2001 x Big Data

The Sadler article mentions Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, in its discussion of human and machine interaction in terms of international relations. 2001 happens to be one of my favorite movies to discuss in an academic setting, because few have survived its extra-long and dense duration, and it makes me look really smart and esoteric. Sadler uses it to depict a possible scenario of AI learning machines resolving conflicting orders and issues that usually would require human intuition. For background, the film follows the ascent of mankind to a near-future space age through multiple depictions of human evolution, and the presence of the monolith, an extra-terrestrial entity that moves the film through space and time. One of the most striking scenes of the film, and possibly one of the most relevant to this discussion, is the jump cut between the ape colony’s bone to the space satellite, signifying humanity’s ability to transform objects into tools, and later weapons. The scene represents how much man has advanced, over the millions of years between those two shots.



In the future, or the future imagined to be in 2001, a space crew is journeying to Mars. On board, there is an AI computer named HAL, who operates as one of the human’s companions and helps them live aboard the ship. Eventually, HAL faces conflicting orders that he cannot compute, therefore kills the human crew members to solve the problem. One of the crew members, Dave, survives and disconnects HAL. The climax of the film is Dave moving through time and space, and eventually dying to be reborn as the ‘star child’, which symbolizes the advanced lifeform and the continuing journey of our species.

HAL appears as a threat to humans; but is actually depicted as more human than the crew members themselves; who are often seen doing the same robotic activities aboard the shuttle. However, although he sounds human, and is able to make jokes with the crew members, he ultimately cannot make a human decision and use ethics to solve a problem. This is what I think all three of the author’s discussion came to, that new technology can be advantageous and beneficial to society, but it is not perfect and therefore can cause unforeseen problems. I related both these discussions to Weiss’ 6 patterns, that technology and investment in the technology can be a game-changer for both positive and negative reasons, and could lead to unforeseen creation of new problems.


2001 clip


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