HAL 9000

HAL 9000 (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) is an artificial intelligence the on-board computer that controls the systems of the Discovery 1 spacecraft and interacts with the ship’s astronaut crew. HAL became operational on 12 January 1992 at the HAL Laboratories in Urbana, Illinois as production number 3. As the brain of the spaceship Discovery, HAL is a robot that uses the mechanical, sensing, and information systems under its control. His first instructor was Dr. Chandra. The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

HAL 9000 is the on board computer of a ship accompanying astronauts on a mission to Jupiter where signs of intelligent life are detected. As the journey progresses, Hal grows more peculiar, making errors and suffocating the crew in hibernation by turning of their life support systems. This causes the two remaining crewmembers, Dr. David Bowman and Dr. Frank Pole, to take back control of the ship. They know that HAL is a threat, so they find a suitable space to engage in a private conversation concealed from HAL, but HAL is able to read their lips and becomes aware of their plan to disengage HAL’s computer systems. Despite Hal’s lack of a body, Hal can hear and see, which leads to catastrophic results for all of the crewmembers (including Bowman), who are left to drift off to Jupiter, alone, with no hope of returning to Earth.

HAL 9000 comes to represent the problems of perfect logic and the lack of spontaneous, emotional human response. His supreme intelligence is always communicated in the same succinct yet polite tone – it’s our own humanity which interprets the supercomputer’s voice initially as reassuring, then as rather creepy. HAL has had a lasting effect not only on fiction, but also on the real world. It has inspired astronauts, scientists and philosophers. Scientists ask how its capabilities can be duplicated and philosophers have asked whether HAL was responsible for the murders of the astronauts. All of us ask whether we want to create intelligent machines that may someday endanger us.

Look Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.