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After a quick read of the timeline on Wookieepedia and seeing the comments on "Why is Luke's cybernetic hand superior to the one Anakin receives?" the thought occured to me that the Star Wars galaxy looks to be in an extended state of stagnation and/or decline.

For most of the galaxy's life it appears that nearly all interstellar travel requires hyperdrive starships, the ubiqutious blaster remains the weapon of choice and droids seem to have received only aesthetic external upgrades. While prior to the formation of the Galactic Republic the dominant species were building things like the Hypergates and Infinity Gates there don't seem to have been many new galaxy-wide public sector works or innovations of major note since then.

Am I just misreading the evidence or is the galaxy really on the decline?

I mentioned the Force in the title since, if it exists in most life in the galaxy and is supposedly subtly manipulating its path, then the slow decline of the Force could be the catalyst for the deleterious effects observed.

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    At first I thought this was absurd, but the more I read about the history of the SW galaxy, the more I'm convinced you're right. If the Republic did last so long, that should have been a prime opportunity to explore and learn about things like Infinity Gates, but instead, since their tech was sufficient for life, they didn't seem to care about learning anything new. – Tango Jan 31 '12 at 18:25
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    Well Coruscant was inspired by Trantor! – curiousdannii Aug 28 '15 at 12:58
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    Perhaps, at some point in the future, The Force will awaken? I believe the title of episode 7 subtly refers to this. I'm just not quite sure how. – Rogue Jedi Sep 10 '15 at 20:16
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Like any massive empire - the actual Galactic Empire within SW or the Roman Empire from the real world - at the peak of its power, it begins to decline, because it is not possible to hold an empire of that size together.

The battles and struggles are all part of the slow collapse of the empire. Something which was probably inevitable anyway.

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    I'm not referring to just the Empire. The whole galaxy seems to be on a giant "rinse and repeat" cycle. Each new conglomerate (republics, empires and everything inbetween) seems to just take everything from the last cycle and give it a new dressing. There is no new scientific advancement and there are no new great works. Unlike our world where we've advanced significantly since Roman times, just a couple hundred years, verses the stagnation that has persisted in Star Wars for millenia. – Xantec Dec 4 '11 at 18:32
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    I suppose an expansion of your answer does fit the model. Since each new ruling power is mostly just a redressing of the previous power everything remains the same in the long run. Thus your comparison to Foundation fits neatly and it can be believed that the entire known history of the Star Wars galaxy is analogous to the fall of the First Empire. Considering the sedentary pace that galaxy is moving at perhaps five hundred years or more after the battle of Yavin we'll see the rise of their Second Empire. – Xantec Dec 8 '11 at 19:51
  • Consider that the Star Wars empire is inspired from the Roman empire, with its passages from Republic (with a proper Senate) to proper Empire (with an imperial Senate) and the repubblican partisans, pushing for a return of the Republic, starting rebellions, moving to periferic organisations in order to rebuild their ideals, etc. The same can be said wrt the mentioned Foundation Empire ;-) – Yaztromo Feb 16 '12 at 22:37
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    @Xantec: Is there a reason technological or scientific advancement has to happen? It certainly hasn't been constant on Earth. Perhaps they just hit a wall regarding what was feasible in their universe, and/or there was no major cultural impetus to change things. – Shamshiel Mar 22 '14 at 1:21
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    That everything falls after its peak is tautological. – jona Jul 13 '14 at 9:14
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No, you are correct. That's why Qui-Gon was so excited to find Anakin, he had hoped that he would stop or reverse the downfall (Of the force).

As far as the civilization, the very fact that the emperor was able to subvert power so easily shows that the civilization was collapsing.

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    Reference? I don't recall him saying that – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 4 '11 at 19:51
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Others have the in-universe justification down so I thought I'd throw in an out-of-universe reason.

This is a standard trope for sci-fi and fantasy. You don't typically want to have an unlimited supply of super-advanced technology because then you'd have to work in all the implications. The alternative is to make it rare and unusual, so that it has more story impact. But the most sensible direct way to make it rare is to give it to a long-dead race and make the characters work to rediscover it in limited quantities. If you give it to a race/empire/whatnot that is still alive, then you need to give that group a strong in-universe reason why they haven't conquered everyone else - or write a story where everyone else is oppressed/irrelevant - and that's hard to do.

EDIT:

The third alternative is to not have any super-advanced technology at all, but in the long term, a universe with multiple authors will eventually have some author, somewhere, who wants to throw in a superpowered MacGuffin.

EDIT 2:

So the ultimate answer is, yes, the Star Wars universe is dying, the technological clock is running down, and eventually in about two million years conflicts will be about primitive tribes on some forest planet fighting wars of extermination for control of a single lightsaber. Sorry...some narrative devices just don't lend themselves to long-term species survival.

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    I like your way of reasoning. If Star Wars plays a long, long time ago and the empire had the capability to last indefinitely, we earthlings would be subjects of the empire today. – aquaherd Dec 4 '11 at 18:02
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    According to Ian Banks' Culture series, yes you can. – Shadur Dec 4 '11 at 19:38
  • @Shadur: Oh, yes, you can do it. It's just more work, that's all, and it usually lends the universe a radically different feel. It's like the difference between hard sci-fi and soft sci-fi. – jprete Dec 4 '11 at 20:15
  • @aquaherd Don't forget about it being a galaxy far, far away. – erdiede Dec 4 '11 at 21:27
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    Whoever has the lightsaber is worth a hundred men--just not against archers. – Vic Goldfeld Dec 5 '11 at 0:30
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Out-of-universe, in most sci-fi, the author is creating a "snapshot" of human(oid) society and technological progress in order to tell their story. This becomes especially important in film, as the level of technology is a primary determinant of the production design, which determines the "look and feel" of the film and others in a series. Star Wars, though conceived as a "trilogy of trilogies", was originally brought to the screen as just such a snapshot. The events of the entire original trilogy only cover something like 3 or 4 years. The prequel trilogy covers a span of roughly 11 years (with a 10-year gap between Ep 1 and 2, and a few months or so between 2 and 3), and there's a 20-year gap in between as Luke and Leia grow up and the Death Star is under construction. By the end of RotJ, we are very familiar with what ships in the universe look like, what people wear, etc etc.

While we as the human race have seen a quantum leap in technology in the last 35 years, consider, maybe, a random span of 35 years in the late 1700s. There was technological achievement, but the pace of it was snail-like compared to what we're experiencing now. Fashion and artistic tastes would have had more variance over such a time than technological advancement.

Now, somewhat back in-universe, fast-forward to a time in which humans have interstellar travel, energy weapons and energy shields, designer genetic modification, and at least pre-sentient algorithms (self-aware, though unable to imagine and invent which indicate true sentience). Such a time would be long past the collective "technological adolescence" that we in the real world are experiencing, and so the pace of technological advancement would again be relatively slow.

Also, prior to the events of the prequel trilogy, the Galactic Republic has reached a very bloated steady-state. While we see only a few major players and planets in the main storyline, several conversations infer that there are THOUSANDS of individual member states within the Republic, comprising MILLIONS of star systems. This brings up two important points: first, attempting to equalize the distribution of the fruits of this advancement is near-impossible. Various cultures have various ways of building things that have worked for them, and advancements in one field may be incompatible with another culture's technology. Second, with the size of the Republic, the number of people working to prevent the acquisition of new technology by their rivals is staggering. If you were to develop the Next Big Thing, you could practically guarantee that someone you didn't want to have it would either steal it or destroy it because they didn't want YOU having it. Think of GPS, stealth technology, nuclear weapons. The nations of Earth are all battling tooth and nail to both develop them and keep them out of others' hands.

Despite that, we do see technological achievement during the period of the movies. The Death Star is probably the biggest technological achievement in galactic history, and look what happened to it, because another faction didn't want it to exist. During the prequel movies, we see ship designs advance and new designs get introduced; by Ep 3, the universe has morphed from what we see in Ep 1 to what we're used to in Ep 4-6. Padme's hair looks very Leia-esque, the ship Padme and Obi-Wan use to go to Mustafar is a dead ringer for the one captured in the opening scenes of Ep 4, and Seinar's and Incom's ship designs are starting to look very much like TIEs and X-Wings.

  • random span of 35 years in the late 1700 is one of the worst random picks you can make; that period is called Enlightenment for a reason ;) – scrwtp May 2 '17 at 19:06
  • You're not wrong, but compared to nearly any 35-year span in the 1800s or 1900s, the pace of technological development in the 1700s was pretty tame. I could have said the 1300s to really drive it home. – KeithS May 2 '17 at 22:20

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