HAL 9000 Revisited as Problem Solver in New York Times

In class today, my college writing students and I talked about HAL 9000 from Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001:  A Space Odyssey (1968).  Some students vociferously denied computers the possibility of attaining anything near the capability of the human mind, and others eagerly thought that it was an inevitable possibility.  

Tonight, I read on the New York Times how computers are now being used to sift through data in order to derive new physical laws from the reams of information produced by physics experiments.  Other computer/software engineering marvels are attempting to uncover new drugs in the fight against nasty diseases like malaria.  

I imagine that heuristics is playing a part in the way these reasoning machines work out the “answers” that they uncover.  However, as the article points out and Douglas Adams so poignantly demonstrated in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979), it is essential to know the “question” that you are getting the answer to.

Read the full article here.

Published by Jason W. Ellis

I am an Associate Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.