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Han Solo is the ultimate Uber driver

Han Solo is the ultimate Uber driver


How everyone's favorite smuggler typifies the gig economy

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Say you're a moisture farmer from Anchor Head, Mos Eisley, or some other wretched hive of scum and villainy, and you need to get to Alderaan lickety split. You pull out your comlink and see who's in the neighborhood. Ping. Your request is accepted by the nearest independent contractor: a smuggler by the name of Solo.

Imperial activity in the area means the fare will be twice the normal rate: 10,000 credits. But this Solo fellow has a stellar rating. He made the Kessel run in 12 parsecs. That's five-star material. But is he flexible? Would he accept 2,000 credits now, 15,000 when you get to Alderaan?

10,000 credits for a ride to Alderaan? Must be surge pricing

Of course he will. After all, Han Solo is the ultimate Uber driver.

The Millennium Falcon may not qualify as an uberX — that hunk of junk? — but it certainly meets the credentials for an UberPool: multiple riders and their droids. Solo may not provide candy nor bottled water, but he does offer his passengers entertainment. (A game of dejarik with his co-pilot? Let the Wookie win.) Ever the mercenary, he also is flexible when the destination switches from Alderaan (vaporized) to a rescue mission aboard the Death Star. Anything for that rating.

Okay, maybe this is a stretch. Maybe this is just another instance of a "new media" reporter making spurious connections between SEO friendly themes in the interest of feeding that ravenous Sarlacc Pit we call clickbait. But trust me, I'm not the only one thinking about this. James Douglas' excellent essay "Star Lords" on The Awl pegs the rise of Silicon Valley's self-worship to Star Wars fandom run amok. He writes:

"When pondering the inspirations and intellectual sources of this particular strain of techno-libertarianism, it's helpful to remember that Lucas' original Star Wars trilogy is ultimately about a bunch of scrappy individualists who fight against heavy-handed, centralized governance."

Some of the Valley's richest are also huge Star Wars geeks, Douglas notes. Mark Zuckerberg, Marc Andreessen, Peter Thiel. And Lucasfilm is headquartered in San Francisco, in the heart of all that beautiful disruption. Coincidence? In some respects, sure. But the mythos of Star Wars has permeated the minds of geeks and tech entrepreneurs alike, and the connections become hard to ignore.

The idea that Silicon Valley was Star Wars-obsessed preceded The Force Awakens. In 2002, between the release of the abominable The Phantom Menace and the loathsome Attack of the Clones, Michael Kannellos wrote in CNET, "Nearly every startup company positions itself as a loose confederation of idiosyncratic rebels (with the bowl haircut favored in the valley), pitched against an infinitely powerful and oppressively conformist evil empire played, at various times, by IBM, Microsoft, or any number of broadcasting and/or publishing entities."

Travis Kalanick, "rebel-hero"?

Uber fits in that mold perfectly. The press is fond of characterizing the company's CEO Travis Kalanick as the ultimate insurgent. ("Silicon Valley's rebel-hero," blared one Fortune headline.) He fights evil government regulators to liberate humanity from the shackles of smelly cab rides and unreliable travel.

But if Uber is rebelling, it's a very poorly planned rebellion, one that has spawned a mini-rebellion of its own. Uber drivers are pushing back against their classification as independent contractors ineligible for the types of benefits and protections afforded to most full-time employees. Their rebellion has taken the form of a class-action lawsuit against Uber that will go to trial next summer, about the same time that The Force Awakens presumably earns its second billion at the box office.

Uber NYC stock 1020

Never one to miss a marketing opportunity, Uber rolled out a fleet of stormtrooper-themed Dodge Chargers in Manhattan last September. And perhaps because there is an energy field that penetrates us and binds us together, the producers of The Force Awakens listed actor Andy Serkis' character on call sheets by the fake name of "Uber" to throw off any spies on set.

But with closer examination, the connections begin to fray. Han Solo is uncomfortable with his place in the rebellion. He aspires to roam the galaxy in the Millennium Falcon without responsibilities. He prefers the flexible life of an independent contractor. But in the end, the call to duty (and the love of a princess) convinces him to trade in his lifestyle for good.

Maybe Solo's not the ultimate Uber driver after all. Maybe its that other independent contractor roaming the Star Wars galaxy, the one with the Mandalorian helmet with a penchant for carbonite. Because who's more on-demand than a bounty hunter?