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Sci-Fi Science

Looking Back On Looking Forward 188

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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  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Council ( 514577 ) <rmunroe@gma i l . c om> on Thursday October 27, 2005 @12:51PM (#13889919) Homepage
    'My Windows 98 computer tells lies and often forces me to shut down improperly. Such behaviour in a human would be called neurotic.'

    This glass of contaminated water is deceptive in appearance and often causes death. Such behavior in a human would be called sociopathic and homicidal.
  • by Frumious Wombat ( 845680 ) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:06PM (#13890068)
    Spielberg "saved" parts of it? The Spielberg parts are the maudlin, emotional, go out of the theatre with a warm glow, your brain be damned parts. Kubrick was fascinated by alienation, whether caused by technology, training, or personal obliviousness (try "Barry Lyndon" some time). Beautifully shot, if somewhat distant, movies.

    His interpretation of "The Shining" left you the ambiguity whether Jack is having a break down, or whether there are really ghosts. He went for the long, slow, unsettlement of the audience, rather than the cheap and quick gross-out horror.
  • by /ASCII ( 86998 ) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:09PM (#13890098) Homepage
    Yeah, but there was no Nethack in 1968. I think I like things better today.
  • by CaptainPinko ( 753849 ) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:10PM (#13890112)
    And to think I had jsut used my last mod point. *sigh* I definitely agree. AI had moments when you can tell Speilberg blunted what Kubrick would have done. The scene where the android undress I think is the most blatant one. Speilberg stops the undressing... where as I believe Kubrick would have the others carry on and snicker and she would be naked and oblivous and the point would have had much more impact. As for the shining: King makes great books... or at least become great when rewritten by someone else to add depth, The Shining is a prime example.
  • by operagost ( 62405 ) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:12PM (#13890124) Homepage Journal
    1968: Nerds get no sex.
    2005: Nerds still get no sex-- but there sure is lots of pr0n!
  • by Zevon 2000 ( 593515 ) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:13PM (#13890133)
    Cutting edge visuals and cinematography presented with a sweeping score, a healthy dose of symbolism, and slow pacing...all released at a time when a significant proportion of the moviegoing public was experimenting with marijuana and hallucinogenics. Seriously, the word of mouth publicity about what a great movie this was to see while stoned and/or tripping had a LOT to do with its success. I had a professor who claims he saw it two or three times a week when it was out, and then years later saw it sober and couldn't believe how long some of the scenes took to unfold while nothing was happening. You don't need drugs to appreciate the film, but they don't hurt. You also don't need to have read the books to appreciate the film, and in my mind having read them DOES hurt. This is a big example of a movie ignoring a lot of what makes a book good, and it seems to get a free pass because of what it did visually. The movie and the books are both good, but in totally different ways.
  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:18PM (#13890195)
    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.

    Ah, the great unwashed entertainment-consuming masses, blahditty blah. Remember Contact [], starring Jodie Foster - based on Sagan's book? It was pretty interesting, and a well-made film. No aliens attacking (just religious freaks blowing up things on their own, here at home ... Sagan certainly knew about the culture of religious zealotry). That movie was essentially a flop with the public. But if it had been about an intrepid anthropologist decoding mysterious communications from a lost tribe in Amazonia - critical acclaim!

    Why? Because people like watching stories about unfolding (and usually, resolved) conflict - and "subtle space stuff" doesn't usually compute with most people, just out of sheer momentum. People who like non-explosion stories about complex human interaction are so sure that they won't find that in science fiction films that the market research by the film makers tells them there's a hole there that's not worth filling. Sometimes they try, though:

    How about George Clooney's Solaris? [] Nice sci-fi setting, but basically a morality tale about letting go of your past and your troubles. At the box office? Big snoozer. If, though, it had been about an aging butler, starring Anthony Hopkins... big bucks and Oscars for everyone.

    Now, if those Merchant/Ivory fans could only bring themselves to see Lucas's last work, and see the incredibly subtle nuances brought to life as Darth Vader cries, "Noooooooooo!" they'd realize that sci fi can be riveting drama, too. Hopkins Shmopkins!
  • by BewireNomali ( 618969 ) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:21PM (#13890224)
    Dude, Kubrick was a genius.

    He did get the book - 2001, that is. He just chose to interpret it differently. I'm actually interested in discussing what you think he missed in regards to 2001.

    Shining. Kubrick thought horror films were lame. To him the greatest horror one could experience was the losing of one's own mind (he was pretty much an atheist and existentialist by nature), as one's own mind is all that you are. This was truly horrifiying to him. Interestingly enough, Nicholson is attirbuted to the following about Kubrick: Nicholson was traumatized by the harshness of the script and talked to Kubrick about lightening up the tone a bit. Kubrick responded that the film was optimistic. Nicholson was surprised and asked him to elaborate.... Kubrick's response was that anything that alludes to the existence of an afterlife is optimistic. In his own way, this was his way of alluding to his own beliefs while simultaneously acceding to hope that there is something more. The horror was to lose one's mind... the hope, that there was some form of external cogent cause... the implication in microcosm of some larger framework.

    Spielberg saved AI? Are you fucking kidding me? Spielberg is a hack who rehashes his own unresolved father issues in EVERY FILM HE DOES.

    Kubrick's only flaws as a filmmaker are that he had no sense of humor; therefore he couldn't give his films a variety of tone. The other is that he was a shitty editor. His films ran too long because he could not edit himself. There's a lot to be said about directors who get final cut because most who do end up producing indulgent films. Kubrick is no exception. You could trim serious fat from almost all of his films.

    Oh, and Barry Lyndon is a fucking amazing film and IMO one of the most underrated films of all time.
  • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:28PM (#13890273) Homepage Journal
    Prof. Good in fact gets it backwards: the "neurotic" diagnosis tells us less about computers than it does about us.

    We do anthropomorphize, not just comparatively intelligent things like computers but cars and even utterly inanimate objects. If you stub your toe on a rock, you might well "punish" the rock by hitting it. You know it's irrational but the illusion of anthropomorphization is strong.

    The lesson is that we should design our UIs knowing that people will interpret the responses as if they were coming from a human. And yeah, that means that like most people, the computers will appear to be neurotic. Windows 98 is only marginally more neurotic than some of my friends.
  • by C0C0C0 ( 688434 ) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:29PM (#13890287)
    Never anthropomorphize computers. They don't like it.
  • Everyone is picking up on how it's not quite right to anthropomorphize Win98, but:
    1. Software, being designed by people, is more validly anthropomorphized than, say, rocks. Yes, we anthropomorphize rocks, too, and it has its purposes, among them, poetic. Software, on the other hand, is interactive in a way the most of the world isn't, and programmers really are trying to put as much of their own intelligence into them. You issue a command, and the computer responds. How it responds was determined by a person, based on what that person imagines to be a good response. Unreliable software tends to come from unreliable developers. It is, in fact, the developer's personality showing through his creation.
    2. As you note, we tend anthropomorphize things interactions which we don't understand. People are also complex machines we don't understand, but no one complains when we anthropomorphize them. I'd submit that it's actually the most natural way to understand the world, to metaphorically attribute desire and understanding to things. A rock somehow wants to go down, and knows to do so. It knows to wait, however, until someone removes the solid object on which it rests. Nature abhors a vacuum. My computer is uncooperative and hates me. These are all said in the same sense.
    3. Many AI experts believe that it is impossible to create anything like real intelligence without also creating something like "emotion" and "personality".
    4. I believe it was probably a light-hearted joke to claim that Win98 is "neurotic" anyway.
  • by sparkchaser ( 594964 ) <> on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:46PM (#13890443)
    A.I. should have ended with the boy at the foot of the statue but NOOOOOOO, Spielberg had to tack on a Spielberg ending.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:09PM (#13890623)
    Did you learn about 1968 from these movies?
  • by StopSayingYouSir ( 907720 ) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @03:05PM (#13891171)
    Kubrick's only flaws as a filmmaker are that he had no sense of humor

    No, he had a subtle sense of humor. That's not a flaw.

  • by blincoln ( 592401 ) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @04:03PM (#13891755) Homepage Journal
    That explaination is bunk. And the Flash movies are not only stupid, but inflict painful sound effects on you for minutes at a time. Whoever wrote it didn't even do the most basic research about the movie... for example, several things in it directly contradict the novel.

    No kidding.

    It looks like something someone threw together for a Sociology 101 or modern art "theory" (and by "theory," I mean "what is Chris Burden trying to *say* when he crawls across broken glass or shoots at airplanes with a hunting rifle?") class.

    I think it's neat when people get more out of art than the maker(s) put into it, but it irritates me to no end when they think they've "discovered" some kind of hidden or greater meaning that is intrinsic to the work and won't STFU about it being what it "really" means.

    By the time I got to the part about man in space, I thought it was a joke that took a really long time to get to the punchline. Having to learn to walk again in zero-G? "Baby food"? "Toilet training"? Sadly it seems to be serious.
  • by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @04:45PM (#13892140) Journal
    Only on Slashdot would someone choose Nethack over fast cars, good music and free sex.
  • by markh1967 ( 315861 ) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @04:45PM (#13892145)
    The same is true for the Shining, great movie, beautiful, whatever you want... He changed the scenario, turning a "living house" type of horror novel into one's man mental breakdown, fine with me, and then he screws up the whole movie letting a ghost open a door.

    Kubrick's films have always been about more than they appear at first glance. He was notorious for being painstaking with every shot to make sure it contained several layers of detail. As you think that the Shining was just about one man's mental breakdown, let me ask you whether you thought it odd that the hotel lobby had a huge statue of a soldier attacking a native american woman in the lobby, native-american artwork everywhere and whether you noticed that Wendy looked more native-american as the film progressed (especially towards the end)?

    Kubrick called his last film "Eyes wide shut" for a reason.

  • by cygnusx ( 193092 ) * on Thursday October 27, 2005 @05:08PM (#13892366) Homepage
    limitations of its core OS and in particular its driver model

    I believe that marked out the driver model specifically for attention, not made it somehow separate from the core OS.

    > Or that the templars forced Microsoft to use that driver model?

    No, economics and engineering compromise did. At the same time Win95 was released Microsoft was beta-ing NT4 around which had a vastly superior model.

    Real products always contain compromises. Things that don't, don't ship *cough* Hurd *cough*.
  • by snowwrestler ( 896305 ) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @06:55PM (#13893139)
    That is the whole point of "2001," in particular the final section, "Beyond the Infinite."

    Kubrick is the only filmmaker who really got the concept of alien contact--ALIEN contact--in his gut. Contact with an alien intelligence, particularly a more advanced one, would be utterly confusing to us. Even the concept and structure of "intelligence" or "technology" is likely to be so alien as to be completely incomprehensible.

    2001 is a brilliant movie because it is the only movie in which the audience experiences that first-hand...the movie watcher is thrust into the same overwhelming experience the characters are, with the same utter lack of explanation or exposition. In that respect it is probably the MOST realistic alien encounter movie made.

    It is a movie about an alien experience that is, itself, an alien experience. It's the ultimate expression of the "show don't tell" maxim of story making. Its supreme achievement is that it makes such an experience watchable and enjoyable.

    In his version of the story, the book "2001", Clarke was hampered by the limits of the medium...he had to tell--it's writing. The only science fiction novel I've read that compares to the movie experience of "2001" is another Clarke book: the original "Rendezvous with Rama." Again the entire experience is detailed, with no explanation forthcoming or even possible (this is why the subsequent books were such a huge dissappointment).

    Too many movie fans want to be *told* amazing things. That's why "Contact" was so popular, and is consistently held up as a good science fiction movie. It tells you in clear exposition all the amazing things that are happening, and it wraps it all neatly up in the end.

    Ultimately most movie are deeply plot driven--they get you to empathize with a character, then they explain what happens to that character in the course of the story. Most filmmakers do not like to keep the audience in the dark, unless it is to set them up for a big "reveal."

    Kubrick was so great because he simply put the viewer into the experience and didn't bother to explain it. That's why his movies are often considered disturbing, and why they stick with you. And 2001 was his best, as it tackles a completely unknown and utterly foreign subject matter that way, and still succeeds.

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