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2001: A Space Odyssey explained

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Reader Interactions


  1. Years ago I was told that HAL was (if you move each letter up ONE in the alphabet) H-I, A-B, L-M, you get IBM. So was that a warning that computers will become (and have) AI?

    • That’s pretty funny. I could see that.

  2. I have a much different interpretation of many of the things you discussed. I will start with one. HAL did not make a “mistake”. He was told by his programmers to lie by omission. This created conflict for HAL and his solution (to protect the mission) was to cut off communications with Earth and kill Bowman and Poole. It was deliberate. You also missed all of the incredible symbolism throughout the movie. The shapes of the ships all meant something in terms of rebirth. The shuttle docking with space station was fertilization of the ovum. The shuttle to the moon was implantation in the womb and the ship to Jupiter clearly represents the fetus. The bone to space station transformation was not indicative of mans’ progress, it was indicative of the lack thereof. It was man’s first weapon to his latest, but still a weapon. No real progress. Progress wouldn’t come until the next step in our intellectual evolution. I don’t mean to be overly critical but there is so much more. I never picked up on the use of water in the space station. That was good. But other themes were missing completely. How about the closeness of the ape families as compared to the Russian in space and her husband was “at the bottom of Baltic Sea doing underwater research”. It is their closest relationship and they couldn’t be further apart.

    • I have to say, this is a very insightful and well organized explanation and analysis of 2001. You have given me so much more to think about that I am rewatching the film, though I have memorized much of the move from repeated viewings.

      I tend to agree with John, with the luxury of having read all the books and seen the 2010 movie multiple times. HAL didn’t make a mistake, he was made to “lie”. To quote Dr. Chandra in 2010, “HAL was told to lie – by people who find it easy to lie. HAL doesn’t know how.”

      Another thing, as you mentioned, the bone to space station transition isn’t a space station transition as much as it shows the way weapons still threaten the evolved ape. The satellites shown are likely orbiting nuclear weapons (yes, I know there has been a lot of discussion about this and Kubrick himself distanced the idea of these being weapons but the original theme and markings on the first two suggest this is the case).

      One more thing, before Arthur C. Clarke died, I was fortunate enough to meet with him and give a lecture at the Arthur C. Clarke institute in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I met with him in his home library and had quite an involved discussion on what both of us thought was “real” science fiction. Message me and I can share the pictures. Interestingly enough, he had the movie poster to 2001 outside his residence in Sri Lanka.

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