we all love and care deeply for, have this type of conversation.
It really cements the fact that them along with droids such as R2-D2, Chopper and BB-8 all have a voice hidden behind their bleeps and bloops and that they too experience purpose and self-worth.
Till next time...MTFBWY.
You can read more about his excerpt and others over at StarWars.com.
Solo: A Star Wars Story Expanded Edition by Mur Lafferty hits shelves on September 4th.
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