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20 November, 2007 / Erik

“Let me put it this way, Mr Amer…”

So often, science fiction gets it wrong. I still have a 2001 poster on my wall, a reminder to me of fiction’s hazy power of prescience. In Kubrick’s masterpiece, we now count up all the ways it didn’t turn out. We have no space station to visit or commercial flights to the moon. Our computers do not require whole rooms to operate, but voice synthesis is still a far concept. Even voice command is only now becoming somewhat feasible, but requires phrasing, no where near the conversational interface as dreamed in that other 2001 of fiction. Our technologies never ramped up, but the fate of nations also blindsided that vision. In that other 2001, the Soviet Union continued to sustain itself into space. Well, it’s not really fair to criticize that aspect of the film. In the 1960s, to suggest the USSR’s collapse before the end of the century would’ve broke credibility. However, it is interesting that even 2001 failed to suggest

 

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There’s another reason to keep the poster up: a reminder than like all good stories, the best science fiction is about people and their relationships. 2001 is glorious vision of our power to create tools and a warning of how our tools could hold us back from a true evolution or contact with great forces. It reveals a certain humanity that must be lost in order to deal with the rigors of manned space flight and the importance of routine in such an endeavor. All of these things are human concerns and human conditions. Some people look at this movie with maybe forty minutes of dialog and consider it a movie about things. They miss the point. Those things just float in space without a human consciousness to experience them. It is in this essential humanity that 2001 overcomes its anachronistic depiction of a year now in the past.

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