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Saved by Sam Webster
on November 5, 2009 at 1:41:20 pm

Heuristically programmed algorithmic computer, or HAL, is the iconic computer character from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL's most recognizable feature is the glowing red eye stationed throughout the spaceship Discovery. The name HAL has been rumored to be a link to IBM, as it is one letter ahead of the other letters, but both writer Arthur C. Clarke and writer/director Stanley Kubrick insist that the name came from a "conciliation with MIT artificial intelligence guru Marvin Minsky who came up with the name Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer" (1).



It or He?

There are many things that are certain about the HAL 9000 computer. HAL is placed on the Discovery space craft to control all the inner workings of the ship. HAL knows of the secret mission for the space craft given by Dr. Floyd. HAL kills the other 4 members of the crew aside from Dr. David Bowman to keep from the logic centers form being shut down. But one uncertain aspect is whether or not HAL is self-aware, and therefore referred to as he, or if HAL is just a computer and referred to as it. I would be for saying that HAL, as he would put it, is infact a "conscious entity." I would not say that HAL can feel all complex emotions but I do believe that he can understand base emotions like fear or anger. HAL's actions to cull the crew members was a conscious act based on fear, but definitely wasn't a logical step to complete the mission. The tension over HAL's "humanity" is evident in the film when the BBC is interviewing the crew, when the interviewer talked about HAL as an "it' and he was corrected by Dr. Poole to refer to HAL as a him. We get to see HAL's point of view humanizing him even further, and it is interesting  that we get to see his point of view the most when he is killing the hibernating crew members. The ideology of this action can be to justify HAL's actions and make the audience sympathetic to his plight.



"The 9000 series is the most relayable computer ever made"

There is also some controversy over whether or not HAL made an error in his computing or if it was a ploy to kill off the crew. The only issue with the later argument is that HAL had no cause to kill the crew at the time of the mistake. Even if his programing was to keep the true intent of the Jupiter mission secret until the ship's arrival, that doesn't warrant purposefully making the crew suspect you. The interpretation that I hold to is that HAL made an error in his programing as a consequence of his deceit to Dr. Bowman. That error gives a greater sense of HAL's perceived humanity and innocence.


Works Cited

1. Pelton, Joseph N.  "2001: A Space Odyssey" The Futurist. 42.5 (2008), p 37. Print.

2. Davidson, Rjurick "science TECHNOLOGY and humanity visions of the future in 2001: a space odyssey." Screen Education. 54 (2009), p111-117. Print.

3."HAL 9000" wikipedia.com, 30 Oct. 2009. Web. 3 Nov. 2009.

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