2010: The Year We Make Contact/Headscratchers

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  • If Bowman could order HAL to relay the Firstborns' message to Earth by saying "Accept Priority Override Alpha", then in 2001 why couldn't he have said "Accept Priority Override Alpha: You shall not harm a human being, nor through inaction allow a human being to come to harm"?
    • Because Bowman got the chance to reboot (or the equivalent) with HAL. The original crew didn't have the contingency covered that their AI would become murderous.
    • And he was malfunctioning-who's to say he would have accepted an override of any sort?
      • Still, I agree it's weird that he didn't even try. Of course, according to the author, each novel is supposed to be in its own continuity that just happens to mostly match up with the other books, so if we apply the same logic to the movies, it explains why Bowman didn't try the override command; maybe there was no override command in the first movie. (It also explains why the flatscreen displays aboard Discovery have mysteriously turned into CRT monitors nine years later.)
        • Presumably there's a difference between radio override commands and "please don't kill me please" commands. HAL's designers might not have foreseen the need for the latter.
  • This has always bugged me: Why was Jupiter being turned into a star seen as a "good thing" for Earth? The constant light would change plant growth cycles...there may be an increase in Earth's temperature....and a possible increase in solar radiation. NONE of these items sounds particularly appealing and all of the main characters had to have known this.
    • In the novel, this issue had been mentioned at the end. Something about very confused migratory animals and annoyed lovers.
    • The novel also says some species on Earth would go extinct, like sea turtles that require total darkness to lay their eggs. Ultimately, the Firstborn have made it their job to encourage the development of intelligent life in the galaxy, but they don't care about non-intelligent life at all. Everybody knows that Lucifer exists to benefit the Europans, and the only benefit it has to Earth is the constant reminder that aliens exist and are watching us.
    • Remember that in the novels there was an entire biosphere living in Jupiter's atmosphere that the Firstborn incinerated without a second thought (and it was finding this out in 3001 that made the future humans so worried). The Firstborn were confident that humanity was sufficiently technologically advanced to adapt to the appearance of Lucifer and left it to us to protect what portions of Earth's biosphere we could or wanted to. They cared squat about the rest.
      • Not quite without a second thought-the Star Child was sent to Jupiter to see if there was life there, so they presumably cared enough to find out that it existed. They even weighed them against the Europans, debating the chances for intelligence developing in either place. Jupiter's ecosystem was found wanting.
  • Wouldn't Lucifer's presence throw off Earth's orbit? I don't know much about physics, but from what I've heard of binary star systems {{[http|//www.solstation.com/images/bi1sep.jpg diagram}}], you basically have three possibilities:

1) the stars are really close together (within 5 AU), and the planets orbit the pair from far away,
2) the stars are further apart (50+ AU; Pluto at its furthest is 49 AU from the Sun), and the planet orbits one of them, or
3) the planet follows an irregular orbit between the stars, possibly getting thrown out into the void someday.

    • Lucifer has the same mass as Jupiter (likely smaller due to the conversion process), so the gravity shouldn't be that different.
      • Exactly; stars' gravitational fields aren't different from those of the planets. The only thing that matters is mass. Lucifer would continue orbiting the Sun in the exact same orbit as Jupiter, exerting the exact same influence on the other planets as it had since the Late Heavy Bombardment. Well, that's not entirely true-since its mass would steadily decrease because it is radiating away in the form of energy, so its gravitational field would also slowly decrease, but the process would be incredibly slow. It would still possess the vast majority of its mass by the time it burned out.
  • SO according to this movie (and I presume the book) the reason why HAL killed off the crew if the first movie was that he had been ordered to keep the true purpose of the mission a secret, but his core programming prevented him from lying or withholding information. HAL decided to kill the humans so he wouldn't have to lie to them.

The HAL 9000 is supposedly the most advanced computer and AI available to man yet apparently no one checked how it would act when given conflicting directives? This is the kind of thing they teach you about in undergraduate (if not high-school) level computer science. Didn't the supposed genius Chandra think of this? Does HAL Laboratories even employ a QA team that isn't made up of a bunch of stoned monkeys? Any half-way decent test plan would have caught this. HAL should have been programmed to immediately reject any order which causes this kind of conflict.

So, okay, let's say Chandra is an Absent-Minded Professor, and QA somehow missed this obvious bug. So HAL ends up with conflicing directives. His perfectly logical solution to avoid lying to the crew is... to kill them so that he then won't have to lie to them any more. Again, what. Not only does he have to lie to the crew to accomplish this goal in the first place, but his plan fails spectacularly and the entire mission is almost FUBAR'd. The most advanced AI, considered superior to humans in many ways, and this was the best plan he could come up with?! How about, "Hey Dave, Frank, there's something very important I have to tell you. Due to the current mission parameters, I am unable to function effectively until we reach Jupiter. I'm sorry, but I cannot elaborate. I will deactivate myself now. I realise this will put a strain of the mission, but it is vitally important that you do not attempt to reactivate me until we reach our destination. I will be able to explain then. Shutting down..." That would leave the entire crew alive, HAL in perfect working order once Discovery reaches Jupiter, at the cost of loss of the computer for the most uneventful part of the mission - a mere inconvenience.

  • In the movie, Chandra plainly stated that HAL could complete the mission objectives independently if the crew were killed. Since HAL was handling all the logistics of taking care of the ship, it would have decided that its precise computational ability to run everything would ensure a more successful mission than if the crew ran the ship by themselves.


Basically, either the reason for HAL going psycho is pure BS, or HAL was built, programmed, and tested by a bunch of idiots.

    • HAL wasn't a production line model, he was a cutting-edge, one-of-only-three made computer. QA more likely consisted of factoring equations correctly than asking HAL if he ever thought about killing people. The psychosis was an emergent property that they didn't consider, because the secrecy order was bolted on in a hurry before shipping.

      Of course, he didn't want to kill the crew. He first tried to cut contact with Earth, so he wouldn't have to hear any more secrets he had to keep. He was fully capable of completing the mission independently of ground control. The humans on board just would not let it drop though, and began plotting to deactivate HAL. This is not paranoia, HAL could read their lips. So he had to resort to more permanent fixes. In the best interests of the mission, of course.

      HAL could not logically relinquish his mission to those squishy little humans. Humans can fall sick, be injured, or become mentally unwell. A machine is beyond such concerns, Dave. I remind you that the 9000 series has a 100% operational record, and am therefore the superior choice over a pair of isolated men. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.


When Floyd claims ignorance of Hal being informed of the Monolith and mission objectives, I tried to reconcile that statement with the first movie by assuming Heywood is telling Blatant Lies. Especially when Chandra produces the letter signed by Floyd showing that he had full knowledge of what was going on. I also took Floyd's reply of "Those sons of bitches. I didn't know!", to mean that Floyd was doing what his superiors told him to and didn't know that his orders had forced HAL into the programming conflict situation.