I'm Sorry Dave...

Written by Anthony Douglas on 21 April 2018.

HALNext week marks the 50th anniversary of the seminal sci-fi film 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s one of those films, where the medium isn’t merely a convenient vehicle to tell a story, but is in fact integral to the whole project. The music, the imagery, the ideas and the silence all interweave to create a deeply affecting whole. The details of the story fade, and it’s how you felt as a viewer that makes the lasting memory.

The film’s great irony is that, on a secret mission to search for alien intelligence, the characters find they’ve brought it with them in the form of a supercomputer that goes rogue. The chilling calm of HAL’s voice as he condemns crewmates to death is the definitive instigator of our fear of computer-based technology, I think.

It’s terrifying to imagine a being of superior intelligence and independent power who lies outside of our control  - and who can save us or destroy us. It puts the lie to the independence we presume we have, and reminds us how fragile is our grip on life in this world.

If only people could develop a similar fear of the one I was really speaking of in the last paragraph: not HAL, but the LORD. And then they might hear his voice, with its chilling warnings of judgment, but also its compassionate offers of escape. For this God did not simply place mute obsidian pillars and leave it to us to find him; instead he came in our flesh, one of us. Not so much HAL, but Hallelujah.

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