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Is the Star Wars Galaxy Funtionally Illiterate?

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Franky, I'm not sure there is any other way to look at it. Star Wars is basically epic medieval fantasy with the trappings of science fiction (starships and droids, for instance) covering the aesthetic engine of Shogunate Japan.

 

What's funny is that SW tech has lagged behind real life to the point where it's epic medieval fantasy with the trappings of WWII.  The Star Wars universe has FTL, antigravity, and robotics tech, but lags in computer, weapons, communications, and sensors.

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Which makes ALOT of sense if we look at star wars as a fantasy set in space instead of a sci-fi ssetting

 

Here's another way of looking at it.  Star Wars had a lot of influences but one of those influences was Isaac Asimov's Foundation series.  And yeah by Hari Seldon's time it wouldn't actually be surprising if most of the population wasn't very literate and education was focused on on the mechanical operations to do a job and not anything about why that gizmo works.  Of course Star Wars is apparently actually in an explosion of innovation after a long period of stagnation due to the stimulation provided by recent warfare.  It's not like Warhammer 40,000 where there's no innovation at all.  Even so Star Wars normally leisurely progress could be explained by a decadent civilization where basic education has mostly fallen by the wayside.  

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Of course Star Wars is apparently actually in an explosion of innovation after a long period of stagnation due to the stimulation provided by recent warfare. 

What recent innovations are those? Not being argumentative - genuinely asking. I always got the impression that other than the Empire's obsession with Bigger Is Better, technology had been pretty much flat since before the Clone Wars?

 

I think the question "Is Star Wars really SF or fantasy?" is a good way of looking at it. Not that there's a simple binary answer, but the society definitely looks & acts more like a pre-literate fantasy society than most SF societies. So yeah, going back to my earlier question of what would it looks like to run an RPG set in a futuristic society of functional illiterates with no tradition of journalism or history: the answer is take fantasy society tropes, but add spaceships and ray guns.

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Here's another way of looking at it.  Star Wars had a lot of influences but one of those influences was Isaac Asimov's Foundation series.  And yeah by Hari Seldon's time it wouldn't actually be surprising if most of the population wasn't very literate and education was focused on on the mechanical operations to do a job and not anything about why that gizmo works.  Of course Star Wars is apparently actually in an explosion of innovation after a long period of stagnation due to the stimulation provided by recent warfare.  It's not like Warhammer 40,000 where there's no innovation at all.  Even so Star Wars normally leisurely progress could be explained by a decadent civilization where basic education has mostly fallen by the wayside.  

 

Tech in Star Wars is ridiculously stagnant. I'm playing in the Old Republic MMO and the tech is pretty much the same as the films, despite being set 3,600 years earlier.

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What recent innovations are those?

 

Mega destruction weapons aside canonically ion cannon were first introduced in the Clone Wars cartoons.  They also appear to have recently introduced smaller shield generators that can be mounted on droids and fighters.  These are modest advancement by modern standards but appear to be dramatic innovations in terms of Star Wars's slow development.  

 

Of course one thing I don't do is take expanded universe timelines all that seriously.  They act like Obi-Wan knew what he was talking about when he said "a thousand generations" and that's absurd.  

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Yeah, we're so used to thinking of literacy as the norm and equating "illiterate" with "idiot." Even in my current Dark Ages game, 3 out of 5 PCs insisted their characters be literate. (It made sense for 2 of them.) And a 4th has had the priest PC teaching him to read & write in game.

 

Hmm...you could almost go with 1 point for "Functionally Literate" and a 2nd point for Full Literacy?

 

I always felt that the spoken language got more love than the written one. For example, you have Basic, Fluent, and Idiomatic levels of speech, but only a binary literate/illiterate choice for written. I could easily see and encourage the addition of one or more levels of literacy. Basic, Full, and Technical or something.

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I always felt that the spoken language got more love than the written one. For example, you have Basic, Fluent, and Idiomatic levels of speech, but only a binary literate/illiterate choice for written. I could easily see and encourage the addition of one or more levels of literacy. Basic, Full, and Technical or something.

Wouldn't the level of literacy be tied to the underlying language skill? If I only spent one point on a language, I don't think I'd be able to read it as well as someone who spent four. My ability to parse syntax and the size of my lexicon would be more limited with only one point.

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Wouldn't the level of literacy be tied to the underlying language skill? If I only spent one point on a language, I don't think I'd be able to read it as well as someone who spent four. My ability to parse syntax and the size of my lexicon would be more limited with only one point.

 

I know people who can speak English (or Spanish) flawlessly but couldn't read a word of it. The two are tied together, but not necessarily as closely as you might think.

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Of course one thing I don't do is take expanded universe timelines all that seriously.

I think that's true of all of SW, not just the expanded stuff. It's not like Lucas et. al. thought through any of this stuff deliberately, they just threw out whatever sounded cool in the moment. It's a fun geek mental exercise to try and make sense of it all, but you're right we don't need to take it all that seriously.

 

I always felt that the spoken language got more love than the written one.

True. But understandable, since RPG characters generally spend more time talking than they do communicating by writing.

 

Wouldn't the level of literacy be tied to the underlying language skill? If I only spent one point on a language, I don't think I'd be able to read it as well as someone who spent four. My ability to parse syntax and the size of my lexicon would be more limited with only one point.

Right. I suppose you could go the other direction where I have 4 points in speaking, but my reading/writing is only at the equivalent to the 1 point level. But for most games that feels like more detail than it's worth.

 

Actually we have that exact situation in my current campaign: one character started out illiterate, but has been having the Priest teach him to read Latin. The character has 3 points in Latin plus 1 point for Literate, so mechanically he went from completely illiterate to completely fluent overnight. But the character has been roleplaying it as if his reading is at the 1-2 point level. Given how rarely it comes up, neither of us feel like it's worth splitting points over.

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Posting this here rather than NGD because I'm more interested in the implications for roleplaying than I am in debating what is/isn't canon. Also hoping to keep this from spiraling too far down into political commentary on the current state of our society. (Tho I do feel there are some parallels.)

 

Most Citizens of the Star Wars Galaxy are Probably Totally Illiterate

 

This blog post is a few years old but it's new to me. (It got referenced in a WaPo article yesterday for the Fourth plugging the author's new book.) Basically the author points out that in 8 SW movies we never see anyone reading for pleasure, and most people don't seem to read at all beyond "I know that this symbol means go faster" type of things. There's no journalism that we see aside from government propaganda. History doesn't seem to be a thing, given that event just a couple decades old are shrouded in mystery, as if the only thing anyone knows about them is what they heard from some dude in a bar. Facts that should be easily-verifiable even at our level of tech seem equally lost to subjectivity - and no one seems to care or even recognize that maybe they should be verifiable. (No one took pictures of a planet-wide blockade at Naboo? No one?)

 

I'm not suggesting Lucas did this consciously, of course. But a lot of the contradictions in the Star Wars universe actually makes a lot more sense if you think of it as the ultimate "post-factual society" full of functional illiterates with no access to (or tradition of) independent news, analysis, or historical records.

 

What do you think? How would this affect a sci-fi RPG, whether set in SW or something else?

First, the link appears wrong. This one seems to work for me:

http://www.tor.com/2015/01/05/star-wars-illiteracy/

(you missed the double-point)

 

Are we talking about general illiteracy (any langauge) or only for non-standart languages? There are too many damn langauges in that universe to begin with. Even undersanding half a dozen verbally is considered exceptional. Aside from Basic and your own language (if you stay at home), what would you need in written form on a day to day basis? Luke not being able to read Wookie would be like me not knowing how to read Bluewhale Songs (we do not even have the same Vocal cords).

 

"Only visual media":

Not like we are not going the very same direction right now. We only used the written word that much, because it was the only thing we could reliably transmit, store and duplicate for a few centuries.

It does not allow nearly the same subtext or falsification protection as a Video or Audipo recording. Would have a text protocoll of Watergate have had nearly the same effect on Nixon? If we can, we of course go for video as part of our proofs.

 

"History doesn't seem to be a thing, given that event just a couple decades old are shrouded in mystery, as if the only thing anyone knows about them is what they heard from some dude in a bar."

Keep in mind, they do not have the internet. And even if they have a planetary one, you still have to connect seperate planets via FTL links.

In the EU, the holonet used to get close, but it was largely turned off by the Empire (both for money and supression reasons).

 

 

"No one took pictures of a planet-wide blockade at Naboo? No one?"

1. No one argued that the Planet Wide Blockade existed. The Senate knew it existed. The Federation admitted it existed.

2. The task was to proove if they had been invaded. That part was actually dealt with in HISHE, but poorly:

The flaws are:

1. The Footage shows the ship running the blockade. You know, a Blockade makes very little sense if you are not willing to enforce it with weapons power? How does that proove the Blockade turned into a Invasion?

2. Her Advisor made a holomessage? That literally just needs an actor to fake. An advisor whose real face it not know to anyone on Corouscant?

3. The "ton of witnesses" all work for Naboo. Might also be actors (remember: Planetary resource scale).

4. The Jedi were (for plot reasons) not availible. And by the time they were, their moment to influence it had passed. PLUS Valorum was friends with Naboo and send the Jedi there, so they might lie/omit facts on his/the Naboo behalf.

 

There is ample reason for the Naboo to get an intervention going on fake claims of "We have been Invaded". Once a intervention was started, there was no going back. Milliony of liters of hypermater would have been spend just getting the fleet there to maybe find nothing but a legal blockade.

 

That is why we have stuff like "OSZE Election Overwatch". Because every loosing party would be more then willing to claim "irregularities" in their disfavor and fake evidence for it.

We have a Photograph of Trumps inaugration crowd, because he would tell us it was the "biggest ever" (wich he even does despite us having said pictures). If we had a video of the whole thing - every second - that would be even better evidence (as it ruins any claims "it was taken at teh wrong time").

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First, the link appears wrong. This one seems to work for me:

Fixed - thanks!

 

Are we talking about general illiteracy (any langauge) or only for non-standart languages?.

I'm thinking of general literacy. I can only read one language myself, and while I recognize that limits me in some ways, I'm still light-years ahead of someone who can't read at all.

 

"Only visual media":

Not like we are not going the very same direction right now. We only used the written word that much, because it was the only thing we could reliably transmit, store and duplicate for a few centuries.

It does not allow nearly the same subtext or falsification protection as a Video or Audipo recording. Would have a text protocoll of Watergate have had nearly the same effect on Nixon? If we can, we of course go for video as part of our proofs.

Video definitely has advantages, sure. But it also has limitations. Reading is a much more active process that engages your higher thought processes in a way that passively watching video does not. Mrs. BDH & I were actually talking about this just the other day, about the difference between reading a book on a subject vs. watching a YouTube video about it. For starters, even a really good video can only go into so much detail. And even if they were of comparable length, think of the difference between auditing a college class where you just sit through the lectures, vs actually doing the readings, writing the papers, etc; you may learn the same facts, but you're far less likely to understand and internalize the thoughts and concepts behind them. You're also much less likely to pause the video to think about what they just said or wind back to an earlier, related passage; I'll occasionally do that with some videos, but I do it with books/articles all the time.

 

Video is great for learning practical, task-oriented skills, like how to install a garbage disposal or fix your sprinkler system or whatnot. But it's not the same as getting an education on a topic. What Mrs. BDH and I concluded is that a post-literate society that relied exclusively on video learning would most likely result in the vast majority of people being trained at job tasks (mechanics, moisture farmers, etc), while relying on Droids to do all the Smarts Stuff. Only a tiny fraction of the elite who learned to read would even be capable of understanding actual science, let alone actually doing science. In other words, it's look a lot like what we see of the SW universe. No wonder innovation is at pretty-much a standstill.

 

But the larger question I'm pondering is not just about text vs video, but about how most inhabitants of the SW universe seem completely uninterested in verifiable knowledge. Sure, the 5 seconds of evidence in the HISHE vid* is hardly conclusive, but in the actual film (IIRC) no one even seems to consider the fact that hey, maybe we should go looking for some evidence? They just go from "He Said She Said" straight to "Fuck It, We Can't Possibly Know." Similarly, when people make ignorant claims about major historical events that happened in their own lifetimes, no one bemoans "Geez, read an effing history book will ya!" or attempts to introduce any evidence other than their own verbal testimony. It's as if the entire galaxy has stopped believing in the existence of objective, verifiable facts. Functional illiteracy may be the underlying cause, but its hardly the only problem.

 

(And yes, I very much do see signs of this in our society currently, and yes that very much scares the hell out of me. But that's an NGD discussion.)

 

* Which I hadn't seen before, thanks!

 

Keep in mind, they do not have the internet. And even if they have a planetary one, you still have to connect seperate planets via FTL links.

In the EU, the holonet used to get close, but it was largely turned off by the Empire (both for money and supression reasons).

Long before we had the Internet or even TV, we had newspapers. It took longer for the news to make its way around, but it still got there. There's no technical reasons I can think of most planets in SW couln't have their own planetary Net of some kind; even if it was only limited to existing knowledge and only got a "current events" update once a month when the news ship hypered in; even if it was something as primitive as local newspapers or a news feed at the library or whatever, rather than getting news updates on a smartphone-like device - it would still result in a much different level of knowledge and awareness than what we see in the movies. But AFAICT this has never existed in the movies** even pre-Empire. And importantly, no one seems to miss it or comment on its absence. Remember in B5 when Earthgov shut down/took over ISN and what a big deal that was? There's nothing comparable to this in SW.

 

** I believe the holonet is solely from the expanded universe?

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Technological innovation in Star Wars is probably at a standstill because of the easy availability of FTL travel, and the sheer scale of inhabited space.

 

In the original film, Luke and Obi-Wan need to get to Alderaan.  They pay for transport on board the Millennium Falcon.  Since they are wanted by the Empire, Han Solo quotes Luke a very high price.  Luke is able to pay for it by selling his car (at least pay for the up-front portion).  He complains that he didn't get as much for the car as he would have liked.

 

Think about what this means.  A teenager who is wanted by the law can afford to pay somebody to fly him halfway across the galaxy, from some pissant middle of nowhere planet to one of the galaxy's core worlds.  This would mean that just about anybody can afford to go somewhere else in the galaxy.  Didn't pay your taxes?  Go somewhere else.  Got some girl pregnant?  Go somewhere else.  Got the death sentence on 12 systems?  Go somewhere else.  In Rogue One, we see that even a really important Imperial weapons designer can hide out for years on some backwards planet pretty easily.  Imagine if you aren't important enough for an Imperial general to track you down.

 

Anybody who runs into any kind of trouble can just pick up and leave.  This probably means that credit is hard to come by.  Nobody wants to give you a loan when you can just scoot off to another world without a trace.  This likely means their economic activity is depressed.  You need cash to buy anything.  Otherwise Obi-Wan could have just put everything on his Jedi Mastercard.

 

If you've got a couple of droids, you can go just about anywhere and make a living off of your legal slave labor.  You'd have an enormous number of barely-inhabited planets across the galaxy.  FTL travel only seems to take a few hours, no matter where you go.  But there are so many different planets that disappearing is pretty easy.  There are probably hundreds of thousands of worlds out there that only have a few towns on them.

 

This is going to drag technological innovation directly into the ditch.  For one, it'll take forever for a new innovation to reach every corner of the galaxy.  There are just too many places that don't have regular contact with the core worlds.  For two, the technology they do have seems pretty rugged.  This means that (particularly with a poor economy) people aren't going to want to replace their tech with something new and shiny as long as the old stuff still works.  Counterpoint to that though, Luke didn't get much money for his speeder because the newer model had just come out.  Of course, we don't know what time frame we're looking at there.  A lot of places might get the "new thing" like 100 years later.  Right now on Tatooine, people are anxiously awaiting the next episode of Gilligan's Island.

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Wouldn't the level of literacy be tied to the underlying language skill? If I only spent one point on a language, I don't think I'd be able to read it as well as someone who spent four. My ability to parse syntax and the size of my lexicon would be more limited with only one point.

Right. I suppose you could go the other direction where I have 4 points in speaking, but my reading/writing is only at the equivalent to the 1 point level. But for most games that feels like more detail than it's worth.

I was watching an online lecture series on medieval literature, and the Prof pointed out that while we tend to think of learning to speak, understand, read & write a language as all happening at the same, in Days Of Yore that wasn't always the case. Reading and writing a language in particular were treated as two different skill sets. She used the example of the Emperor Charlemagne, who could read Latin just fine but never learned how to write it.

 

Again, more granularity than is needed in most RPGs. But I thought it was an interesting point.

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A lot depends on whether you are using the exact dictionary definition of "functional illiteracy".

 

I know several people today I consider functionally illiterate.  One of them is currently being directly impacted on the employment front.  He is a young kid (early 20's) that writes in text speak and doesn't read preferring to listen to POD casts.  He is very disdainful of what he called unnecessary and BS school classes like math, spelling and writing.  After all we we have calculators and such. 

 

The local  school system (which is fully on board the modern feel good over substance bandwagon) actually graduated him.  Yes, he can navigate the web and kill on the console and blaze away in a chat room.  But cannot write a complete sentence to save his life and anything written above what used to be sixth grade reading is a wall.

 

Now he is the anger "this is all BS" mode because he cannot get past the application/resume phase.   It is all someone else fault and has become, I kid you not, "all the F'ing One Percenters fault".   Any suggestion that perhaps it was a lack of basic skills just triggers an outburst. 

 

A while back I helped him fill out a resume and job app once and it got him though the door, but he couldn't actually do their training course so he was let go.    Now it is him against the oppressors and last I heard he was couch crashing and throwing rocks through Starbucks windows "protesting" this or that. 

 

The others I know in the same boat are still living with their parents and whining abut how there parents are "unseasonably pressuring" them to "do something".  The only common thing between them is the absolute refusal to acknowledge that the problem may be with them and not the world at large.   At this point "why" is irrelevant, fixing the issue is all that matters.  

 

But I am just an old guy, so I obviously do not understand anything.... 

 

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Technological innovation in Star Wars is probably at a standstill because of the easy availability of FTL travel, and the sheer scale of inhabited space.

 

In the original film, Luke and Obi-Wan need to get to Alderaan.  They pay for transport on board the Millennium Falcon.  Since they are wanted by the Empire, Han Solo quotes Luke a very high price.  Luke is able to pay for it by selling his car (at least pay for the up-front portion).  He complains that he didn't get as much for the car as he would have liked.

 

Think about what this means.  A teenager who is wanted by the law can afford to pay somebody to fly him halfway across the galaxy, from some pissant middle of nowhere planet to one of the galaxy's core worlds.  This would mean that just about anybody can afford to go somewhere else in the galaxy.  Didn't pay your taxes?  Go somewhere else.  Got some girl pregnant?  Go somewhere else.  Got the death sentence on 12 systems?  Go somewhere else.  In Rogue One, we see that even a really important Imperial weapons designer can hide out for years on some backwards planet pretty easily.  Imagine if you aren't important enough for an Imperial general to track you down.

There is a lot of intentional references to "Medieval" times. So really, think of Star Wars as a medival setting. Where "Planets" are the equivalents of Cities.

It is Jedi Knights saving Princesses from Dark Lords. And the "Evil Castles" (Deathstar) explodes in the end.

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Yep, its just too bad the Death Star didn't "Look like a Skull!"  :rofl: But the whole world seems very "dark ages" No real police, absolute rulers, personal armies...etc.

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.

 

[shrug] The Millennials I work with are a pretty savvy & knowledgeable bunch. But regardless, the point is if they don't know what the Berlin Wall was - or more likely, don't remember all the details - they can Google it in about 5 seconds. The SW Universe doesn't appear to have anything resembling Wikipedia. Or history books. Or news/journalism of any kind. (Think how prevalent journalism was in Babylon 5, or Galactica, or even Harry Potter.)

 

Yet Esra Klein an editor for the Washington Post in print referred to the US Constitution as some document from like 100 years ago.

 

Read Orwell's 1984

Keeping the masses ignorant of history is how the Inner Party maintains power.

 

We have always been at war with East Asia!

 

We are now at war only with Eurasia!

We have always been at war with Eurasia!

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[shrug] The Millennials I work with are a pretty savvy & knowledgeable bunch. But regardless, the point is if they don't know what the Berlin Wall was - or more likely, don't remember all the details - they can Google it in about 5 seconds. The SW Universe doesn't appear to have anything resembling Wikipedia. Or history books. Or news/journalism of any kind. (Think how prevalent journalism was in Babylon 5, or Galactica, or even Harry Potter.)

 

 

 

Savvy and knowledgeable?   I'd believe Intelligent and well meaning, but if they are relying on Wiki and what passes for news today......  You can't be savvy or knowledgeable if it is based on false data. 

 

I have been a first hand witness as CNN fabricated events as a "live broadcast", I watched the event "unfold" on the cable feed while standing at the pictured location that was mysteriously empty when compared to the scene on TV.     No.  If you see it on TV "news" or read it online, you should take it with a healthy dose of skepticism.  Unfortunately many of our younger people think that their college or university is a center of learning rather than the for profit corporation they actually have become.

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Savvy and knowledgeable?   I'd believe Intelligent and well meaning, but if they are relying on Wiki and what passes for news today......  You can't be savvy or knowledgeable if it is based on false data. 

 

I have been a first hand witness as CNN fabricated events as a "live broadcast", I watched the event "unfold" on the cable feed while standing at the pictured location that was mysteriously empty when compared to the scene on TV.     No.  If you see it on TV "news" or read it online, you should take it with a healthy dose of skepticism.  Unfortunately many of our younger people think that their college or university is a center of learning rather than the for profit corporation they actually have become.

What event was it? How many other primary sources reported about it?

For some reason a random guy on the Internet is less reliable for me then a Company that risks being sued everytime they write a lie. And actually have their full adress on where to aim lawsuits on their page.

 

Rightwingers have claimed that shit with "Muslims vs Terror" Demonstrations filmed by CCN. Turned out to be bullshit. They just had a few Demonstrants stand outside the main group, to allow better filming (with allowance of the Police). SOP for reporting about Demonstations, because Filming in a large group of people with decent sound quality is oddly hard to pull off.

 

A german former comedian (unless him acting as Rightwing "truthseeker" is part of a long gag) claimed there were no Demonstrations against Trump in New York. Except it was the wrong half of the day (you now, one with Daylight). And it was Veterans day and naturally Trump is less important then a national holliday.

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Yet Esra Klein an editor for the Washington Post in print referred to the US Constitution as some document from like 100 years ago.

 

Yeah, so the press sometimes makes mistakes. And?

 

Savvy and knowledgeable?   I'd believe Intelligent and well meaning, but if they are relying on Wiki and what passes for news today......

If you really think Millennials don't know that Wikipedia isn't the final definitive reference on all things, or don't know enough to be skeptical of news reports, especially early news reports, then quite frankly I'm not sure you've ever met a Millennial. They're skeptical of EVERYTHING, almost obsessively so.

 

I have been a first hand witness as CNN fabricated events as a "live broadcast", I watched the event "unfold" on the cable feed while standing at the pictured location that was mysteriously empty when compared to the scene on TV.     No.  If you see it on TV "news" or read it online, you should take it with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Yeah, again I never claimed the press was perfect or infallible. Or hell, even particularly good, especially these days. That's a whole `nother thread. But imagine not having an independent press at all? Imagine not having access to reference sources of any kind?

 

Again, I'd prefer to have this thread not devolve into an NGD argument about current politics. But lots of people have pontificated about our world becoming a "post-factual" society where prominent leaders can make statements that are verifiably false, get called on it, and yet a significant percentage of the public doesn't care because they choose to get their "facts" from this or that source. So I have my "facts" and you have your "facts" and ne'er the twain shall meet. But the SW Verse seems to go even a step beyond that to where neither side has facts, or seems particularly interested in looking for them. If our problem today is too many sources of information so that it's easy to find information that supports your pre-existing biases, the SW Verse's problem seems to be a complete lack of sources of information beyond "I heard from some guy in a bar." That to me speaks of a systemic lack of intellectual curiosity that stands starkly at odds with how SF societies are typically portrayed, and much more like what we would expect from a society of illiterate medieval peasants.

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It's hard to buy an illiterate galaxy. I mean really hard. A high tech society of illiterates just doesn't seem feasible. Also as I recall in TESB when Luke was x winging his way to dagobah R2 was communicating with him but a small screen was displaying some kind of text in red letters. Maybe it was translating R2s beeps into text.

 

Also in ANH I think Luke read off the number for the trash compactor they were in. Just remembered that.

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That could be true but it might be hard for such a race to develop high technology. They'd need some way to store and accumulate knwoedge to advance scientifically.

Longelevity might get over that. The Huts for example are known to be very longlived. Unless strangeled by Metal Bikini Girls.

 

A long lived species might have a lot less issues maintaining a Oral history.

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