Analyzing The Impact Of Deities In 2001: A Space Odyssey

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The Hand of the Divine: Analyzing the Impact of Deities in 2001: A Space Odyssey
Homer's epic, The Odyssey, chronicles the treacherous voyage of Odysseus across the Mediterranean Sea as he strives to reach his long-awaited kingdom of Ithaca. Despite his apparent autonomy as a leader and a hero, many of his successes and setbacks can be attributed to divine intervention, most notably from Poseidon and Athena. While Athena supports and assists Odysseus, Poseidon takes an opposing stance. Despite his divinity, his feud with Odysseus is mortal, fueled by passion rather than reason. Literature throughout history has depicted conflicts between protagonists and deities. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey follows the story of a human protagonist, …show more content…

Despite HAL's immense power, there is no clear evidence that he possesses sentience. Poole voices this concern in a scene where Bowman and Poole are suspicious of HAL’s motives, so they hide in a pod and discuss him, saying “Should certainly indicate his integrity and self-confidence. If he were wrong it'd be the surest way of proving it. It would be if he knew he was wrong” (1:25:15-23). The Odyssey portrays Odysseus as not questioning Poseidon's motives or viewpoints, despite enduring his wrath. Kubrick’s film paints a more realistic relationship between man and a modern-day deity. Here, the crew can not tell whether HAL’s motives are incorrect due to his stupidity, lack of morality, or ignorance. It is well known that advanced computer systems, like HAL, are capable of completing many tasks very quickly, but there will always be doubt about their ability to retain multiple viewpoints and weigh each one correctly. Odysseus might not agree with Poseidon’s decision to torment him, but he might understand that, as a god, he is inclined to have differing motives from his own. In the case of 2001, there is an additional layer for Bowman and Poole to consider. They can not, with certainty, conclude that HAL’s motives are superior to their own due to being deity-like or inferior due to faulty programming. This is eerily similar to the black box …show more content…

In this scene, Bowman tactically removes what appears to be memory pieces of HAL to eliminate his generative abilities as an artificial intelligence (1:51:38-1:56:55). In a publication, computer scientist Dr. Michael Mateas, argues that HAL’s dialogue with Bowman during this scene confirms he passes the Turing test, labeling him as intelligent (Mateas 8). The Turing test is a thought experiment created by Alan Turing during the 1950s, which explained that if a person were to sit down and converse with an AI and at the end, the human could not reasonably conclude that the system was a human or an AI, then the system was considered to be generally “intelligent”. Turing’s experiment is based on the presumption that seeming intelligence is equal to general intelligence, which is still debated today. Professor Mateas argues that the final scene where HAL says “I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. There’s no question about it. I can feel it” (1:52:35-1:53:26) is HAL’s completion of the Turing test and that the audience has a “moral responsibility” towards HAL. Despite Mateas’s logical conclusion, it is a bit outdated. His 2005 publication is far before the creation of the transformer deep learning model in 2017 and its implementation in large language models within the last year.

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