On Viewing 2001: The First Transhumanist Film


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On Viewing 2001: The First Transhumanist Film
By Edward Hudgins

November 19, 2015 -- I recently saw 2001: A Space Odyssey again on the big screen. That’s the best way to see this visually stunning cinematic poem, like I saw it during its premiere run in 1968. The film’s star, Keir Dullea, attended that recent screening and afterward offered thoughts on director Stanley Kubrick’s awe-inspiring opus.

He and many others have discussed the visions offered in the film. Some have come to pass: video phone calls and iPad tablets, for example. Others, sadly, haven’t: regularly scheduled commercial flights to orbiting space stations and Moon bases.

But what should engage our attention is that the film’s enigmatic central theme of transformation is itself transforming from science fiction to science fact.

From apes to man

The film’s story came from a collaboration between Kubrick and sci-fi great Arthur C. Clarke. If you’re familiar with Clarke’s pre-2001 novel Childhood’s End and his short story “The Sentinel” you’ll recognize themes in the film.

In the film we see a pre-human species on the brink of starvation, struggling to survive. An alien monolith appears and implants in the brain of one of the more curious man-apes, Moonwatcher, an idea. He picks up a bone and bashes in the skull of one of a herd of pigs roaming the landscape. Now he and his tribe will have all the food they need.

We know from Clarke’s novel, written in conjunction with the film script, that the aliens actually alter Moonwatcher’s brain, giving it the capacity for imagination and implanting a vision of him and his tribe filled with food. He sees that there is an alternative to starvation and acts accordingly. The aliens had juiced evolution. Kubrick gives us the famous scene where Moonwatcher throws the bone in the air. As it falls the scene cuts ahead to vehicle drifting through space. Natural evolution over four million years has now transformed ape-men into modern technological humans.

From stars to starchild

In the film, astronauts discover a monolith buried on the Moon, which sends a signal toward Jupiter. A spaceship is sent to investigate, and astronaut Dave Bowman, played by Dullea, discovers a giant monolith in orbit. He enters it and passes through an incredible hyperspacial stargate. At the end of his journey, Bowman is transformed by the unseen aliens’ monolith into a new, higher life form, an embryo-appearing starchild with, we presume, knowledge and powers beyond anything dreamt of by humans. He is transhuman!

Kubrick and Clarke are making obvious references to Nietzsche’s ... (Continue reading here.)

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"He is transhuman!" Yep, twice in the movie--the beginning and the end. Clarke said he didn't understand the end of the movie along with everyone else who asked about it.

The real question is where did DNA come from?

No alien force gave man an upright posture, a voicebox, and opposable thumb.

It's just a secular God* (*we know it's secular for the monoliths are things) having its way with humanity leaving the same old question in its wake: what caused God?

Loved the movie, though. But it can't well compare with Forbidden Planet much less Star Wars. That's because most of Kubrick's humans--throughout his movies, but especially this one--are almost lifeless, wooden, bureaucratic schmucks. Hal the computer redeems 2001 with its his humanity. Nice of you not to mention Hal.

Kubrick's masterpiece (he has several) is Dr. Strangelove. Peter Sellers steals it. Might as well call it Sellers' masterpiece except someone was genius enough to hire him.

--Brant

I hated Paths of Glory, but Kubrick wanted me to for you had to be totally sucked into it to hate it and "it" turns out to be what happens to and with the characters, not the damn movie existentially considered and that is what was supposed to happen to the audience with 2001, but you didn't get in deep enough for you didn't mention Hal--my only bitch with your excellent review (I think Kubrick Stockholmed you)--the transformations strike me more as McGuffins for humans vs computer story, but you seem to read it as Hal vs humans as the McGuffin for the story you focused on (but I--I see and understand everything!--it's McGuffins all the way down!)

all but two of Kubrick's movies I know of are McGuffins for Kubrick, except Tom Cruise corrupted his last one somewhat by upstaging him as did Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove in black and white with the help of Slim Pickins and Sterling Hayden

all but the Sellers' movie by Kubrick seem to weigh a ton of pretentious lead--that's why we know they're his movies--and there was no way of doing them differently or improving on them (at least I don't know how)

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While all of the stupid government educated imbeciles have been looking in the wrong direction...

...the transhuman path has been open and freely accessible for millennia...

...because it has nothing to do with technology...

... and everything to do with morality.

Greg

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Here are men still trying to surpass the animal in our "rational-animal" nature, and we're already anticipating "transhumanism"... I hope we learn to walk before we 'fly'. As far as I can see, technology is simply a tool, and only as good a tool as its user. Splendid for setting the more rational and individualistic free, dangerous in some other hands. As things stand now and in the immediate future, it is largely any State and violent gangs which will irrationally employ technology as a means to ends over other people. Hi-tech is a result of free(-ish) minds, less a cause of them I think.

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Here are men still trying to surpass the animal in our "rational-animal" nature, and we're already anticipating "transhumanism"... I hope we learn to walk before we 'fly'. As far as I can see, technology is simply a tool, and only as good a tool as its user. Splendid for setting the more rational and individualistic free, dangerous in some other hands. As things stand now and in the immediate future, it is largely any State and violent gangs which will irrationally employ technology as a means to ends over other people. Hi-tech is a result of free(-ish) minds, less a cause of them I think.

Not me. I'm all animal.

--Brant

thanks to "natural male enhancement"

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