Study Guide

2001: A Space Odyssey Life, Consciousness, Existence

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Life, Consciousness, Existence

What is man's place in the universe? What's the meaning of life? Are our lives and actions predetermined or do we have free will? Is there a God? Can we artificially create a being conscious of its own existence, i.e., alive? Is is total hubris for a director to think he can address those question via some moving pictures on celluloid?

Viewers can ask any of these questions of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the film will answer, "Good questions." 2001 explores these ideas, but it doesn't seek to answer them in a coherent philosophical or scientific way. The meaning of its imagery and symbols become what the viewers bring to the film as much as what's in the film itself.)

Clarke and Kubrick created this film when computer technology was in a pretty primitive stage, but scientists and philosophers were beginning to think about the implication of super-intelligent machines. Those questions are on the minds of all A.I. scientists now. Will a computer ever pass the Turing test? Fortunately for humanity, some very smart folks are keeping track.

Questions About Life, Consciousness, Existence

  1. How does 2001 portray the evolution from ape-man to space explorer? Does it imply that life has meaning?
  2. Do you think HAL achieved consciousness and sentience? Was it ultimately a program designed to mimic these well? Why is this a critical question in the film?
  3. Did aliens ultimately control the evolutionary path of humanity or did humanity have a choice in the matter?

Chew on This

The unseen extraterrestrials are portrayed as having godlike qualities in that they remain indefinable. But it's never suggested in the film that they're anything other than biological products of a different evolutionary path.

The film suggests that if machines ever achieve true consciousness, it's bad news for humanity.

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