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All Hail HAL!

from The New York Times

What ‘2001’ Got Right

By Michael Benson

FRANKFURT, Germany — It’s a testament to the lasting influence of Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which turns 50 this week, that the disc-shaped card commemorating the German Film Museum’s new exhibition on the film is wordless, but instantly recognizable. Its face features the Cyclopean red eye of the HAL-9000 supercomputer; nothing more needs saying.

Viewers will remember HAL as the overseer of the giant, ill-fated interplanetary spacecraft Discovery. When asked to hide from the crew the goal of its mission to Jupiter — a point made clearer in the novel version of “2001” than in the film — HAL gradually runs amok, eventually killing all the astronauts except for their wily commander, Dave Bowman. In an epic showdown between man and machine, Dave, played by Keir Dullea, methodically lobotomizes HAL even as the computer pleads for its life in a terminally decelerating soliloquy.

Cocooned by their technology, the film’s human characters appear semi-automated — component parts of their gleaming white mother ship. As for HAL — a conflicted artificial intelligence created to provide flawless, objective information but forced to “live a lie,” as Mr. Clarke put it — the computer was quickly identified by the film’s initial viewers as its most human character.

This transfer of identity between maker and made is one reason “2001” retains relevance, even as we put incipient artificial intelligence technologies to increasingly problematic uses.

[ click to continue reading at NYT ]

Posted on April 2, 2018 by Editor

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