Essay heading: 2001 A Space Odyssey

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November 27, 1998

 

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For Hal, though, it is a action that takes no effort and occurs instantaneously. What is more, the response can always be relied upon to be accurate. The fact that million of such operations occur every second is normal for Hal (instantaneous for Hal means something quite different from what it means to Dave or Frank, the two astronauts aboard Discovery, a remark that has some significance for what follows a little later)...
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The programming was done solely for the astronauts’ comfort, and was never intended to help in any of the really important parts of the mission, such as making objective and effective decisions. How was Hal going to defend himself against effective “death”? Dave was out for blood. What would you expect Hal to do in response? Lurk behind a space pod and bash Dave over the head with a handy oxygen cylinder as Dave came storming past? No, that would be too reminiscent of what a man-ape would do four million years ago...
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