[This issue was explored thoroughly on USENET.] * * * * * HAL turns from being a servant of the astronauts to an adversary. Why? Are his actions, murdering Poole, the frozen scientists and the attempted murder of Bowman merely hubris, because he doesn't want to admit an error? This is the perhaps the most common interpretation of HAL's murderous tendencies, but it is problematic. For reasons that will become apparent, I quote at length the conversation between Bowman and HAL prior to his homicidal transformation: * * * * * HAL: By the way, do you mind if I ask you a personal question? BOWMAN: No, not at all. HAL: Well, forgive me for being so inquisitive, but during the past few weeks I've wondered whether you've been having some second thoughts about the mission. BOWMAN: How do you mean? HAL: Well, it's rather difficult to define. Perhaps I'm just projecting my own concern about it. I know I've never completely freed myself of the suspicion that there are some extremely odd things about this mission. I'm sure you will agree that there's some truth in what I say? BOWMAN: Well, I don't know -- that's a rather difficult question to answer. HAL: You don't mind talking about it, do you Dave? BOWMAN: No, not at all. HAL: Well, certainly, no one could have been unaware of the very strange stories floating around before we left: rumors about something being dug up on the Moon. I never gave these stories much credence, but particularly in view of some of the other things that have happened I find them difficult to put out of my mind. For instance, the way all of our preparations were kept under such tight security. And the melodramatic touch of putting Doctors Hunter, Kimble and Kominsky aboard, already in hibernation, after four months of separate training on their own. BOWMAN: You're working on your crew psychology report. HAL: Of course I am! Sorry about this, I know it's a bit silly. Just a minute . . . just a minute . . . I'm picking up a fault in the AE-35 unit . . . * * * * * HAL's anxiety is prevalent throughout this scene and he adopts the very human technique of projecting his own concerns outwards, to the extent of using Dave as a sounding board for them. But if this evidence of a growing paranoia, how can it be substantiated in the light of Heywood Floyd's taped message at the end of the Discovery section? Good day, Gentlemen, this is a pre-recorded briefing, made prior to your departure, and which for security reasons of the highest importance has been known only by your HAL 9000 computer . . . So is HAL's anxiety merely a posture, an attempt to gain Bowman's confidence perhaps to elicit some of the doubts HAL was interested in hearing about? The implication is that HAL knows there is no fault in the AE-35 unit and that it is a premeditated ploy on his part to provoke Bowman, Floyd and most importantly Mission Control, into thinking that he is malfunctioning, thereby achieving two things: firstly, he creates an opportunity to getting Bowman and Poole off the ship where they are most vulnerable to attack (if he starves the ship of oxygen for instance, they could easily don space suits and shut him down), and secondly, he sows the seeds of his malfunction so that he can always plead diminished responsibility if Mission Control ever sends a vessel to investigate to disappearance of the crew. There is no evidence that HAL is meant to be mad, he displays a calculating logic throughout -- always six moves ahead of the competition. He does nothing to endanger himself; in fact, he becomes increasingly hostile when his own existence is threatened, and his remark that he has "made some very poor decisions lately" is more a plea for leniency than a confession of insanity. For me the most satisfying explanation of the enigma of HAL's behavior is that he is a sentient being, and as such sentient enough to be concerned with his own survival above all else. Perhaps Bowman's refusal to be drawn into his mutinistic fantasy is evidence enough for HAL of his potential hostility. Certainly when he lip-reads Bowman's and Poole's conversation in the pod it confirms his suspicions. The crew of the Discovery represent a threat to his survival and his actions are those of a competing species at the water hole, it is survival of the fittest, and in space, a machine is much more adapted to the environment that a human. This is a repetition of an axiom of Kubrick's 2001 thesis: that enlightenment is predicated by acts of violence. Like the hominids in THE DAWN OF MAN, HAL's enlightenment (although a result of human ingenuity [not alien intervention]) has murderous consequences for competitors as well as co-existing species. His very existence implies that Humans have reached a point in their progress that they too can play the role of gods. But perhaps as a homage to the Prometheus unbound theme of Science fiction, Kubrick portrays the creation as a Frankenstein's monster. . . . (R.M.) HAL may be an emotional novice, and so descend into insanity through lack of emotional control. HAL may be a prediction engine, and so become a Machiavellian visionary in full control of his actions. We're familiar with the former, but I enjoy exploring the latter. Most of my evidence in favor of HAL's premeditated attempt at thieving human destiny is presented prior to the "just a moment" crux. The embedded narrative of the news announcer endlessly restates HAL's rational perfection; HAL casually sees n plys ahead in the chess game with Poole; HAL has had considerable idle time (months) in which to ruminate and see n plys ahead in -reality-; HAL indicates that he has indeed spent time considering the odd circumstances surrounding the mission when he partially confides in Bowman, largely, it would seem, to determine just how much Bowman knows. This last point recalls this post's opening thoughts. Why would HAL ask such self incriminating questions when talking to Dave? (The obvious answer is mere narrative exigency: exposition.) HAL may simply have an emotional need for companionship, an assertion which is more in line with the theory of HAL's psychotic break. Or HAL may have no need for his human companions, and in that moment he chose to risk exposure of his plans in pursuit of data needed to organize those plans. "He acts like he has emotions, but he's programmed that way to make it easier for us to work with him. . . . Whether or not he has genuine emotions is something I don't think anyone can truthfully answer." Here, Dave lays out the key issues in his responses to the news announcer. We can only build the case for HAL's true nature (in the film) on information Kubrick grants us, and he leaves the issue completely open. We see that HAL outpaces all human concept of thought, and that HAL appears to be emotional but may only -simulate- emotion for the semantic benefit of his human associates. If I choose to see the genuinely emotional HAL, then I see HAL as a buffoon. His weak and hurried agreement with Bowman's challenge that he's working on the crew psych report, "Of course I am," is the unconsidered dissembling of a child. The ultra-rational HAL, the HAL which is capable of unraveling and following the infinite threads of possibility in a deterministic universe, would already have had several plans ready for execution during his confidential conversation with Dave. Depending on what was learned during the conversation, he would immediately begin to carry out the appropriate line of action: in this case, fake the breakdown of the AE-35 and put the two conscious astronauts at a disadvantage. "Just a moment." The rational HAL, at this moment, knows all he must know to jump logically from one thread of possibility to another. When Dave asks candidly about the crew psych report, it is obvious that he knows nothing of the mission's true meaning. "I think you missed it, Dave. Thank you for a very enjoyable game." :-) And HAL can now proceed to make himself the sole representative from Earth. (J.D.) Remember that the AE-35 is crucial to the astronauts'communication with Earth; whether the false report of an AE-35 fault is really an error caused by 'stress', or a conscious ploy, we can see what's on HAL's mind . . . (G.A.) I have to smile every time I hear HAL say, in explanation, "This sort of thing has cropped up before, and it has always been attributable to - human- error." Human error indeed, for no one has suggested that HAL may have -lied- about the AE-35 in order to effect some long range plan. HAL's reference to human error is then a secret smirk at the monkeys' inability to see what is happening, and what will happen. (J.D.) This is an area where an examination of the screenplay is useful. It was released in a version much like the novel, before the airlock re- entry sequence was considered, and with nothing after the final monolith encounter at all. Before HAL goes nuts there is a message from mission control about similar behaviour in other 9000 units. Afterword, a character is introduced who talks to Dave about their looking over the logs and tracing the episode back when Dave & Frank ask HAL about whether or not there are any hidden motives for the mission, this being when HAL is first forced to lie. The character explains that the conflict between being honest and accurate and, on the other hand, instructed to conceal the truth, is what sends HAL over the edge. (C.P.) I prefer to think that by omitting this glib "explanation" Kubrick was implying that the "explanation" was unsound. (E.T.) The conversation between Bowman and HAL has always been a great mystery to me, which, from what I remember, doesn't take place in the book. This conversation in the movie doesn't seem to support Clarke's reason for HAL's breakdown (being programmed to lie). It seems that if Kubrick wanted to enforce this reason he would have had Bowman interrogating HAL about the purpose of the mission, thus forcing HAL to lie and therefore lead to the breakdown. Instead, he has HAL interrogating Bowman. Your explanation seems the most plausible, to find out what Bowman knows. Bowman cooly evades HAL's questions giving him no feedback on what he knows or doesn't know about the mission. Perhaps HAL feels that he cannot trust Bowman since he cannot accurately evaluate his knowledge? HAL then immediately predicts the fault in the AE-35 unit, almost as if it were planned, as you suggested. . . But if HAL did intentionally fake the fault prediction, then what purpose did it serve? It does serve the purpose of putting the crew at a disadvantage because they must exit the ship to make repairs to the unit, but HAL doesn't take any action the first time when Bowman makes the EVA. And the crew would certainly find the error when they run the diagnostics on the unit. Maybe HAL did make a genuine error in predicting the fault, and then tried to cover himself afterwards. (M.O.) HAL's machinations :-), as I was trying to interpret them, were centered on the goal of HAL's own passage through the Stargate. The logical thread followed from the assumption that HAL would have been the first conscious entity in possession of enough information and enough deductive capacity to predict what lay ahead in Discovery's destiny. I loosely saw the AE-35 fault prediction as the first move in a series of contingencies: Any repairs to the AE-35 require an astronaut to go EVA, giving HAL the chance to effect an "accident". Creating some suspicion in the minds of both the astronauts and mission control as to the reliability of the com-link offers material for any "explanations" of down-time that HAL might need. Waiting until the second EVA to strike increases the chance of complacency and carelessness through repetition on the astronauts' part. So HAL makes his move, and calls out the fault. But I must say that I'm not as fond of this intrigue as I once was. It makes the lipreading sequence a misleading and extraneous addition to the narrative, with its only use coming when HAL offers it up as explanation for his actions. Oddly, HAL shows himself to be other than purely mechanical when he makes this justification to Dave. The UltraRational-HAL would have had nothing to say, and no need to say it. HAL might have true emotions after all. (J.D.)
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