"You will cry," the 23-year old Mandalorian fan assured me., "The end of Season Two makes grown men cry."
Sure enough, our stoic Mando and his adorable "baby Yoda" companion Grogu and their companions appear doomed, trapped on the flight deck of the sinister Moth Gideon's Imperial destroyer, as a squadron of ultra-indestructible killer droids, The Dark Troopers, relentlessly ram the flight deck blast doors. In a mere matter of moments, with no help in sight or even imaginable, the infant Jedi Master-to-be and his protectors will be very dead.
Through the flight deck windows, a single slender X-Wing fighter approaches the ship. "Oh, great," quips the fearsome woman warrior, Cara Dune, sardonically, "A single X-Wing! We're saved."
As the Dark Troopers ram the door with their massive droid fists, our heroes watch in astonishment on the flight deck security cameras as a cloaked and hooded figure emerges from the X-Wing, and a green Light Saber flashes in magical intuition-guided arcs of blended protection and destruction. "A Jedi!" breathes Cara Dune, as against inconceivably high odds, the mysterious mystic warrior monk systematically vanquishes the entire squadron of killer droids, until he stands patiently outside the blast doors, as little Grogu's enormous cosmically cute eyes grow wide with excitement.
"Open the doors," says Mando.
The hooded figure walks calmly onto the flight deck, sheaths his Light Saber, and throws back his hood.
OMG! It's young Luke Skywalker! It's frickin' Mark Hamill himself, looking about 25 years old.
Okay, this use of Artificial Intelligence to recreate a walking, talking, utterly convincing, youthful CGI replica of a legendary character whose original portrayer is now 71 years old was indeed thrilling and touching for those of us (and we are legion) for whom the original Star Wars trilogy remains a mythic cultural touchstone. And yes, my Baby Boomer eyes grew moist as little Grogu said farewell to his Mandalorian protector, and put his tiny hand in Luke's - as no less a companion than R2-D2 himself emerged to beep and shriek a happy welcome.
This is AI applied to wonderful use in an inspiring tale, whereby the septuagenarian Mark Hamill actually filmed the scene and was then magically "de-aged" to achieve the stunning moment which thrilled fans around the world.
Yet, of course, there are the manifest dangers of AI Facial Recognition technology as well, in which the human biases inherent in the data fed to the program end up fatally skewing the result, as in this slightly distorted image of Barack Obama which was given to an AI program to refine, resulting in - surprise! - a white male:
Or the notorious incident in 2018 when Amazon found it necessary to discard a proprietary recruiting tool because the historical data it was trained on resulted in a system that was systematically biased against women.
"Because all technology is the product of a biased system, techno-solutionism’s flaws run deep: a creation is limited by the limitations of its creator." (Stanford University Study)
History teaches us that plutocracy vs democracy is an ever-present dynamic. A famous Princeton University study in 2014 showed that the United States is a democracy in name only and is in fact functionally plutocratic (Blue vs Red is from this perspective a convenient circus to make the populace think they have a choice). Plutocracy appears to have achieved dominance which threatens to be permanent via the hidden control mechanisms of ownership of mass media by a demonstrably corrupt elite. Now Artificial Intelligence is poised to make that hidden control ever more powerful and ever less visible. The values governing AI would be those which serve elite control, using the same old tools we see throughout history: divide and conquer, limit education, clamp down on free speech, and give the masses 'bread and circuses.'
What hope remains for human freedom in this scenario?
Back to Luke Skywalker...
Artificial Intelligence won't go away. In the Star Wars moral universe, neither will the Dark Side Sith Lords who use the Force for domination and control. But the Galaxy finds balance because the Jedi Knights use the Force for "knowledge and defense, and because they were (as Obi-Wan Kenobi tells us) "the Guardians of peace and justice for a thousand generations in the Old Republic. Before the Dark Times. Before the Empire."
So AI is a force. If we demonize it and try to banish it, it will end up largely controlled by "the dark side" - those who are already using it (as is the Chinese Communist Party) for totalitarian control of very aspect of life. If instead we choose to learn its beneficent uses, we can then champion Organic Intelligence - the innate and inimitable qualities of human genius and creativity - and seek alignment with Divine Intelligence (that which some call God) to manifest a world of greater freedom, love, peace and abundance.
"Stretch out with your feelings, Luke!"
And if we do? Then we will have "taken our first step into a larger world!"
May the Force be with you...