_2001_: Optimistic or pessimistic, en fin?

From: Jim Fehlinger (fehlinger@home.com)
Date: Fri Feb 23 2001 - 08:06:56 MST

(Sorry, I don't seem to be **quite** ready to let go of this topic :->).

SPOILERS, naturally.

I asked, somewhat rhetorically, in my earlier post whether the memetic
effect of _2001_ is what folks on this list would consider "Extropian" or
not, and mentioned that the appearance of the "Star-Child" (as it is
called in Clarke's novel) in near-Earth space at the end of the movie is an
example of an event-horizon Singularity, since the movie gives no clue as
to what's going to happen next. Clarke's novel is equally noncommittal,
though a bit more explicit as to the power of the new entity. In the novel,
the Star Child detonates one of the weapons in Earth orbit just in time to
avert a nuclear holocaust: "A thousand miles below, he became aware that a
slumbering cargo of death had awoken, and was stirring sluggishly in its orbit.
The feeble energies it contained were no possible menace to him; but he preferred
a cleaner sky. He put forth his will, and the circling megatons flowered in a
silent detonation that brought a brief, false dawn to half the sleeping globe."
"He had returned in time" i.e., to save the world, which means that that he's
returned to Earth more or less around the same time that he left as Dave Bowman,
though the movie gives us no such clue. Not even Clarke's more explicit
interpretation of the story tells us what's going to happen next: "Then he waited,
marshaling his thoughts and brooding over his still untested powers. For though he
was master of the world, he was not quite sure what to do next. But he would
think of something." The last page of the novel also observes that upon
the appearance of the Star-Child, "Down there on that crowded globe, the
alarms would be flashing across the radar screens... and history as men knew
it would be drawing to a close."

The Usenet group alt.movies.kubrick FAQ ( http://www.krusch.com/kubrick/kq.html )
has links to some fascinating discussion that bears on the question of
whether or not the apparent evolutionary leap represented by the Star-Child
is really a symbol of hope for humanity. Some people are persuaded that
Kubrick's own view of the matter, inferred from his entire corpus of work,
is that the Star-Child is likely to take human cussedness and moral failure
to a higher and more horrifying plane of evil (see "Is the ending of 2001 really
pessimistic? Optimistic? Either? Other?" at http://www.krusch.com/kubrick/Q32.html ).

On the other hand, whatever his expectations of the Star-Child in particular,
Kubrick's views about the long-term direction of life and consciousness in the
universe (from the _Playboy_ interview at http://www.krusch.com/kubrick/Q12.html )
seem impeccably Extropian:

"When you think of the giant technological strides that man has made
in a few millennia -- less than a microsecond in the chronology of the
universe -- can you imagine the evolutionary development that much
older life forms have taken? They may have progressed from biological
species, which are fragile shells for the mind at best, into immortal
machine entities -- and then, over innumerable eons, they could emerge
from the chrysalis of matter transformed into beings of pure energy and
spirit. Their potentialities would be limitless and their intelligence
ungraspable by humans."

Finally, Kubrick has this to say about the memetic significance of

"I think that if _2001_ succeeds at all, it is in reaching a wide
spectrum of people who would not often give a thought to man's destiny,
his role in the cosmos and his relationship to higher forms of life."

Jim F.

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