2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

My first experience with 2001 was last spring, on the first day of my introduction to neuroscience course. I had walked in five minutes early, but I was still struggling to find a seat. There must have been almost 1,000 people in the lecture hall on the first day. Exactly when 9:40 AM hit, the lights got dark and the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey started playing, although I didn't know it at the time. A good chunk of Section I: The Dawn of Man played and then out of nowhere, my professor emerged from the shadows. This is still my favorite introduction to a professor ever. Later that semester, we ended the course with a clip from Section II: Jupiter Mission and everything came full circle.

Now, you may be wondering, why would an introduction to neuroscience course start and end with clips from a science fiction film? 2001 isn't grounded in data, but the ideas still remain more relevant than ever. In the course, on top of learning about neurobiology, the big question was how should people think about the concept of conscience. In 2001, HAL, a supercomputer that is reminiscent of artificial intelligence now, can understand, interpret, respond, and display emotion. A big issue in neuroscience today is the idea of a mind-body problem, which asks does the mind have an influence on the body and does the body have an influence on the mind. Without a conscience, this problem wouldn't be interesting because having a conscience seems like something so distinctly human when in reality we do not know.

I'm not going to try and analyze 2001 just yet. There are many video essays and articles out there to check out already. However, I believe a major goal of 2001 is to ask the audience to expand our perspective on the idea of a conscience. A monolith appears four times in 2001. Each time the appearance of the monolith is met with confusion but, afterward, there seems to be a shift in perspective that happens, changing the evolutionary framework we hold dear. I will probably need a few more watches to understand 2001 more, but I am interested in diving deeper.

Also, I will be done with my spring semester in one and a half weeks, so I won't be writing long reviews for a while.

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