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It appears that the crowd is finally striving to be as powerful as the Galactic Empire itself. A project on Kickstarter's UK site seeks to crowdfund the building of a real world Death Star, a plan that was rejected by the Obama administration after its own rules forced it to respond to the request that came via a crowdsourced petition.
In other words it appears that the White House's tongue-in-cheek rejection of a tongue-in-cheek request has so raised the ire of the crowd that it has upped the ante, rammed its tongue deeper into the side of its mouth and put its money on the table.
And judging by the early response, this hipster melodrama laden with irony is nowhere near running out of steam. The 20 million pound (over $30 million) funding goal is clearly designed to be unattainable as it would be about triple the record-setting amount raised by the Pebble watch. Oh yes, and there's also this in the project description:
"The main challenge is assuring Kickstarter that this is a joke and not a serious project. As proof, the goal has been set high enough to make successful funding almost impossible."
The key word there is "almost." Here we are on day 2 of the campaign and nearly 150,000 pounds has already been raised. That's not quite a quick enough pace to hit the goal, but with the right amount of media attention or viral transmission, it seems actually conceivable.
Therein lies the danger of the "mock" Kickstarter. How many of the already hundreds of backers in on the joke have only pledged their support in the form of real world dollars because it appears to be a sure thing that the campaign won't actually be funded? If the whole thing is a gag, why not pledge $500 that you don't really have? Why not $1,000?
What happens if enough such insincere backers get involved and the Open Source Death Star actually meets its goal? The project creators, www.gnut.co.uk, have structured the incentives in such a way that nobody really gets anything if they miraculously hit their goal, except for a thank you and "your name etched onto the underneath of one of the MSE-6-series repair droids used on the finished station." (For pledges of ten pounds or more.)
Of course, the station doesn't get finished unless the project meets its $850 quadrillion stretch goal. And since that's thousands of times more than the global gross domestic product, it's safe to say those stretch goals won't be met without the last minute support of the Galactic Empire itself.
That means no one gets anything for backing the construction of an open source Death Star, except for a thanks for contributing to the only thing Gnut.co.uk has promised to produce with 20 million pounds: "More detailed plans and enough chicken wire to protect reactor exhaust ports."
Those better be some damn impressive plans and golden chicken wire for that kind of cash.
- Eric Mack is Managing Editor for Crowdsourcing.org. He has covered business, technology and politics for more than a decade for major outlets including CNET, CBS, AOL, NPR, Wired, and the New York Times. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter and Google+. Also be sure to follow Crowdsourcing.org on Twitter and join our Crowdsourcing community on Google+.