Re: _2001_: Optimistic or pessimistic, en fin?

Date: Fri Feb 23 2001 - 10:29:44 MST

Jim Fehlinger writes:
> 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.

Right, the sequels were a great disappointment in this regard. Of course,
it would be dramatically impossible to continue the story past a
Singularity, so they basically had to pretend that it hadn't happened.

> 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."

This was an echoing of the thoughts of the ape-man who had been first
enhanced by the monolith. His sudden introduction to the use of tools
left him in a similar "master of the world" situation. And of course
that did in fact lead to a qualitative change in the nature of life
on earth. Presumably the next step will lead to another qualitative
change, consistent with our views of the Singularity.

The biggest non-Extropian aspect of this is that the two Singularities
come from outside, through intentional manipulation. It's a literal
"deus ex machina" since the intervenor is a machine. In reality, as
compared to science fiction, Singularities come from within. We evolved
intelligence and changed the world. Intelligence will now intentionally
create super-intelligence and change the world again.

> 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 )
> 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."

This echoes the descriptions in the novel of the evolutionary path of the
creators of the monoliths. I always assumed these words were written by
Clarke; they drip with his style and conceptual outlook. It's odd that
Kubrick would quote them as his own, although of course it's possible
that this model was jointly conceived between him and Clarke.


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