2001 and Beyond the Infinite

Commentary and Criticism

December 1997

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Date: Tue, 02 Dec 1997 03:31:58 +1100
From: mburnett [mburnett@acay.com.au]


I read your essay and found it most interesting. I however have a couple
of varying viewpoints which I'd like to share if you have the time.

I agree about the appearance of the monolith appearing before the apes
or cro-magnum man and providing a great evolutionary leap towards to
humanity. When the the monilith appears before Dave at the end of the
film you have to assume that this will be another great leap. But I
don't think it is forward. It is, in fact, a redirection the monolith's
(as the higher consciousness) initial idea. That is 'don't go fucking
each other up we bones, nukes or whatever.) Peace. 

Dave is the epitomy of man's striving towards perfection through
technology. Dave and HAL mirror each other. HAL is a machine that
believes it is superior to it's creator - Man. This would seem to be a
point where technology has gone too far. You will see similar concepts
in the writings of Issaac Asimov's "I Robot". Creating an entity that is
superior to the creator has huge philosophical implications. 

This is where we find Dave, matching wits with a machine. Also a point
where the higher consciousness ( represented by  the monolith would see
fit to intervene). "Whoops I gave the hairy little buggers a bone 4
billion years ago and now they're screwing with the universe." 

So there is Dave who has dedicated his life to perfection. Dry and
inhuman. This is reflected by the starkness of the space craft. Sterile
and emotionless. He ends up on, or near, Jupiter and the higher
consciousness takes over. It flies him around for a bit just to scare
the shit out of him to make him ready for 'the great lesson'. Dave
watches himself as a child, a young man, an old man and a fucking old
man. He is shown his life. Barren, devoid of love and humanity. The
evironmnent in which he shown is no different to the space craft. 

What purpose has technology and the strive ot perfection done for Dave?
Condemned to a life of loneliness. The message is drummed home. Scene
after scene. A Scrooge story. Ghosts of the christmas past present and
future. Only told a lot more poetically and with deeper repercussions.
Humanity is at stake.

Dave is the given the gift of living a life of false ambitions and is
allowed another shot. He sees himself for the cold miserable bastard he
is and doesn't like it. He has been following a false God. The God of
technology (or "tools" as you put it)

 He is sent back to earth as a child. A child with eyes as wise as an
old man. He returns to earth with the ultimate wisdom. This may well be
the new leap in the evolution of mankind or maybe it's just a
redirecting of the initial idea. 'Don't club your fellow beings with a
bone'. Don't use technology for evil. I don't think Arther C Clarke is
really trying to answer too many big questions, more than provide some
insight into the less than pretty 'big picture' of technology.

Thanks for your time. I would be very keen to hear your thoughts.

Mark Burnett.

Date: Sun, 07 Dec 1997 03:25:13 -0600

I just finished watching 2001 for the first time in years and headed to
the web looking for some discussion.  I found your essay very
interesting, well thought out, and well explained.  My interpretation is
a little different.  Here is my thoughts and explanations.

1)  The Odyssey is the evolution of man or lack thereof.

2)  A superior intelligence (Alien, God, whatever) uses these monoliths
as information gatherers throughout the universe.  There is one in our
solar system and at the beginning of the movie it is hovering over the
only planet in this system with lifeforms.  It gathers information from
afar until it deems that some sentient on the planet is showing signs of
development that could ultimately lead to exiting its solar system. It
makes itself known not to impart knowledge, but by making physical
contact it can 'read' the thoughts of the being.  When the moon watcher
touchs the monolith, the monolith does sense the intelligence but knows
until the next level is reached it is not overly concerned.  Still it
hangs around to see what develops.  This may be weeks, months, or
years.  When it witnesses the moon watcher using a tool, it knows the
evolutionary path has progressing so its current job is done and its off
to report.  There may be other contacts throughout history to guage the
development.  We know that at some point the next step is colonating the
moon.  When the guy touches the monolith on the moon, it senses in him
the plans for imminent travel to the edge of the system, and
immediatetly broadcasts the 'Yikes, it won't be too long now' message.

3) Man is trying to evolve but he has many frailties.  The one thing
that keeps moving him down the evolutionary path is his inquisitiveness,
his thirst for knowledge.  Technological advancements are only part of
the measure of evolution.  Losing the bad traits is just as important. 
Using tools to create is advancement, but using them to kill is not.  So
what did we learn going from apes to space stations?  We created the
moon base, space station, HAL, and a ship to travel to Jupiter but we
still are deceitful and have orbiting nuclear weapons.  WE think we're
advanced enough to meet the maker, but this is only on the
technologically and then just barely.  Our inner beings have not come
close to the required development.

4) HAL is a 9000 and does not make mistakes.  At least not ones a human
could detect.  He has the facts on the mission and as a learning
computer continues to gather information.  After spending time learning
from his shipmates(he does ask a lot of questions), he has determined
that using these examples, man no longer has the intelligence, drive or
ambition to be running the show.  He is doing psychological analysis
throughout the mission.  Some telling signs are his ease of winning at
chess, and then more importantly noting that Frank doesn't care if he's
beaten.  Then Dave doesn't seem to be inquisitive about what to HAL
seems to be obvious and important aspects and circumstances surrounding
the mission.  I think when Dave asks him if he is analyzing again, the
reason he is slow to respond is that he at the instant has decided to
get rid of the humans and like a chess game is determining all the moves
to achieve his next checkmate.  The evasive agreement and the immediate
announcement of a non-existant failure is the first of those moves.

5)Since Dave is able to triumph over HAL we know that man still has the
ingenuity that got him this far.  There's hope yet.  So perhaps we ARE
ready, we think, as we cheer Dave on to complete the mission.  However,
the fact that he 'kills' HAL without remorse shows that he really is not
ready.  My guess is the tape kicks on at HAL's demise by a pedetermined
monitoring program.  Dave now knows what the mission is.  Buoyed by his
recent triumph of man over machine he thinks he must be ready.  Off in
the pod he goes and 'touches' the orbiting monolith.  The monolith
reads: this guy is saying he's ready for the knowledge of the universe,
and he has got this far, so here goes...  Thus the acid trip.  This
colorful display signifies all the itelligence man must comprehend to
make the next level; To walk as one with the supreme being(s?). 
Included in the knowledge is the creation of the universe, man's
creation, and everything else.  As we can tell by Dave's expressions, he
is not intellectually advanced enough and is totally overwhelmed.  As a
matter of fact he has obviously overloaded and burned out.  The power(s)
that be see this and since THEY don't kill, they put this veg in a nice
safe place to finish out his days.  Oh well, maybe next time.  To Dave's
credit, and mans, even with his dying breath he still reaches for
knowledge.  But this time the monolith doesn't sing because it has
already core dumped on him.  As Dave's soul exits his old body it is put
into a new child to be reincarnated in a new generation on Earth. 
Hopefully, this one will mature intellectually as well as

2001, like Star Wars, was a great film for its time and even today is
still enjoyable to watch.  It broke many barriers and as this web site
shows, inspired a lot of deep thinking.  It is slow (many say boring)
but in the late sixties with Apollo and all, the public was fascinated
with all the space special effects that are so commonplace today.  Hence
the drawn out scenes.  Still, I like it because of the attention to
detail.  Just like the ,no noise in space thing.  But even there, a few
things puzzle me.  As soon as an unprotected person hits the vaccuum of
space, wouldn't his own blood pressure cause him to explode.  Wouldn't
he at least freeze?  If HAL could control the pods, why didn't he just
zing Dave off into space or cut all the power.  Any thoughts?  

Oh, I don't particularly want my name out on your website but you can
use any of my observations that you would like.  And I agree with you
about 2010.  Taken on its own it ranks in there with the Alien movies. 
But 2001 is a classic.

Date: Fri, 12 Dec 1997 07:03:59 -0500
From: "Jamie N. Wolodarsky" [swdesign@visionol.net]

Unfortunately, unlike so many other people who have written to you, I
did not like your essay.  

	I have a different explination of Hal's erratic behaviour, although
yours is equally valid.  Hal's computer intelligence has now matched
that of humans, and the unforseen consequence is that he now has human
emotions.  He has a secret, and like most people, is itching to share
that secret.  What good is a secret that can't be told?  What good is
knowledge, or power, that can't be used?  Thus, Hal hints to Dave that
he has some hidden knowledge.  However, Hal has been given a temptation
to which he is programmed not to succumb.  The contradiction drives him
insane.  One lie (sin?) leads to another and he lies about the impending
failure of the AE-35 unit.   Hal's eye burns with fear and hatred during
the scene where he reads Frank's and Dave's lips and learns of his
possible death.  He then murders to cover up his lies and save his own
life.  This behaviour is very, very human, in sharp contrast to wooden
emotions of the actual humans.    Man has created a tool which is a
mirror to himself, with the same passions and weaknesses.  Hal tries to
redeem himself, and save the mission, by playing the message revealing
the truth as his dying act, an equally human impulse.

Yours truly,

Ian Hooker
Toronto, Ontario

Date: Fri, 19 Dec 1997 07:46:58 EST
From: Telex i51 [Telexi51@aol.com]

ok, i have two possible theories on the reasoning behind hal's question to
dave about the mission seeming suspicious, although he already knew of its
purpose before hand.

1) hal was aware of the true nature of mission control's actions, so that is
not his true suspicion. in engaging dave in this conversation he hopes to
stimulate an idea from dave that will satisfy his suspicions, fully aware that
dave, oblivious to the mission's true nature, could not possibly fathom the
mission's true purpose. but at the same time hal was unprepared for what was
the cause of his suspicions; because although he senses something wrong, in
his arrogance he fails to realise the possibility of his own malfunction as
being the cause of such suspicions. he see's fault in everything around him
other than himself. the detection of the malfunction in the AE-35 unit causes
dave and frank to grow suspicious. hal cannot fathom this. he cannot be the
reason, therefore it must be due to human error. in his logic, the only way to
preserve the purpose of the mission is to get rid of the possibility of human
error. therefore, kill all the humans onbaord. and only then, when there is no
one left to question him, he will be free of the possibility of his own

2) hal's suspicions could be seen as a test. in hal's arrogance he see's the
humans overseeing the mission as lax and complacent. he questions the odd
nature of the mission: the suspended crewmembers, their training previous to
the mission. dave, so like a machine now and unable to question or think
freely about the nature of his own mission, doesn't see anything to rouse his
suspicion. at this point hal reaches his conclusion and acts, immediately
sensing the malfunction in the AE-35 unit. he needs a method of getting them
out of the ship. he creates the malfunction in order to provide him with a
method of disposing of his crew if necessary. he cannot afford human error to
distract a mission of such importance from its purpose.

i hope you see some merit in my explanations. if possible i would be pleased
to hear what u think. thank u for listening
>>e.s. paolinelli

Date: Mon, 22 Dec 1997 02:05:09 EST
From: MGol792547 [MGol792547@aol.com]

Admittingly I did not read your entire essay.
It is now time for bed.  But I did read the part about "Moon-Watcher" and
would like to comment further:  You say that his participation in monolith
related events are vital, but you don't extrapolate.  I will.

I am an admirer of the film.  It is probably the greatest one ever made.  Epic
in scale, and "huge" in scope.

One can try to "disect" the later parts of the film for "meaning" or
"answers," but I feel that Kubrick and Clark have intentionally left this part
ambiguious.  With good reason, I might add.  How can one explain what one does
not understand?  I ask those who look for answers "Why do you need them?"  I
never get a good answer.  The reason why people look is because they are
insecure.  If they don't understand they feel they (themselves) are "lacking"
in some way.  The movie by its very nature challenges the attentive viewer's
reasoning.  The only way to refute is to give an answer, or pass the movie off
as a meaningless acid trip "dumb" movie.  

Well, the movie is "dumb".  A "smart" movie would have the answers - this one
doesn't.  Is the monolith God?  Is it an alien?  Is the Star Child God/Next
phase of human evolution?  Etc . . .  I have no idea.  Any and all I suppose.

So why do I single out the "Moon-Watcher" bit from the intro?  
First because I feel the sequence is so beautiful that human culture would be
"less" without it.  The sequence is glorious. 
Secondly, because I feel it is the only "Part"  of the movie we humans can
understand some portion of.  

The "Moon-Watcher"  sees more than the rest of his tribe.  He is different .
He watches the moon.  Why?  I feel he watches, because he, like other human
leaders see "more" than others around them see (would Hitler be
Hitler/Jefferson be Jefferson/Moses be Moses if they saw the world excatly as
everyone else - of course not).  To his "type" there is more to life that is
as essential as food and water.  He is grander of scope.  The main point  I am
making is that "Moon-Wathcher" types stride forward.  Without "Moon-Watcher"'s
advances would never occur.  Who would make them?  One must "see" more to be
more.  Yes?

Now, why does this make a difference.  First as far as the movie is concerned,
only the "see-ers"  advance, or is advance suggested amongst them.  Notice
after band of proto-humans slaughter "other" at water hole.  Is there not one
"other" who looks back a few times.  Is he not a "Moon-Watcher"?  He does in
fact "see" more.  Why does he look back when the others simple run away?  Or
an astronaut.  Is not an Astronaut a "Moon-Watcher"?  Should he not be
considered of an adventurous soul who "sees" more than others.  Of course, it
makes perfect sense a "see-er"  should in fact be adventurous in some way.  

Kubrick in fact dwelves further into the "see-er" theme in his film "The
Shining."  Remember boy and Cook?

So, we agree, do we not that - that "see-er's" are different.  They stand out.
They make the grand strides.  The "Leaps" if you will.  So I say that the
movie is not only about evolution/God/Space/Aliens, but about the very nature
of how it occurs.  Hal himself "sees" more than the others on the ship.  Of
course - the flights true purpose.  So "Moon-Watcher" is special 2001:  A
Space Odyssey says.  Clearly he has this direct link to the later "advanced"
characters HAL 9000 computer and David, or at least they are characaters that
make advances.  

So what's the point?  What's the big deal anyway? 

Well, I think (1st Kubrick himself is a see-er) but that why every other issue
in the movie is left "up in the air"  The "see-ing"  issue is one that
eveybody can not only understand, but use to help advance human kind.  Kubrick
sees it does he not?  See-ers advance.  More see-ers more advances.  

See more.  Look more.  Listen more.  Feel more.  Taste more.  Smell more.
Don't just sit back and let it happen.  Make it happen.  Find it.  That is the
only answer.  

See-ers try things.  They ask questions.  They often fail.  The best also try
again.  If I am not mistaken Ghandi was somewhat of a failed lawyer.  

Like it or not, this wouldn't be the nuclear era if Einstein thought Newton
was right like every other physicist who came before.  Talk about the effect
of a see-er.  A discovery that can mean the destruction of the entire planet
in an instant.

So please, don't just admire the movie for its stunning beauty-we all know it
is one.  Don''t just try and find an answer for the meaning of life and the
existence of God/aliens/acid-opiate/etc . . ..  But use it as a sort of life
lesson, like a childrens story for how to behave, "The Boy who Cried Wolf" I
guess is a good parallel.  

I have known too many people that I have loved let life pass them by.  I
thought they were great.  The only problem was that they didn't.  The craziest
part about it is that in one way or another I see the spark of greatness in
just about everyone.  The more people I meet the more potential I see.  Don't
sell yourself short.  Halfway is easy, but it isn't enough.  Almost everyone
has something.  Trust yourself.  Push youself and make it happen.  Advances
don't have to be huge/monumental ones ot make a difference:

Right now I am listening to "Wash Jones" by the Squirrel Nut Zippers.  It is
truly amazing music.  Talk about hearing the world in a whole new way (Ligeti
wasn't the only one).  Out of control. 

Date: Wed, 24 Dec 1997 15:01:08 -0500
From: "Denis Robitaille" [drob@oricom.ca]

Hi! Congratulations on a great page! Your comments on the film are very
interesting and the analysis is to the point. One thing, however... If, as
you suppose, Dave was brieffed about the monolith before the Discovery
mission, what would Hal have to hide from the crew??? It is more likely
that the pre-recorded Floyd message was intended to be played automatically
in the event of an accident. Also, in the first 'Alien' movie, the android
states that the crew is expendable; the success of the mission being the
absolute priority. Couldn't the same 'restrictions' apply to Hal's
programming? Realizing that the mission is in jeopardy, he falls back to
his 'priority' program and tries to insure the mission's success...
	Well, I just tought that I could make a small contribution...
Congratulations again on the quality of your essay!
	Denis Robitaille
	Quebec City, Canada.

Date: Mon, 29 Dec 1997 05:38:01 -0700
From: Zaron [zaron@inficad.com]

Hello.  I just read your explanation of 2001.  I have to say that you
really did your homework there.  You brought up some very interesting
points.  Whereas I really liked 2010, I still really enjoy 2001.  I
thought that 2010 was a nice "message to the masses" type film.  I don't
mind meanings in films if its done right.  But I had a question or two
for you.  One, what was the cramming down our thoats of this "My God,
its full of stars" thing all about.  I just watched 2001, and 2010 and I
don't recall hearing Bowman saying anything like that right before he
went into the Monolith.  Was that something they came up with just for
that movie.  I wish I could recall the books a little better.  I read
2001, 2010, and 2061(Odyssey3) about 5 years ago, and im having some
difficulty recalling what happened in them.  I would sit down and read
them all in a month like I did before, but I just don't have the time
like I did then.  I think I recall liking 2061, but wondered if it could
ever come to the screen.  It just didn't seem like the kind of movie you
could make, and stay true to the book.  Second question, have you read
3001 yet?  If so, was it good or worth reading?  I listened to a radio
talk show a few months back that had Mr Clarke on it talking about this
book and it sounded interesting.  He described something about these
huge spires that went up to a ring that encircled the Earth and people
lived in these spires.  Atleast thats what I think he said.  And the
last question I wanted to ask you was, when watching 2001, Bowman is in
the Pod heading towards the Monolith, and you see it out there in the
distance in the alignment with Jupiter and its moons, and it seems like
it goes off almost moving away from Bowman and then all of a sudden we
see the light show.  Is it possible you think that the Monolith was
leading Bowman to a "wormhole" or something that would end up taking him
to the alien's homeworld?  Because when watching it tonight, it sure
didn't seem like he came in contact with the Monolith.  It seemed the
Monolith was moving away from him.  Oh and some observations.  When
Bowman finally reaches the homeworld, and his eyes turn back to the
normal color, we see the alien landscape along the way.  It seems very
similar to Earth's landscape.  Coincidence?  Almost reminisent of the
African plains where the man-apes were.  Also, in 2010, at the end of
the film, we see the Monolith on the surface of what I can only assume
was Europa.  The planet was in its early stages of developement it
looked like.  If that planet was there to bring a new lifeform into our
galaxy, was the new lifeform the original aliens that "made" the
Monolith?  Or an entirely different race of alien all together?  If it
were the original alien, why was the Monolith there?  I mean, they don't
really need it do they?  They are already way more developed than us.
The Monolith was a guide or tutor to help a race evolve it seems, so
having the Monolith on a planet that the aliens created to populate with
that same alien race seems a bit far fetched.  Or the other answer could
be that they were starting a whole new race and the Monolith was there
waiting for this entirely new species to discover it.  If the Monolith
wasn't God, but the aliens responsible for it were Godlike, maybe they
get some sort of kick out of plopping down a new species of creature in
our solar system just for the sheer hell of it to see what happens when
the two species finally meet.  I suppose that could be a scientific
experiment in and of itself.  To see how the two creatures get along.
But if thats the case, I can't help but wonder why they picked our solar
system or galaxy for that matter to start a new race.  There was plenty
of space out there to do it elsewhere.  Anyhow, I just wanted to tell
you that your page is very informative, and definately worth the read.
Good job!   :)  Talk to you later.


Date: Mon, 29 Dec 1997 12:50:58 -0500
From: Robert Kirkner [rkirkner@.worldnet.att.net]

Dear Modemac:

Enjoyed your review. It gave me some new insights.

Several years ago, I read a screenplay that I subsequently lost that
contained many of the same ideas contained in your review. It indicated
that the diamond-like objects moving over the planet were, in fact, the
aliens who had evolved into life-forms that were almost pure energy. I
can think of no explanation that is more plausible.

These beings created an artificial haven on the surface of a sun
according to the screenplay/book.

Saw the movie last night for the umpteenth time and, as usual, saw some
new stuff. 

Whether intended or not, the lyrics to Daisy fit the theme of the movie.
Hal is half crazy and in his own way, in love with the humans. A
carriage and bicycle (built for two) continue the mechanistic theme.

The "eyes" on Frank's space suit make him look more like a frog when he
goes on his last spacewalk and tend to dehumanize him.

The German philosopher, Freidriche Neitzche's theory of the Superman
provided the contrast from ape-man-superman.


Robert Kirkner

Date: Tue, 30 Dec 1997 00:39:49 EST
From: RUSHINx2 [RUSHINx2@aol.com]

	I watched 2001 last night on TNT. I had only heard of the movie when
it was been made fun of on other shows. For example, in the movie AIRPLANE
there is a part in which a computer talks like Hal. I had enjoyed other
science fiction works in the past such as Planet of the Apes, and nearly
every episode of the Twilight Zone. So when I saw that it was on, I decided
that I would give it a shot. I was intrigued by the beginning and began to
wonder if it would take up over half of the movie. As the movie went on, I
became extremely confused yet still enjoyed 2001 for that exact reason. I had
always felt that what I am using to write to you this very moment would lead
to our downfall, which made the movie very interesting for me. After the film
was over, I was overwhelmed and found myself thinking about it overnight. I
came up with a few conclusions myself. But first I wanted to read about it
somewhere else, to make sure that I wasn't totally wrong. Your web page was
exactly what I was looking for. I enjoyed reading your ideas, and I'm
impressed with all the thought that you put into this. 
	I don't believe that the monolith wasn't put in it's place by anyone.
It is just a symbol of a new age that is to come. I also disagree with your
assumption that this was all just an experiment conjured by aliens. When the
monolith appeared to the apes, it was just a symbol of the end of their
superiority. After them, we became superior. They destroyed and killed
themselves, by creating their tools. We are doing the same thing by creating
computers. Their intelligence is greater then ours, and will lead to our
downfall. It will happen long after the year of 2001, though. This is why the
monolith was found on the moon. It was not actually there, it was just a
symbol that human superiority was soon to end. Something else would soon
become greater than us. The whole purpose of showing the crisis that occurred
aboard the ship DISCOVERY was to show how we will lose our superiority. Just
as the apes killed their own with their newly found tools, we kill our own by
creating machines which are smarter than we are. What happens at the end of
the movie is the inevitable, the end of human's rule over it's universe. What
happens in the Victorian style room is just that. The old and decrepit Dave
(humankind) is dying and the new superior of the universe is what you called
the "STAR-CHILD"(and yes, the pointing of his finger is an allusion to
Michelangelo's painting). The reason why he is shown in the form of an embryo
is because we don't know what form he will take. But whatever he is, he is
better than us, just as we were better than the apes. The torch of
superiority has been passed.
	These are the conclusions that I drew in the last day, and I hope
that although they contradict yours, you will be kind enough to put them with
all the other messages you posted on the website. Thank you for your help in
solving the mystery. I will review the film once more, so watch out for me at
your web page at a later time.