2001: A Space Odyssey (Film) Themes

2001: A Space Odyssey (Film) Themes

Rise of the Machines

HAL-9000 has become synonymous with and inseparable from the fear that technology may one day become capable of developing sentience and doom the human species to distinction. The computer charged with running daily operations on the spacecraft taking astronauts on their secret mission soon proves that it is in charge of more than meets the eye. The interactive HAL-9000 with his emotionless vocal register is the fictional precursor to the real world technology of the 21st century such as Siri, Amazon’s Echo and self-driving cars. While none of those actual innovations have exhibited signs of sentience just yet, anyone who has ever watched 2001: A Space Odyssey must surely take time to pause every now and then and consider the potential.

The Dehumanization of Progress

One of the film’s themes is that as technology develops to do more tasks or cut down on the human effort required to complete those tasks, the result is actually a loss of humanity. One might suspect that an increase in leisure time or, at the very least, a reduction in the amount of time wasted on mind-numbing, non-creative tasks might well lead to an evolutionary leap for humanity. Instead the film posits the notion that the farther humans move away from the shared primitive chores required at or just above the survival level, the less people connect with other people in way that forms a collective unit. The collective humanity of the species has thus suffered as it has developed a symbiotic relationship with the tools it has invented to take over those responsibilities. HAL-9000 represents the dependent guest who has developed to the point of being able to take over the host.

The Evolution of Humanity

Despite the dehumanization due to its dependence upon technology, however, ultimately the film does grant the species the capacity to make the next evolutionary step. In fact, the film tells the whole story of the evolution of man from its simian ancestors in pre-history to a being no longer constrained by time and space. While the film does tackle the theme of man’s own creations rising up to take over, ultimately the film ends on a very positive note with HAL’s insurrection put down and astronaut Dave Bowman at the vanguard of the next great evolutionary step for man.

The Future of Language

With only forty minutes of its two hour-plus running containing scenes of dialogue, the film seems to suggesting that communication in the future will grow increasingly less dependent upon spoken language. The fact that those forty minutes feature dialogue that is spare, terse, to the point and lacking in any sort of poetry further suggest that the banality of language is not adequate to the increasingly complex discourse required by technological innovation and progress past the point at which language developed. Speaking has become a primitive means of communication out of place and out of time in a society where everything else is developing at accelerated rates.

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