Re: _2001_: Optimistic or pessimistic, en fin?

From: Jim Fehlinger (
Date: Fri Feb 23 2001 - 13:23:26 MST wrote:
> Jim Fehlinger writes (quoting Kubrick):
> >
> > "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.

Yes, the relevant passage in Clarke's novel is (Chapter 37, "Experiment"):

"Call it the Star Gate. For three million years, it had circled
Saturn, waiting for a moment of destiny that might never come...
Now the long wait was ending. On yet another world, intelligence
had been born and was escaping from its planetary cradle. An
ancient experiment was about to reach its climax. Those who had
begun that experiment, so long ago, had not been men -- or even
remotely human. But they were flesh and blood... And now, out among
the stars,... [t]he first explorers of Earth had long since come to
the limits of flesh and blood; as soon as their machines were better than
their bodies, it was time to move. First their brains, and then their thoughts
alone, they transferred into shining new homes of metal and plastic...
But the age of the Machine-entities swiftly passed. In their
ceaseless experimenting, they had learned to store knowledge in
the structure of space itself, and to preserve their thoughts
for eternity in frozen lattices of light. They could become creatures
of radiation, free at last from the tyranny of matter. Into pure
energy, therefore, they presently transformed themselves...
Now they were lords of the galaxy, and beyond the reach of time...
But despite their godlike powers, they had not wholly forgotten
their origin, in the warm slime of a vanished sea. And they
still watched over the experiments their ancestors had started,
so long ago."

"J. R. Molloy" wrote:
> "beings of pure energy and spirit" ...oh, yeah, they talk about that kind
> of thing on the Art Bell radio show... along with "white powder of gold"
> equally ridiculous notion.

I always thought this was a perfectly respectable, if no longer particularly
fresh, sci-fi trope. Cf., for example, Isaac Asimov's 1965 short story
"Eyes Do More Than See". Or any number of TV shows, even. For
example, the old _Outer Limits_ episode, "The Sixth Finger" (1963):

GWILYM GRIFFITHS: ...I could feel myself reaching that stage in the
dim future of mankind when the mind will cast off the hamperings of
the flesh, and become all thought and no matter. A vortex of pure
intelligence in space. It is the goal of evolution: Man's final
destiny is to become what he imagined in the beginning, when he
first learned the idea of the angels.

Teilhard de Chardin, via Ellis St. Joseph and Joseph Stefano.

Or the original _Star Trek_ episode "Errand of Mercy".

A more recent, and very hard-science, variation on this theme
is Gregory Benford's _Eater_: ,
which features an extraterrestrial intelligence encoded in the
magnetic flux lines generated by a plasma surrounding a black hole.

Jim F.

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