2018 Fiftieth Anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey

2018 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey, considered by many to be one of the best science fiction movies ever made. That’s saying something considering there are a multitude of excellent movies to choose from these days. Anyway if you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s an example of a superb collaboration between a movie maker Kubrick and a writer Clarke.

There is nothing like the iconic computer in 2001, the Hal 9000 that has now become so firmly rooted in our cultural mythology. Can we ever forget the famous words from Dave the US astronaut who has ventured outside the spacecraft, and now demands entry into it again, “open the pod bay doors Hal,” and Hal’s reply, “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I can’t do that Dave.” In fact this conversation is a foreshadow of the discussion that is taking place at this very moment regarding Artificial Intelligence and it’s dangers. To sum up one side of it , Steven Hawkins was recently quoted as saying, “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

I don’t want to spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it, but Dave’s conversation with Hal continues: “Hal do you read me do you read me Hal….affirmative Dave I read you ….open the pod bay door…. I’m sorry Dave I’m afraid I can’t do that, I think you know what the problem is…”

And Hal responds further :

“I know everything hasn’t been quite right with me but I can assure you very confidently that it’s going to be alright again I feel much better now, I really do. Sit down calmly (Dave) take a stress pill and think things over. I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I want to help you.”

I must say I thoroughly enjoyed watching 2001:A Space Odyssey once again for the fourth time, and found it as remarkable as when I first saw it thirty years ago. I decided to revisit it as part of the research I’m completing for my quartet of science fiction novels. Peter one of my characters is involved in altering two human beings to make them more artifically intelligent:

“Even more interesting however, and completely hidden from the public’s eye, was the creation of artificial chromosomes, and the potential development of completely new combination life forms. Again an investment in human evolution. If we didn’t survive the coming environmental nightmare, then perhaps we could create beings that could. Shackled as we were to our biological heritage, prisoners of our genes and our mortality, our uncontrollable emotions and neural events, we believed that these post human beings we might create would far exceed us in their capabilities for survival.

“In Peter’s mind he had rejected the idea of transbiomorphosis, the capacity to reason and choose uprooted from our sentient being. He would have agreed that our Stone Age biology was mismatched with our current environmental needs, but he also believed that our sentient capacities were what kept us human and connected us to each other and to the Universe.”

In addition to giving me some fresh insights into my own work, I realized as I re-watched 2001 that audiences today will find Kubrick’s movie just as visionary as it was fifty years ago. For instance I don’t think any of us would be able to say we don’t have a yearning, like Kubrick and Clarke, to discover evidence of intelligent life somewhere out there in the Universe?

As for the music, there probably isn’t anyone who hears the opening lines of Strauss’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra after watching this movie that won’t see the bone soaring aloft, and then turning into a spaceship which floats around the circumference of the earth to Strauss’s Blue Danube.

I am a great admirer of sci-fi because it’s an art form in which the individual artist can readily expand their ideas and imagination to include the future.

Perhaps without too big a stretch, the audience for 2001 can imagine, like Kubrick and Clarke, that advanced intelligence really does exist somewhere out there amongst the 100 billion stars being born each year. I would conclude that it’s the singular vision of these two artists and others like them, which in the end as I’ve tried to do in my books, leads their audience to imagine a kind of immortality completely original in it’s design.

Many thanks to all those of you who so kindly read what I write, and recommend my pieces both today, in the past and in the future.