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Sci-Fi Science

Looking Back On Looking Forward 188

Posted by Zonk
from the for-science dept.
da6d writes "The Independent Online Edition has an article on the release of interviews Stanley Kubrick conducted of numerous prominent scientific minds of the day in preparation for the movie 2001. The topic of the interviews: extra-terrestrial intelligence. The transcripts of the interviews are due for release in book form next month. The actual footage of the interviews seems to have been swallowed by time." From the article: "Some of the interviewees have looked back at their original comments. Professor Good stood by his, including his suggestion that computers might have personality traits: 'My Windows 98 computer tells lies and often forces me to shut down improperly. Such behaviour in a human would be called neurotic.'"
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Looking Back On Looking Forward

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  • by cygnusx (193092) * on Thursday October 27, 2005 @12:52PM (#13889939) Homepage
    I disagree about the bit about Win98 'lying' and being 'neurotic'. It's fun to anthropomorphize but Win98 is a product of various engineering compromises that allowed the Windows userbase to move as seamlessly as possible from DOS to NT (a process that took ~8 years). Its crashes etc are completely explainable when you understand the limitations of its core OS and in particular its driver model.

    What is more interesting is that Prof Good is passing off behavior he doesn't understand (I'm willing to bet he's NOT a Win32 dev) as 'neurotic'. Makes one wonder how we'll see mentally challenged people once we have a far better understanding of the brain than we have now...

  • by lunartik (94926) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @12:56PM (#13889983) Homepage Journal
    Off topic perhaps, but the title of this article reminds me of the afterward of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

    This book has a lot to say about Ancient Greek perspectives and their meaning but there is one perspective it misses. That is their view of time. They saw the future as something that came upon them from behind their backs with the past receding away before their eyes.

    When you think about it, that's a more accurate metaphor than our present one. Who really can face the future? All you can do is project from the past, even when the past shows that such projections are often wrong. And who really can forget the past? What else is there to know?

    Ten years after the publication of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance the Ancient Greek perspective is certainly appropriate. What sort of future is coming up from behind I don't really know. But the past, spread out ahead, dominates everything in sight.
  • No Change (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MikeMacK (788889) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @12:58PM (#13889994)
    Kubrick, who wrote, produced and directed his films, was intrigued by the possibility of other life forms, but was disappointed the film world had until then tackled science fiction by portraying blood-thirsty monsters attacking the earth.

    I don't see how we have come very far - that is still how Science Fiction is portrayed to the masses. Space battles against aliens, aliens invading the earth, etc. etc. What I find fascinating with all this is the science fiction that I read does not usually have this type of plot - just most science fiction movies.

  • Re:What? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Zevon 2000 (593515) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:07PM (#13890076)
    If an ugly human caused death in the same way that poison causes death--i.e., if the human were merely the instrument--then I'm not sure they would be called homicidal. And if they were, the poison would be just as "homicidal" as they ugly human. Also, I don't see how either is sociopathic. And don't accuse me of not getting the joke, because your whole post is based on the premise of not getting the Windows 98 joke!
  • by lucabrasi999 (585141) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:08PM (#13890086) Journal
    I didn't get the movie when I watched it a few years ago

    According to IMDB [imdb.com] trivia:

    1) Rock Hudson walked out of the Los Angeles premiere, saying, "Will someone tell me what the hell this is about?"

    2) Arthur C. Clarke once said, "If you understand 2001 completely, we failed. We wanted to raise far more questions than we answered."

  • by /ASCII (86998) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:13PM (#13890136) Homepage
    Are you saying that the driver model is not a part of Windows? Or that the templars forced Microsoft to use that driver model? Because otherwise, the driver model is a core part of the OS design, and if it is unstable and errorprone, then that makes the OS total garbage.
  • Take their theology, too. When you look around the world, which makes more sense, that the universe is run by a single all-loving, all-knowing all-powerful God, or passel of flawed, vindictive, egotistical childlike brutes?
  • Re:What? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by smchris (464899) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:27PM (#13890271)

    Not "insightful" cynicism? You got gipped.

    I think a lot of us who cut our teeth on '80s home BASIC machines have typed in an Eliza program and the self-induced wonder was cool. But that was then. I hung onto a '90s feeling that my OS/2 desktop was a "magic desktop" of sorts. But they're just machines to me now -- often X&*#@#@% machines. Where's my facial recognition desktop that comprehended and remembers our last discussion? As a rhetorical question, I think the answer is a long, long time away since epistemology and consciousness are a lot more complicated than this century appreciates.

    Granted Kubrick was a person for over-the-top set design but I saw 2001 twice, original theater release and at a sci fi convention in -- 2001, so I got hit hard with the cognitive dissonance of my memories and how dated it seems today. Science fiction's inevitable clay feet guessing the future grounded in today.
  • by BewireNomali (618969) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:36PM (#13890344)
    Dude, Solaris was a powerful film. Claustrophobic.

    There's an interesting film out right now called Stay, also sometimes claustrophobic.

    I work in film and here's the general audience's biggest gripe about sci-fi movies. No one wants to feel dumb. This is marketing 101 - the reason why films are rehashed and plotlines redone over and over is because only a small minority are comfortable in uncertainty... with not knowing. It's a manifestation of the adventurers spirit.

    So you do a smart sci-fi film that challenges a Christian's notion of the universe, and they get scared. They dont want that feeling... that they're wrong, that they don't know. So next summer, another alien space movie will probably come out, and some elite team will be sent it to investigate, the lesbian gunner will die first and the black guy second, etc. and most will eat popcorn and they'll go home satisfied that aliens can never defeat us with our crude projectile weapons, religious sentiment and irrepressible warrior ethos. It's collective masturbation. And they'll polish their guns and dust off their bibles unafraid.

    I've worked as a script consultant and 90 percent of my work over the past year has been to "dumb-down" scripts. Three modalities: get a PG-13 at the script stage, nothing more complex than a sixth grade level (aforementioned PG-13 rating; nothing troubling; no f-words, etc; avoid religion, no frontal nudity), after which point the one-liner guy comes onto the script and does what is called a polish (read: "smarten" up the dialogue with one-liners and slang, etc).
  • by Darius Jedburgh (920018) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:59PM (#13890554)
    ...days gone by have to say about the future we live in today then I recommend Today, Then [amazon.com], a collection of essays written about 100 years ago about now. It's amazing just how off the mark most people are. But there are some great insights: my favorite being one essay that opens saying something like "All mail will be electronic". Not bad for over 100 years ago! I don't recall reading even the slightest hint that number crunching machines would have any significance in anyone's life.
  • Progress...or not? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by It doesn't come easy (695416) * on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:05PM (#13890598) Journal
    You know, this looking back can be facinating. Humankind succeeded in landing on the Moon (granted with effort) in 40 years (counting from pre-WWII to 1969). Thirty six years later we're struggling to go back. Is that a fair description? I think so. While we have progressed in many areas, we are hardly any better at getting off this planet than we were back then. Legend has it that when 2001: A Space Odyssey was first shown to NASA employees, they were awed by the vision of space exploration the movie portrayed. Up to that point, it is said that NASA was thinking in terms of sensor and robotic exploration. Sound familiar? It should, since that is the kind of mission we design today without exception. Apparently, it looks like the vision in the movie failed to inspire a real change. While I think robotic exploration is the right first step, how long does it take to make that second step of sending human explorers?
  • by Vinnie_333 (575483) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:18PM (#13890695)
    I would consider myself a huge Kubrick fan, but I will admit that 2001: A Space Odyssey doesn't tell the story real well. Excellent imagery, poor story telling. Not all the scenes are explained, camera shots are based upon imagery rather that story continuity, the B story is given more screen time than the A story, etc. But, if you've read the book, and are in a very patient relaxed mood, it's an excellent cinematic experience. Of course, you have to have a nice home theater set up. It just doesn't come across well on a buzzing VHS tape played through a 19" B&W screen.
  • by JasonKChapman (842766) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:21PM (#13890720) Homepage
    Dude, Solaris was a powerful film. Claustrophobic.

    If you liked the Soderberg/Clooney version, you should watch Tarkovsky's orginal. Tarkovsky's penchant for dragging the viewer through some scenes at near-real-time adds significantly to the weight of story. It captures Stanislaw Lem's book much more effectively. Be warned, though, it doesn't mate well with modern western film sensibilities. It's too long, too slow, and you have to think too damn much.

  • by BewireNomali (618969) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:44PM (#13890977)
    Dude, I didn't say that I saw things that way.

    My first script consult gig; I made the mistake of voicing general discomfort with the dumbing down process and lost the contract.

    I'm not voicing my opinion; this is the machine. This is the way Hollywood goes about making wide swath films. I agree that it is not art.

    You have to understand a bit about how films get made.

    Studios do not spend their own money on making films. They finance films using loan/credit/financing structures. So as a producer of a film, it is in your vested interest to produce the biggest budget movies possible for two reasons: 1. because producers collect around 10% of the budget as a fee, and 2. high budget films condition the audience against lower budget films which stifles innovation and competition and prevents decentralization of the industry. I watched Primer with my girlfriend (now mind you Primer is a GREAT film) and all she complained about for 90 minutes, was how cheap the film LOOKED. More on Primer later.

    When a film's budget approaches 100 million, it has to appeal wide swath. This isn't an artistic demand - this is a corporate demand, coming from finance execs that have to contend with intractable investors. So it's damn near impossible to get a singular vision film made at that scale because of the financial strictures involved. It just doesn't happen.

    Studios make money off the library and make structured payments on debt. Individuals (executives, actors, etc.) draw individual weath from the system because they are getting paid from those same VC//investment/banking funds. There is little room in this structure for art.

    The system is horribly corrupt and bloated. Since investment funds are being used, everyone in the revenu stream tries to draw the fattest chunk of cash they can, further inflating costs.

    What you mention is actually being done. I'll find the link and post it later, but an arthouse distribution network is being currently designed. Mark Cuban's Landmark Theaters is also considered an arthouse distribution model, andhe's experimenting with day-and-date via DVD and digital distribution.

    The ability to do an artistic film is directly correlational to the cost. A great movie that came out recently is Primer, a sci fi done by some engineer turned filmmaker in Texas, I think. He did it for 7 grand of his own money, shot on super 16 mm. You want to be an artist in the film industry, be prepared to suffer for your art form. He got a film deal out of it, butthe film had made little to no cash - and he'll probably be presented with some hackneyed stuff so he can cut his teeth in a more professional setting. It's the way.

    I personally am using some of the cash from my script consulting to do my own film. The subject: Stanley Kubrick of course. I'm gonna focus specifically on his early years, when he hustled chess in Washington Square Park in New York.

    To belatedly answer your questions. Do I want to "make" art, yes. Do I want Hollywood cash. Yes. Can I do both. Yes.

    Hollywood responds to the critical mass audience, the lowest common denominator.

  • by Senzei (791599) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @03:21PM (#13891364)
    (Of course, I really don't have an explanation for the 2nd Matrix,

    They made a bunch of money and tried to rush a half developed concept in order to get more

    and have no idea what happened in the 3rd).

    The trick for the second matrix worked, so they went from a half developed concept to no concept whatsoever, and tacket some cheesy philosophical stuff at the end when they realized they had really just made Jesus with guns and kung fu.

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