The Digital Wins Over Digits: Our Tech Becomes More Valuable Than Our Bodies

Photo credit: Todd Jones Photography / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Because I’m morbid, weird, and a pessimist-fatalist, I often find myself thinking about which sense I’d rather lose if I had to: my hearing or my sight. During the time I thought I might make it as a singer-songwriter (that worked out), I obviously leaned toward keeping my hearing. Today, as the father of adorable children and compulsive Internet-user, I think I’d choose to keep my sight. Plus, if I were deaf, I would not need to hear my children whine about their dinner, which really places a thumb on the scale.

Speaking of thumbs! No wait, let me get to that in a minute.

I’ve also fantasized other forms of debilitation (again, pessimist-fatalist), such as which limb(s) I might do without if need be. Could I get by with one hand? (Sort of.) Would I be alright without ever being able to walk? (Probably.)

But these are all questions about what physiological aspects of myself I could do without. But there are of course parts of our lives we more or less take for granted that could be equally or more upsetting to lose.

For example, my dad (a musical genius whose brilliance is criminally ignored by the industry) is a cable guy, the good kind, and he’s told me about customers who, after big weather events, when power goes out and water stops running, will do all they can to get their cable TV back before anything else. It’s a troubling Maslovian flip.

That’s another story though. Let’s get back to the thumbs thing. Ready? Three, two, one…

Speaking of thumbs! There’s this survey that came out recently from Cable.co.uk, a British website for understanding telecom options, and it reports that almost a third of respondents, 29 percent, said they’d rather give up a finger than lose their broadband Internet access. Another quarter weren’t sure.

Now, I think the expected, conventional-wisdom response to this is supposed to be something along the lines of, “Oh, how awful/ridiculous that is, and how indicative it is of a social illness/disconnection from humanity/shallowness.” But I bet you can guess what my response it.

Damn right I’d rather lose a finger than Internet access! No question. Hell, two fingers. As gruesome and tragic as it would be to lose said digits, and as much as I’d curse my fortune and make my wife nuts and drop stuff a lot, I’d still have access to and use of the great global network that facilitates my work, my creative pursuits, and the one means of connection to humans that I can actually stand. It’s no contest.

I don’t see it as an indication of some kind of personal or societal problem, but, if anything, it’s a sign of incredible triumph for our civilization. We’ve managed to create something that, while it does not directly feed, clothe, or shelter us, is so plainly and massively beneficial that many of us would trade body parts for unfettered use of it. Good for us! Go us!

But look, I need enough fingers to use my big-ass phablet. I mean, let’s not be barbarians here.

Exiled from the Everything Store

Ha, banishment! be merciful, say ‘death;’ For exile hath more terror in his look, Much more than death: do not say ‘banishment.’

Romeo and Juliet, Act III, Scene III

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What if one day you heard from some nameless representative at Microsoft, and they told you that you were no longer allowed to use any of their products or services? No more Office, no more Windows, and for that matter no Xbox or Minecraft. Or what if Google forbade you from using any of its services? It gets tougher, doesn’t it? Not only would you have to use a different search engine, but no more Gmail, no YouTube, no Google Maps, no Hangouts, oh, and don’t plan on buying an Android phone.

Even taking this out of the realm of the purely-digital, you can imagine how many walls you’d run into if, say, you were prohibited from using products made by Proctor & Gamble, or consuming anything made by Kraft or the Coca-Cola company. You’d find yourself constantly having to rejigger your thinking, and rule out items and services you’d never had to give a second thought to. Kraft foods, Google services, and all the rest, they were always just there.

Over the past few months, readers of this blog (all seven of you) will know that I’ve been experimenting with smartphones, on a long and emotional quest to find The Perfect Device for me. I would buy a phone, try it out for a bit, and if it didn’t suit, send it on its way. Sometimes this meant selling again on eBay or Swappa or some such. But quite often, it involved buying devices from Amazon (either new, direct from Amazon itself, or from third party sellers on the site). And as you probably know, Amazon has a lenient and simple return policy – one of the many reasons I’ve been a delightedly happy Amazon customer since its beginnings in the 1990s – and I made liberal use of it. I would buy a phone off Amazon, give it a go, and when it didn’t work out, neatly send it back within the allotted return window for my refund.

I did this several times.

And you know that when you have a new phone, you want to protect it, right? Especially if you might return it. So I’d often buy cases for my trial devices, sometimes more than one in order to try a couple out and see what suited me. The ones I didn’t use, I’d return. If I returned the phone for which the cases were purchased, well, of course the cases would go back too.

Again, I would always return things in the condition I got them, and always within Amazon’s return window. No lines were being crossed that I knew of. Though I used to joke, “I bet the folks at Amazon’s returns department have a picture of me hanging up with a bullseye on it.” Ha ha.

A couple of months ago, I got an email from Amazon customer service telling me that they were closing my account, that I would no longer be able to make purchases from the site or purchase digital content. The reason: excessive returns. I had been exiled from Amazon.

It was dizzying at first. There was the internal flagellation I put myself through (Why couldn’t you just pick one phone and be done with it???), and the embarrassment I felt (My wife will leave me over this). But the most striking feeling was that of alienation, of feeling lost.

I buy everything off of Amazon. Since it first came into being, I found excuses to buy from them over any other outlet. The reasons should be obvious: price, selection, customer service, speed and price of shipping, etc. Over the years those things have only gotten spectacularly better, from having the most books of anyone to having the most of everything of anyone. My wife and I have a Prime account, of course, because why wouldn’t we? My Amazon wishlist is a sacred space for me, where I keep a carefully curated list of the things for which I pine.

I am also a Kindle aficionado. I have had just about every model since the second generation, and even owned the first Kindle Fire, and I kind of liked it! I own a glut of Kindle books that I’ve yet to even begin reading, and at the time of my exile, I had just gotten a Kindle Voyage.

But now, I can’t shop on Amazon, not for phones, books, movies, music, gifts for my family, anything. I can’t get free two-day shipping. I can’t get hassle-free returns. I can’t maintain my special little wishlist. I can’t buy Kindle books, and I can’t buy Amazon MP3s (which are usually priced better than Google Play or iTunes, of course). I can’t stream Prime movies or shows. A powerful, robust hub of not just my online life, but my life, was now inaccessible. Like I said, it was dizzying.

I tried to make my case to anyone at Amazon who would listen: I’d promise not to return any more items, I’d agree to have my account specially monitored, I’d go on a temporary probationary period so they could see me on my best behavior. I wrote emails to countless Amazon addresses, I called on the phone, I chatted online with representatives, and I even emailed Jeff Bezos himself.

Here’s part of the response I got to that email. I’m removing the person’s name:

I’m […] of Amazon.com’s Executive Customer Relations team. Jeff Bezos received your e-mail and asked me to respond on his behalf. [ … ] The decision to close your account is a final decision, and won’t be considering further requests to reinstate it.

I realize you’re upset, and I regret we’ve been unable to address your concerns to your satisfaction. However, we’ll not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters, and any further inquiries on this matter won’t receive a response.

We appreciate your understanding.

Regards, […]

And so there it is. I am exiled from the Everything Store.

In the grand scheme of problems one could have, this is certainly no crisis. But Amazon is one of those companies, like Google or Kraft, that entwines itself into your life to such a degree that you rely on it like it was a utility, like it was air. It’s one thing to decide to wean oneself off of a given company’s service, like deciding to avoid using Google or Facebook if you don’t like their stances on privacy, for example. But to be kicked out, to have the door slammed in your face, is quite another.

Now, to be clear, Amazon hasn’t taken anything from me. The Kindle books I own, for example, I continue to have access to. The same goes for music and movie content I’ve bought through them. Their system is smart enough, I suppose, to allow me the use of the things I rightfully own without allowing me to do literally anything else. But given the fact that I (finally) settled on a big-screened Nexus 6 for my phone, and given that I could never again purchase a new Kindle book, I quickly sold my Kindle Voyage. Why bother keeping it?

There are countless alternatives to what Amazon offers. Stuff can be bought anywhere. Alas, it means looking in lots of different places for stuff instead of defaulting to one site, and no shopping site is nearly as easy to use or as, well, familiar with me. But I adjust.

I buy books over Google Play, for now anyway. I’m looking at the latest e-reader offerings from Kobo with some interest, but it’s a very grudging interest. (I could consider a Nook…kidding! I’m kidding. That’s ridiculous.) The selection will be lower, the price will be higher, the long-term viability will be questionable. But once again, I’m not really wanting for anything. It’s not really that big a deal.

But I can’t help it. As stupid as it sounds, my feelings are hurt. This seemingly-benign juggernaut of the digital age has shunned me for an infraction I wasn’t even aware I’d committed. The rest of the world will go about their online lives, breathing the air of Amazon, taking for granted that it will always be there. As they should, as it is supposed to be. But I’ll be that one guy at the party who’s allergic to everything he’s offered. No, thank you, but I’m not allowed to have any. (Come to think of it, I often am literally that guy.) Whatever services or products Amazon might offer up, I’ll be that one guy who doesn’t get to play. And it feels crappy.

But it’s also fine. It is disorienting, certainly, and I’m still working on getting all my digital bearings. I try to remember what Friar Laurence says to Romeo as the young lover panics and tantrums over his banishment from Verona.

Be patient, for the world is broad and wide.

And so it is. Goodbye, Amazon. I’ll be moving on, now. Jeff, if you change your mind, you know how to contact me.

And hey, Kobo folks, I’d love to take a look at a review unit. I promise I’ll return it.

UPDATE May 9:I’ve got a new post with some clarified points and a little tiny itty bitty smidge of decent news.

UPDATE: Lee Cutrone’s artistic rendition of me outside Amazon HQ:

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Original unmodified header image from Foter.com

The Web of Finger-Wags and How-Dare-Yous

Far too much of my experience of the Web is now dominated by folks pointing out with snideness or outrage just how horrible some person or persons are, in a kind of Niagara Falls of finger-wags and how-dare-yous. There is no room for human error, no space for discussion, no benefit of doubt. Sometimes these people are right about someone else’s awfulness, sometimes they’re not, but that’s not the point.

It used to be (uh-oh, already sounding like an old man) that platforms like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter were places I could find a wide variety of content, political and non-political, with ideas from every discipline and field of interest (plus cat memes and ruminations on what one was eating, as it ever shall be). But I happen to be in an indeological, political career, and I have friends and connections who are ideological and political, and it only follows that as more and more join these platforms, more and more of the content I see will lean in ideological directions. Which is fine on its own.

But somewhere we passed some kind of tipping point. Where once expressions of outrage and loathing for an opposing ideological side were just one aspect among many on these platforms, now they are, in my experience, overrunning them.

And it’s hurting me, I can feel it physiologically. You know, I pick up my iPad at the end of the day so I can decompress from a day already fraught with political and ideological battles (not to mention battles with my children to get them to eat their dinner or not physically harm me). But I can’t do that now, at least not the way I have things set up. Blogs I used to frequent are battlegrounds. Twitter is a machine gun of vitriol. Even browsing Facebook, which is supposed to be innocuous, is like walking through an infinitely-long hallway filled with angry propaganda posters. Rather than decompress, I compress further. And it’s painful. It hurts. 

(And as for the battles in my professional life, yes they are part of “work,” but it’s still personal to me. I care about the surrounding issues, I care about the people involved. The stress this brings makes the ability to remove myself from it even more important.)

I may need to make a big change. It may mean that I remove people who I really like and respect from my social feeds, because despite my otherwise warm and fuzzy feelings toward them, they’re part of the torrent. At work, it can be a different story, because there I have no choice but to be aware of and conversant in current controversies and arguments. But on my own time, I think a digital shakeup may be in order. One in which I ruthlessly curate who I follow and allow to appear in my various feeds, and even make a point to silence certain topics and “upvote” others. In my reading, I can favor richer, more contemplative writing over blog wars and news bites.

So this is not a post about how I need to unplug or leave the Internet or some such silliness. But I do want to make my experience of the Internet far better than it has been of late.

You might be one of those people I like and respect who nonetheless contributes to my stress. In the case of a shakeup, I’m sorry if you’re among those who get shaken-out in the process. You probably won’t even notice. Which is good!

And if there’s something you really need me to see, I’m not hard to find.

Big Week for a Topaz Paragon

It’s been a busy week for me on the Internet. Let’s quickly review:

  • I have new digs at Huffington Post as a blogger, for which I am compensated $0.00 annually, minus taxes. I have Emily Hauser to thank for getting me in the door. Right now it’s all adapted or recycled material from this blog, but I’ll put new stuff there eventually. I know you don’t care.
  • A tweet I wrote that I thought was somewhat clever went viral and has now been retweeted over 1000 times, which I think means I get a prize or become President of Twitter. I’ll just wait to hear something.
  • A post I wrote at Friendly Atheist did pretty well, I suspect.

And off the Internet, the iOS game Bejewelled Blitz called me a “Topaz Paragon,” a position which I believe needs to first be confirmed by the Senate, but I’m not sure.

www = IRL

No doubt you’ve seen some manifestation of a species of essay wherein the author goes cold turkey on the Internet for some length of time, and proceeds to discover themselves anew or some such. The proliferation of these pieces, and the moral or revelatory high ground they often claim often makes me roll my eyes so far back that I can read my own thoughts. That’s why this piece by Nathan Jurgenson was such a breath of fresh air. (Well, would have been a breath of fresh air, but for some of the dense and mostly-unnecessary in-text scholarly references — isn’t that what footnotes are for?) See here his take on this particular meme:

This concern-and-confess genre frames digital connection as something personally debasing, socially unnatural despite the rapidity with which it has been adopted. It’s depicted as a dangerous desire, an unhealthy pleasure, an addictive toxin to be regulated and medicated. That we’d be concerned with how to best use (or not use) a phone or a social service or any new technological development is of course to be expected, but the way the concern with digital connection has manifested itself in such profoundly heavy-handed ways suggests in the aggregate something more significant is happening, to make so many of us feel as though our integrity as humans has suddenly been placed at risk.

But has it? Certainly one can be on the Internet, or on one’s smartphone or what have you, “too much,” but what exactly that means has more to do with what one is doing while online than the percentage of one’s day is spent doing it. If you’re browsing Facebook for 12 hours a day, you have a problem, but the Internet’s not it.

Anyway, more to the point I want to get to, here’s Jurgenson again, talking now more generally about the position that somehow we’re all overdosing on iPhones, and the “disconnectionist” gurus who blatantly avert their eyes from Retina displays while aloft their high (and very real-life) horses:

The disconnectionists see the Internet as having normalized, perhaps even enforced, an unprecedented repression of the authentic self in favor of calculated avatar performance. If we could only pull ourselves away from screens and stop trading the real for the simulated, we would reconnect with our deeper truth.

This is what always bothers me about these types; the assertion or suggestion that we’re not being truly ourselves online. And as someone who has found the exact opposite to true, indeed, as one who has in many ways been redeemed by the Internet Age, I say, fuck that noise.

As I’ve now documented ad nauseum on this blog (and shall again!), I am a fairly severe introvert. Personal interaction in “the real world” with human beings corporeally in my presence is exhausting and stressful to me, even when said humans are those I love and trust. This has lead to a great deal of energy wasted on hiding myself, be it trying to blend in unnoticed in hostile-seeming situations (like school or when something horrible like sports are taking place), to presenting a falsely extroverted version of myself in evaluative situations like job interviews, or as a person who really enjoys small talk and networking, or any number of awkward, gawky masks — like those worn by actors of Ancient Greece, but so absurdly top-heavy as to make me stumble and topple over mid-choral ode.

With the exception of performing as an actual actor or musician on stage, the real world has been stifling to whoever or whatever the hell it is I “really” am.

Online I’ve found a taste of liberation. Not only do I feel more free to expound upon all manner of subjects, to make dumb jokes, and to promote myself with a sincerity I could never muster in meatspace, but perhaps more importantly, I more often feel at ease in simply explaining things about myself as a person, to talk about my kids and my day to day life, to unpack some of the mundane stuff as well as the heavier things. Behind the screen, at the keyboard, at the flick of the scrolling display, even in the midst of the cacophony of the Internet, I can communicate without so much of the same noise within my own mind, where each synapse second-guesses the next.

It’s not so much that I get to use the Web as some giant confessional with “like” buttons, but that I can just relax a bit more and talk about even boring and trivial things about myself, and even find it easier to be curious about others’ and their own trivialities, which I rarely am in physical space. I can breathe.

I’d be curious to know whether many or most of the folks who espouse disconnection are extroverts, if they are biased by their own inclination toward revitalization through in-person human contact, all within a “real world” already largely constructed around extroverted predilections. If I’m on to something, well, of course they see the online life as valueless, or as phony. It doesn’t serve their own needs. But for me, and I suspect for my kind, it’s the means of expression, the gateway into general society, that we’ve been waiting for. We’re damn lucky it came about it our lifetimes, and you better believe that for us, it’s real life.

A Website You Can Talk Over: Assigning Responsibility for a Meaningful Blog

What do I want this blog to be? Perhaps using that very word, blog, assumes too much, imposing a definition. What to I want this website to be?

A little while back, I posited that perhaps the essay as a format was something that more bloggers ought to rely on, as opposed to, say, the hasty, knee-jerk missive. The reason, essentially, was to lessen the noise, the pointless butting of heads and scoring of points. To encourage more thinking and consideration, and to discourage an endless episode of “Crossfire.”

It turns out, however, that there is a contradiction. A lot of my feelings about essays stem from Andrew Sullivan, who led me to Montaigne, and on. But it is Sullivan who, in 2008, said this about blogs:

There is, after all, something simply irreplaceable about reading a piece of writing at length on paper, in a chair or on a couch or in bed. To use an obvious analogy, jazz entered our civilization much later than composed, formal music. But it hasn’t replaced it; and no jazz musician would ever claim that it could. Jazz merely demands a different way of playing and listening, just as blogging requires a different mode of writing and reading. Jazz and blogging are intimate, improvisational, and individual—but also inherently collective. And the audience talks over both.

The reason they talk while listening, and comment or link while reading, is that they understand that this is a kind of music that needs to be engaged rather than merely absorbed. To listen to jazz as one would listen to an aria is to miss the point. Reading at a monitor, at a desk, or on an iPhone provokes a querulous, impatient, distracted attitude, a demand for instant, usable information, that is simply not conducive to opening a novel or a favorite magazine on the couch. Reading on paper evokes a more relaxed and meditative response. The message dictates the medium. And each medium has its place—as long as one is not mistaken for the other.

Put aside the question of physical medium for a moment. In blogs, Sullivan is describing a back and forth, not just a conversational tone (like Montaigne pioneered), but an actual discussion, a real chat. Is that in conflict with what the essay, placed on a website, would offer or imply?

“Uh oh” was my first thought.

That’s gone, though. It seems to me that the author of a blog post can hope to engender conversation that is substantive and respectful with a thoughtful essay-like piece. But the audience has to acquiesce, to buy into this approach.

On an episode of “On the Media,” Ta-Nehisi Coates describes in some detail how he manages comments on his blog at The Atlantic. He doesn’t simply allow anything to happen; he carefully curates, mediates, and if necessary, gives folks the boot who aren’t playing by his rules. I like that.

But this is about more than comments. Coates can’t control what happens on the wider Internet as a result of his writing. But he can choose not to engage with the activity that doesn’t suit his or her overall approach. As Pour Me Coffee has said, he can “ruthlessly curate [his] online experience.” I really like that.

So. The first part is to write in such a way, and with such a voice, that meaningful conversation (in comments, on Twitter, what have you) is encouraged, is exemplified. But then, second, the readers and participants have to play along in that mode. Third, the author then must manage his or her online interactions in such a way that incentivize substance over vitriol and snark for its own sake.

Good then!

But what else? Obviously, I’ve not limited this blog, by any means, to wordy essays. Like Sullivan, there are plenty of one-off links and a smattering of commentary. Does that dilute the site, perhaps? It doesn’t for Sullivan and The Dish, but I think that’s because his site never stops generating content. One can skim through the shorter bits, and stop and pause to read his longer pieces (or as he calls them “keepers”).

John Gruber at Daring Fireball works in a similar fashion: The norm is that a post will be a “link post,” where Gruber highlights a bit of news or commentary, throws in a sentence of his own, and even has the headline’s link lead to the originating source, not is own post. Then he sets apart “keepers,” longer essays, by marking them with a star before the title of the post. He also has no comments section on his blog, and lets all conversation happen outside and around his blog, but not on it.

But again, Gruber is more prolific than I. He and Sullivan, of course, make their livings doing this, while I am lucky to find the time and energy to blog regularly, as much as I would love for it to be my main occupation.

So can I ape their styles in an effective way in order to make Near-Earth Object what I want it to be? I’m not sure. I’m not convinced that irregular and sparse posting makes that style work.

I may have to experiment, to blog more often than I am initially inclined, to get the machinery in my brain working at full power. I’d also have to accept that, at least for a while, I may post a lot of garbage. (Would anyone notice?) I may want to retool the look of the site so that “keepers” can be easily spotted (in a sidebar?). I’m going to think about it, and more important, start acting on thoughts.

Back to physical medium, briefly. Sullivan, in the above quote, distinguishes between the reader’s behavior based on what surface they are reading content off of; a screen or a piece of paper. That was written in 2008, and I have to imagine that he’d rethink this today. There was no iPad then, and the Kindle was an expensive novelty device. And no one had heard the term “Retina display.”

Today, we have those technologies that encourage and facilitate deeper, longer-form reading, such that Instapaper is an indispensable app, and so I think that today it’s not about screens and paper, but about presentation of content. And the onus for that is, yes, firstly on the author or outlet, but now just as much on the reader. If one opts to read a piece on their lunch break at a desktop display, the attitude and mindset may be very different than if that reader has saved the piece in Instapaper, and now reads it in a comfy chair from an iPad or Kindle, free (or freer) from distractions, windows, and notifications.

It is like jazz. You can, in fact, talk over it. But you can also buy the remastered CD, put on your pricey Bose headphones, and savor every note. Your call.

I like that, too.

Rewarded for Cat Pictures (and Whatnot)

 All Things D interviews Rod Humble, CEO of Linden Labs, home of the online virtual world Second Life. I have tried out Second Life a number of times over the years, but never stuck with it, for a multitude of reasons: my connection was too slow, my processor too weak, or I realized that true immersion in the game would require a level of time and energy investment I simply could not spare. 

But Humble had one point about what makes his company’s game-world so unique, and what it might bode for the future: 

Game makers are always trying to stay one step ahead of content creation, so you get these bigger and bigger budgets, trying to make more and more polished content. Second Life and YouTube are both rewarding their users for what they create. I believe there will be a day when you’ll log in to your social network and see, “Oh, I got five bucks because I posted my silly cat picture.” What I’m trying to do is position our company to take advantage of that and facilitate people being rewarded for the time they put in.

Now, the last time I remember anyone trying anything like that was with early-aughts browser plugins and homepages like “iWon” that encouraged you to click on ads in order to build up a virtual gambling currency which would be applied to drawings for prizes. But the idea that the content I put up on Facebook, Twitter, or Zod help me, on my blog, might actually generate real, actual, usable money? Now where have I heard this idea before? 

Nah, I’m just being cute. I know where. Jaron Lanier:

The thing that I’m thinking about is the Ted Nelson [early Internet pioneer] approach … where people buy and sell each other information, and can live off of what they do with their hearts and minds as the machines get good enough to do what they would have done with their hands.

I did a whole post about that. Anyway, I think maybe Humble and Lanier should talk.

Starbucks on the Death Star

Why I love the Internet: I thought to myself, they often talk about overseas military bases as being places where a lot of famous chains come and claim territory (the obligatory McDonald’s in Baghdad or what have you), and presumably Starbucks would be one of those chains. So if the United States really did ever build a Death Star as so many folks wanted, how many Starbucks would it have?
Then I thought, this is the Internet. Someone will find out for me. So I took to Quora and asked. Here’s the best answer so far, from  Tom Vaughan:

Quick back-of-the-napkin math here…

The Death Star is probably going to be a pretty densely populated place; perhaps comparable to Manhattan. According to an article I found on Slate, there are about 400 Starbucks on the island of Manhattan which is essentially a 2-dimensional plane about 87 square kilometers. That equates to about 4.6 Starbucks per km^2

There seems to be some debate amongst Star Wars fans about the size of the 1st Death Star and the 2nd Death Star (read this for a facepalm: Death Star II ) but let’s use 200km wide as the size of the second Death Star (from the Return of the Jedi movie).

I forgot the calculus to do this “the right way”, so what I’ll do is pretend the Death Star is a cube (width^3) and figure out how many 2D “floors” it has on which Starbucks would exist, and then account for the fact that it’s actually a sphere (4/3 * pi * r^3), where r = 100km.

Assume the average deck of the Death Star is… say… 10m high ? Then a 200km high Death Star has 20,000 floors. Each floor is 200km^2 which, using Manhattan density, is 184,000 Starbucks per floor. If it were a perfect cube and all 20,000 floors had 184,000 Starbucks, the whole thing would have 3.68 Billion Starbucks.

Let’s shave off the edges and make it a sphere and I think we just divide our Starbucks by the same ratio as (200^3) :: (4/3 * pi * 100^3). That ratio is about .52, so I think you’re looking at around 1.9 Billion Starbucks in the Death Star.

Looking at that 1.9 Billion number, I realize I may have made some false assumptions about the relative density of the people in the Death Star, or I may have just misjudged just how damn big a 200km sphere is my whole life.

We can make some assumptions about the volume of Tie Fighter docking bays, shield generators, planet-destroying weapons systems, etc. where it wouldn’t necessarily make sense to have a Starbucks but if there’s one thing we’ve discovered on Earth, it’s where there’s an opening, someone _will_ build a Starbucks there.

Thank you.