Ever since its spectacular appearance on the big screen, an intimidating space fortress has become a symbol of the Star Wars franchise. Crewed with 1.7 military personnel, and equipped with a super laser, it’s capable of destroying entire planets with a single blast. It might be satisfying to watch the space behemoth’s eventual fall, but how about all the consequences of such a catastrophic event? Have you ever wondered what the economic implications of building and loosing it would be for human civilization? With such a massive project, would the global economy bite more than it can chew?
A numbers game
Building a moon-sized battle station is an imposing task, even for an organization of immense intergalactic power and staggering financial resources. Only the steel needed for the construction of the Death Star would cost a jaw-dropping 852 quadrillion dollars. When we put all other components in the mix, we reach 193 quintillion dollars, which is enough to make any head spin. An intergalactic banking order might be too big to fail, but what about one on Earth?
To put these numbers into perspective, let’s compare them to the economic powers that be on our planet. The U.S. GDP was estimated at around $18 trillion this year, which is one fifth of the global GDP. This means that the costs of a Death Star exceeds the global GDP 13,000 times! So, bad news, I’m afraid. Under the current economic framework, it would be impossible to finance this gigantic weapon. I doubt that Kickstarter would help either, and Obama has already refused to.
But, what if there was a threat of an incoming alien invasion? Although it makes military sense to create the ultimate super weapon, the truth is that the economy simply cannot keep up the pace. Even with impressive technological breakthroughs and the whole world backing it, the Death Star would take forever to complete. Of course, there is no accurate way to predict future costs based on present technologies, so only those with a lifespan of Yoda might be able to rejoice.
Patience, young padawan
It’s a shame we are not up to the task, because, believe it or not, the Earth’s core contains enough iron to produce 2 billion Death Stars. But, guess what the problem is? With the current rate of steel production worldwide, it would take 833,315 years just to begin the work. So, imagine we have to repel an alien invasion for thousands of years before being able to turn the tide of war. This seems like too much, even for a level of patience worthy of a true Jedi master.
Let us, however, entertain for a moment the though that we would manage to build it. Experts argue that in the wake of Death Star destruction, the Rebel Alliance had to pull off a gigantic bailout, and allocate 20% of its GDP towards preventing an economic collapse of astronomical proportions. So, imagine what our tiny Earth would have to go through. The financial crisis that started in 2008 would look like a storm in a teacup, so maybe leaving the Death Star project as a legacy to future generations isn’t such a great idea.
To the dismay of millions of fans, only an advanced off-planet civilization, capable of exploiting the resources of the entire solar system, might stand a chance of summoning the technological monstrosity that a Death Star truly is. It’s clear that even if we could build this weapon, its destruction would hurt us much more than it did the Galactic Empire. It would likely bring forth the meltdown of the global financial system, and bring the human civilization to its knees. It seems that Millennium Falcon will have to do the trick, or we should give diplomacy a shot. In any case, may the force be with us.