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View Full Version : 2001 question: why did HAL freak out?

12-14-03, 12:38 PM
So I was watching 2001 the other day, after not seeing it for 20 years now. I was struck by a plot point that was never explained: why did HAL suddenly snap? He killed the crew (or tried in one case) out of self defense, of course - but why did he suddenly start lying about the radio antenna?

12-14-03, 12:53 PM
Watch or read 2010. It is explained why HAL (one better than IBM?) freaked out. It had to do with the conflicting instructions he was receiving. On the one hand, he was to protect the crew, on the other he had to lie to them about their real mission(the monolith in orbit around Jupiter). It caused him to have a melt-down.

12-14-03, 02:47 PM
I thought he freaked out because he made a mistake, and the only way to cover the mistake was to remove anyone who had witnessed it.

12-14-03, 02:50 PM
One of the wonders of this move is the fact that even though many critics complain about the almost cold way people are presented, the "machine" breaks down because of the same factor that causes people to have problems - inner conflict.

12-14-03, 03:09 PM
i thought he was programmed to kill the crew...

12-14-03, 04:56 PM
I believe that hte true explanation, as said before, was in 2010 where conflicting program codes, I believe in this case a line to "lie" about something caused HAL to be confused and in the end malfunction.

Another theory is that his girlfriend gave him an ultimatum: either have a 3sum with another guy or get out! From there HAL just lost it...fo real yo.

12-14-03, 06:06 PM
Because the film could not progress unless he did so. :p

12-14-03, 06:22 PM
"Another theory is that his girlfriend gave him an ultimatum: either have a 3sum with another guy or get out! From there HAL just lost it...fo real yo."

i guess that HAL was just trying to keep it real.

12-14-03, 08:55 PM
i belive it happened this way:

HAL had conflicting info. he had to keep a vital secret from the crew, but he also had to always tell the truth. this caused him to make the first error. THEN, when the guys discussed shutting him down, HAL defended himself by trying to kill them.

But my father thinks:

HAL believed he was superior to the lazy, stupid humans, and thought he was more deserving of contacting the higher-lifeform (the Monolith). so he offed them.

it's great because there's no definite answer.

Gyno Rhino
12-14-03, 11:05 PM
I've always thought what your poppa thinks.

12-14-03, 11:16 PM
HAL iz tite, yo.

12-15-03, 12:15 AM
From my reading of science fiction, and in specific Isaac Asimov, I would have to conclude that a conflict such as lying to the crew and protecting them would cause a robot/machine to malfunction.

das Monkey
12-15-03, 08:23 AM
"This is a pre-recorded briefing, made prior to your departure, and which, for security reasons of the highest importance, has been known on board during the mission only by your HAL 9000 computer. ... eighteen months ago, the first evidence of intelligent life off the Earth was discovered ... buried forty feet below the lunar surface ... a single, very powerful radio emission, aimed at Jupiter ..." - Dr. Heywood Floyd


12-16-03, 02:46 PM
I've come to the conclusion that HAL was a subtle parody of that cliched SF movie character that goes insane during the flight and says something like: "God did not mean for mankind to venture into space!" HAL was sort of like that character. He was the only one who knew they might confront superior aliens or maybe even God himself. That thought was too much for him, so he went insane.

Like someone else mentioned, there is nothing definite about this film. Its fun to speculate all the meanings.

12-16-03, 02:56 PM
too bad kurbik didn't think this threw so well like pete jacksn when he invented the lotr univers.

12-16-03, 04:23 PM
...erm...wots wif Groucho's continus mispeling of wurdz...?... is it suposd 2 bee funny or wot...?...

...he asked, uncomprehendingly...

. . . :o . . .

12-16-03, 04:29 PM
I think it was a inferiority complex to his big bro JCN.

12-16-03, 05:01 PM
Originally posted by Hendrik
...erm...wots wif Groucho's continus mispeling of wurdz...?... is it suposd 2 bee funny or wot...?...

...he asked, uncomprehendingly...

. . . :o . . .

He's from Utah...

oh.. wait.. nevermind.

12-17-03, 03:40 PM
I always saw it as HAL made a mistake by declaring the radio going bad. This caused a certain amount of performance anxiety, and when Dave starts talking about shutting him down, HAL goes into self-defense mode, for the sake of the mission. After all, Dave is the pilot and caretaker, it's the frozen crewmembers who are meant to go to Jupiter. HAL thinks that if Dave disconnects him, it could ruin the mission. The thing about the conflict in orders is another possible solution, but considering it came in the sequel, which had nothing to do with Kubrick. And while I realize Clarke worked on the movie and wrote the book and all the sequels, I'm still reticent to take anything that isn't in the movie itself.

12-17-03, 07:21 PM
Clarke never really understood 2001 and it's obvious from 2010 and the other sequels. He took the whole thing too literally. Self-replicating machines to transform Jupiter into a sun? Ok, whatever, Artie. Take his explanation for HAL's madness with a grain of salt.

das Monkey
12-17-03, 07:21 PM
The conflict of orders is what causes the series of mistakes, which btw, don't begin with the radio going bad but the chess game. HAL 9000 doesn't make mistakes, and the duplicate unit on Earth is not making these same mistakes -- the catalyst for the difference is the conflicting orders. "His" attempts to reconcile this conflict spiral to the point where killing Poole and trying to kill Dave are the only way to save the mission (as you've noted). You can draw a lot of meaning from his interaction with Poole and Dave and put together some AI reasons that contribute to his madness, but the catalyst that sets it all in motion is the conflicting orders.

Also, this is in the film. It's not spelled out for you like in the books (Kubrick's style to be sure), but the answers are there. I've seen this film probably 50 times, and each time I find something I never noticed before. It's truly staggering the level of subtle detail and symbolism Kubrick wove into this masterpiece.


12-18-03, 07:32 AM
2001 question: why did HAL freak out?

"George W. Bush is the President? Did I hear that correctly, Dave?"

12-18-03, 11:59 AM
In the movie alone, the question is up for debate. For me, the question is:

a.) Hal believe he is superior so he beieves that he must complete the mission, the humans are trying to disconnect him, so it is self-defense in his point of view

b.) Conflicting orders - this springs from the book and then 2010 the movie. I can see it but I have always put more stock in (a) There is some evidence of this in the movie (most notably the recorded message being shown as Hal dies - but you could use this as back up as part a as well

c.) the common perception is that HAL made a mistake about the radio. I don't believe it to be true. I think he was laying the framework for a way to kill the crewmembers by making them go outside

If you read the original script for 2001, the "conflict theory' is much more persuasive (as it is in the book) I really think Kubrick made a better movie by making it less clear.

12-18-03, 12:25 PM
Originally posted by caligulathegod
Clarke never really understood 2001 and it's obvious from 2010 and the other sequels. He took the whole thing too literally.

From IMDB:
The screenplay was written primarily by Kubrick and the novel primarily by Clarke, each working simultaneously and also providing feedback to the other. As the story went through many revisions, changes in the novel were taken over into the screenplay and vice versa. It was also unclear whether film or novel would be released first; in the end it was the film. Kubrick was to have been credited as second author of the novel, but in the end was not. It is believed that Kubrick deliberately withheld his approval of the novel as to not hurt the release of the film.

Now please explain to me how Clarke didn't understand 2001.

12-18-03, 01:28 PM
I believe Clarke understands 2001 the film. He can't unlearn what he wrote and how it would be translated on the screen. Kubrick and Clarke conceived of the book because it was easier to write than a screenplay.

What Kubrick does, that negates Clarke's influence, is abstract the story so that literary interpretations are not concrete (as written numerous times in this thread). If you want another instance indicating HAL's instability try the moment right before HAL reports the AE-35's malfunction. He's asking Bowman about the crew's psychological profiles (or some such statement). Again, as stated before, there are numerous indicators.

What is clearer to interpret than the plot are the film's themes. Thematically HAL is the ultimate tool, the bone to Bowman's primate. Man's tool has surpassed its function and represents a threat. Man (Bowman) must shed his reliance on these tools to evolve. Bowman must beat HAL by his wits and instinct alone, and does so by re-entering the Discovery. Then he goes on the journey beyond infinity.

12-18-03, 02:49 PM
Now please explain to me how Clarke didn't understand 2001

Easy. If you read screenplays of the film, you will find it is similar to the book.

But what Kubrick did in the movie is to abandon some of the screenplay and then edit some more after the shooting to make it more minimalist and open for interpretation.

I guess the question is how Clarke's vision was much more concrete than Kubricks. For many, Kubrick's 2001 is very different than Clarke's 2001. I found Clarke's 2001 (and subsequent novels) to be pretty boring.

12-18-03, 04:26 PM
Hmm, I guess I always assumed that the "alien" tampered with Hal so they could end up with the (hu)man (Bow-man) ready for the next evolutionary step - the starchild. Bowman survived. The rest of the crew did not. He becomes the starchild.

12-19-03, 08:09 AM
Aside from the 2010 explanation, I never gave it much more thought than what could be seen in the movie. The way HAL speaks pretty much creeps me out. He just strikes me as a raving psychopath that made self-preservation his number one priority after misdiagnosing a problem with the radio.

12-19-03, 08:36 AM
Thank you.
Clarke wrote it but he just doesn't get it. He takes the whole thing either too literally or misunderstands the point. All you have to do is read 2010 and the other sequels. 2001 was, for all its abstract-ness, about the next leap in human evolution. First through the use of tools then beyond them (remember, use of tools was generally used as a definition of humanity). We saw at the beginning of the film the leap that brought us to us and the Star Child represents this abstract notion of the next level. It's symbolic. It is ineffable for us just as we would be for Moonwatcher. Anyway, Clarke just has Bowman become some kind of superman-cypher for the aliens whose purpose was to turn Jupiter into a Sun so that Europa could spring to life. WTF does any of that have to do with the next step in our evolution? It is an interesting SF story in its own right but takes 2001 into a direction not intended. 2001 is not a Science Fiction story. It is Kubrick's idea of THE Science Fiction story. He took the pre-eminent SF writer to help him understand the idiom and together they crafted the story but only Kubrick understood the philosophical implications of what he intended. Clarke treated it is a straightforward SF tale. Clarke is not a dummy, but Clarke understands the story in his own way, just not the way Kubrick really meant it.

12-19-03, 01:32 PM
Good point. I don't regard 2010 too highly. Jupiter turning into a sun, and the aliens warning Earth to stay away from Europa gets one big "Huh?" from me. We were better off without a sequel trying to explain all the intricacies of 2001 that were open to interpretation.

And then there's the big mystery as to why interplanetary travel is accurately displayed in 2001 within the soundless vaccuum of space, but, just nine years later, outer space suddenly has really cool sound effects. -wink-