The future stalks us. It can’t be seen in the woods saying, ‘Hello, this is the future. Won’t you show me the direction of the loo? ‘ it crawls at us slowly, almost unnoticed. In the same way that we don’t notice ourselves getting old until one day, vaguely, we realize that we are old and gray; we only notice the effect of progress when things have changed beyond all recognition. Only then do we begin to look back, looking for clues as to how we got to our destination.
We are in the midst of one of those retrospective moments today. With technology more abundant, cheap and intelligent than ever, there is a growing sense that human beings are making man unusable, or at least look a bit dark in comparison. In the 1960s, when the idea of folding laundry robots and intelligent ovens first entered the popular imagination, there was a question on everyone’s lips “Can a machine think?”
It was a conundrum set in the 1950s when Alan Turing suggested that a machine could be taught the same way to a child. As AI researchers began to use computers to translate between languages and recognize images and understand instructions, the idea that computers would inevitably improve the ability to think and act for their itself begins to enter the mainstream culture. The most obvious example of AI concern in the 1960s comes in the form of Stanley Kubrick’s onboard computer HAL. 2001: A Space Odyssey.
While we are still a long way from developing machines that feel like HAL, many of the technologies 2001: A Space Odyssey very recognizable to today’s Apple users. As Christopher Nolan explained in a BBC interview: “Ten years ago, the ideas of artificial intelligence [in 2001: A Space Odyssey] seems a bit strange, they seem a bit passive. But then, over the last ten years, things have really come back to AI, the idea of speaking to assistants, you know, with Alexa and Siri and all these electronic assistants that you tell you, and the idea of AI: it all comes back great.
In retrospect, it seems unbelievable that Kubrick was able to predict future technologies so accurately. Video calling, tablets, electronic assistants: they’re all there 2001. Of course, to think that Kubrick is a kind of oracle is to deny that unrealistic descriptions of the future determine the form that will take place in the future in reality.
“You watch these guys have these screens, and these are iPads for all intents and purposes,” Nolan continues. “So, how much people make technology today is influenced by film and how much of film predicts where things naturally go is impossible to break because 2001 had a huge influence on the way we are. I’m already imagining the future. ”