Film For Thought: 2001: A Space Odyssey
In the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey, producer, director, and co-writer, Stanley Kubrick, elucidates his vision of human evolution. Inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s short story, “The Sentinel”, this science fiction film questions the true meaning behind humanity and our evolution. The film begins with the birth of apes’ first technological applications. A daunting, black object confronts these apes and forever changes the ways they succeed in their survival. Accompanied by long takes and a compelling score, this sequence builds suspense upon the monolith and causes uproar amongst the apes. However, this alien technology seems to have brought one thing with it: Intelligence. The sequence ends as an ape discovers the use of a bone as a weapon and shares the innovation with his primitive friends. They too understand the concept. This advantage, by use of weapons, results in their domination over the less intelligent apes. What is Stanley Kubrick saying through this? He simply marks the first moment in the evolutionary time-line where creatures become intelligent enough to apply their knowledge in technology. Although a bone as a weapon seems like a simple concept to grasp for us, to them it was a great leap towards future discoveries. The apes that have not evolved like their more intelligent superiors will ultimately face defeat. Survival of the fittest in it’s earliest.
A deadly bone flying through the air evolves into a highly advanced spacecraft orbiting Earth. The editors positioned and cut the shots in order to serve their desired purpose. The creators of this film succeeded in emphasizing the evident evolutionary progression. By this time in the film not only have they portrayed the fact that we humans have evolved, but they make it clear that we are currently evolving and will continue to evolve as long as we exist. However, an individual learning newfound knowledge no longer necessarily exists. With an advanced society comes mass civilization, and in order for that same newfound knowledge to become effective in evolution, it must be shared with others on a large scale. We learn new things as individuals and evolve as a whole race. A perfect example would be one that this film has perfectly laid out for us. The scene where one of the apes discovers the use of a weapon is the mark of a new beginning. It was that one ape that discovered it and shared it with the others. That one ape learned something new, and the rest followed. Thus demonstrating how animals, such as ourselves, evolve as a whole.
When will the evolutionary process cease to progress? I don’t believe it ever will and neither does Kubrick. We may hit periods of time achieving little, but those are simply road-blocks that we learn and become smarter by. It is very similar to solving a tough math problem-- You may be hindered by your inability to formulate an equation (Temporarily unable to evolve), however once you finally learn what you don’t know, there is no longer an obstacle to overcome. The only thing to turn to is the next, even more difficult math problem. This is the basis of the evolutionary process when it comes down to discussing intelligent and conscious beings. The ape’s discovery in the use of weapons was Stanley Kubrick’s way of showing the breaking of the barriers of knowledge that the universe has supplied us so graciously with. If they made this discovery in their primitive state, what are we to discover in OUR future?
New, advanced technologies are pivotal in the stability of the modern world but how far are they going to take us? We may create something so intelligent that it’s programming begins to make decisions with us, for us, and against us. In the future we will be forced to ask ourselves if we can accept that. Although the screenplay was written in 1968 (one year before man stepped on the moon), Kubrick proposed the big question. By inserting the robotic antagonistic HAL 9000 super-computer into the film, Stanley Kubrick demonizes the birth of this new era of intelligent creations. The malfunctions of the HAL 9000 jeopardize the humans’ mission to Jupiter, ultimately leading to the death of the crew. What does this say about us? May we some day create technologies with personalities? Technologies that will revolt against us? In 2001, he creates a story in which human intelligence has become the reason behind it’s own destruction. The irony in Kubrick’s creation is almost too much to bear. His vision of the human race is similar to final moments of a massive star--imploding under it’s own growth and weight.