2016: A Space Odyssey

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The 1968 classic sci-fi film, 2001: A Space Odyssey is known for its cinematic brilliance and its place in the history of film. One sometimes-overlooked aspect is its prediction of the future. No film has gotten so much right about how we use technology today. Tablet-like devices, a mode of communication similar to Skype, and a smart computer are all featured in the film. This article will look at these three amazing predictions of the future.

Mission commander, Dr. David Bowman (Dave)

Mission commander, Dr. David Bowman (Dave)

Dave and Frank, our two main characters, are seen watching a news broadcast about themselves on a tablet-like screen. They look eerily similar to what we think of as tablets today. The main difference is the size of it. However, Microsoft first introduced a tablet PC in, you guessed it, 2001. Coincidental, isn’t it? The tablet-like device seen on film is just one amazing piece of modern technology seen in 2001.

Dr. Heywood Floyd makes a video-call to his daughter.

Dr. Heywood Floyd makes a video-call to his daughter.

Another modern means of communication is seen towards the beginning of the film, as Dr. Heywood Floyd, the main engineer of HAL 9000, is seen talking to his daughter in a phone booth. But, this is no ordinary phone booth, it is a dead ringer for a Skype call. Even though the buttons and knobs on the device look archaic, it is definitely a predecessor of what we take for granted as Skype. Floyd can instantaneously talk to his daughter as if they were talking on the phone, while also seeing her at the same time. Stanley Kubrick, the film’s director, likely had no idea that something similar to this would be commonplace when he began filming in the early 1960s.

HAL 9000 

HAL 9000 

The final piece of technology that 2001 predicted was the smart computer. HAL 9000 (Heuristic ALgorithmic computer) is the main computer on the spaceship Discovery One. It can talk and interact with Dave and Frank just as a human would, but without any emotion and is completely perfect. Now, obviously, we don’t have something like HAL just yet, but there is something close to it. Watson, an IBM computing system is very similar in function to HAL, but is not sentient. It does have access to an almost unlimited database of facts as well as Wikipedia.

Watson competed on Jeopardy against the likes of Ken Jennings and won. HAL can adapt to the environment and almost gets away with sabotaging the Discovery One by figuring out Dave and Frank’s plan to go off on their own. Watson isn’t capable of something as advanced as that (thank goodness), but Watson can learn about a subject, then immediately answer questions about it.

2001: A Space Odyssey is considered by many film scholars to be one of the greatest films of all time. It cannot be overlooked for how much it predicted our current technology. This film, along with the Star Trek TV series, came out around the same time and obviously inspired inventors and scientists to reach for the stars.

 

*All photos from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) 

 

2001 also features suspended animation:

Suspended Animation: To Sleep, Perchance to Dream