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Meaning of the Monolith in 2001
Posted: 01 September 2012 06:50 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I didn’t see this topic anywhere so I thought I’d start it. Since the movie (and book) 2001 A Space Odyssey came out there’s always been a debate about what the black monolith was.  Arthur C Clarke didn’t help (or did he?!) when he was asked about it. He said to watch the movie again.

I think I figured it out but I’d be curious to hear what others think.

My answer: the monolith is nothing. It’s not a communications beacon, not a machine, nothing. It’s simply a “blank” object that evokes, or sparks, curiosity and wonder. And by doing so changes the humans from being mere animals exisiting, to fully sentient beings striving for more. And that leads to tool use, and advancement, until the “tool” so to speak is a space station thousands of years in the future.

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Posted: 01 September 2012 07:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It is curious how much my Google Nexus 7 tablet resembles the monolith.  LOL

And yet this tablet is more powerful than any computer that existed in 1968.

Movie producers have a problem.  They have to try to communicate a lot in a short time with visual images.  What if they had made it a cylinder instead of a rectangular prism?  An Android tablet today is 1968 science fiction.  But it does make you wonder what technology we could cram into something the size of the monolith with another 10,000 years of technological advance.

The monolith is just the visual manifestation of alien technology capable of biological manipulation that just also happens to incorporate a reactionless space drive.  Look at the technological change since World War II and extrapolate it 10,000 years.

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Posted: 01 September 2012 07:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yeah, I always thought the monolith was a mere signal of a more advanced beings. What I am not sure if I get is the baby at the end of the movie. I guess his eyes are open to show that the human race had evolved to some higher level, but if you think about it, it makes very little sense. What they should have done instead, was to show that some already existing predisposition was on its was to take us to the next level. Kind of like the apes realizing that being able to grab a bone could serve a purpose.

But sci-fi movies and books almost always get biology and psychology wrong, as they concentrate on the technology instead.

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Posted: 01 September 2012 09:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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(Quotes from the article in Wikipedia on the book)

The monolith is obviously the product of a much higher intelligence than humans.

In the first chapter of the movie, the apes that touch the monolith become more intelligent. In a single stroke they learn the use of tools. If you see the confrontation with the other group of apes you can notice that they stand and walk more straight as well. And you see also the strongest impetus for technological development: the possibility to create weapons.

The book shows one such monolith appearing in ancient Africa, 3 million years B.C. (in the movie, this was altered to 4 million years), where it inspires a starving group of the hominid ancestors of human beings to develop tools.

In the second chapter, when astronauts visit the monolith on the moon (not clear if it is the same one: it was found under ground, due to its anomalous magnetic field), the monolith produces a strong radio signal, which, we later are told was specially aimed at Jupiter. So again: it is some piece of technology, registering that is was revealed, and that humanity is ready for the next acceleration in their development.

They arrive just as sunlight hits upon it for the first time in three million years. It then sends a piercing radio transmission to the far reaches of the solar system. The signal is tracked to one of the moons of Saturn

(In the movie it is Jupiter).

In the final chapter the space ship nears a monolith near Jupiter which seems much bigger than the other one(s). Bowman seems to disappear in it, entering other dimensions of space and time, growing old and reborn as a ‘starchild’, approaching the earth.

2001child2.JPG

So my interpretation is that the monolith is a technological construction from a very, very much higher intelligence (God-like?) that took influence on the development of humans at least twice: in the beginning scene helping humans to become much more intelligent, in 2001 to produce the starchild for the next acceleration in development, whatever that maybe.

The book goes further:

He decides to go out in one of the extra-vehicular pods to make a closer inspection of the monolith. Programmed for just such an occurrence, the monolith reveals its true purpose as a star gate when it opens and pulls in Bowman’s pod. Before he vanishes, Mission control hears him proclaim: “The thing’s hollow—it goes on forever—and—oh my God—it’s full of stars!”

Bowman is transported via the monolith to an unknown star system. During this journey, he goes through a large interstellar switching station, and sees other species’ spaceships going on other routes; he dubs it the ‘Grand Central Station’ of the universe. Bowman is given a wide variety of sights; from the wreckage of ancient civilizations to what appear to be life-forms, living on the surfaces of a binary star system.

He is brought to what appears to be a nice hotel suite, carefully constructed from monitored television transmissions, and designed to make him feel at ease. Bowman goes to sleep. As he sleeps, his mind and memories are drained from his body, and he is made into a new immortal entity, a Star Child, that can live and travel in space. The Star Child then returns to our Solar System and to Earth. Once there, he detonates an orbiting nuclear warhead. Like Moon-Watcher three million years before, the Star Child is now master of the world and uncertain what to do next—but like Moon-Watcher, the Star Child too will think of something.

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Posted: 01 September 2012 01:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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All the explanations here make some sense, but I think are way to literal.  If that’s all it was was some very advanced machine, well then what’s the mystery. And why would Clark have been so evasive about it. He was an extremely brilliant guy with sharp wit. When asked, if all it was was a super machine, I would have expected him to reply “well it’s obviously just a piece of advanced technology you twit”.  He may have been a technologist through and through but if you read his other books, you know he’s got a definite poetic side to him.

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Posted: 01 September 2012 09:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Maybe GdB is right. Maybe that’s what Clark really meant.

Just like “Fifty Shades of Grey” is written by a woman for women, “2001” was written by an autistic writer for an autistic audience.

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Posted: 01 September 2012 11:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I read somewhere that it’s purpose was some type of intelligence stimulator.

At any rate, I hate that movie; the only good things about it IMO, are the magnificent soundtrack, and the special effects scene where Dave is leaving the ship.

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Posted: 02 September 2012 12:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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George - 01 September 2012 09:32 PM

“2001” was written by an autistic writer for an autistic audience.

Is it necessary to insult Clarke and all people who like the movie? Should I conclude that I am autistic?

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Posted: 02 September 2012 01:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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In its day it was a pretty good scifi movie.
I have never tried to analyze and verbalize the subconscious symbolic messages and questions, but I have forgotten many scifi movies, yet 2001, I remember it well.

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Posted: 02 September 2012 06:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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GdB - 02 September 2012 12:08 AM
George - 01 September 2012 09:32 PM

“2001” was written by an autistic writer for an autistic audience.

Is it necessary to insult Clarke and all people who like the movie? Should I conclude that I am autistic?

It was not meant to be an insult. I like it too.

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Posted: 02 September 2012 10:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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In its day it was a pretty good scifi movie.
I have never tried to analyze and verbalize the subconscious symbolic messages and questions, but I have forgotten many scifi movies, yet 2001, I remember it well.

It was, for its day the best special effects movie ever made even though the narrative was a bit disjointed. It seemed to jump around from one time period to the next with little transition between scenes, but I guess he meant for the viewer to fill in the blanks. The music was definitely well chosen with Also Sprach… And The Blue Danube dominating the score. Remember, this was pre-Lucas so we had nothing to compare it to at the time and with the Apollo program making the headlines everyone became interested in space exploration. It still remains one of my favorite sci-fI films. However, 2010 was a bit anticlimactic.


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Posted: 02 September 2012 11:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Star wars is not science fiction. It is just war adventures in a technical-magical landscape.

2001 is science fiction. It is a relief even now to see it, in a time that movies seem to be evaluated on basis of the fast cuts, explosions, and shootings: the more the better.

And in 2001 there are no blanks to fill in, except the open end.

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Posted: 03 September 2012 02:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Whatever else, Clarke really nailed Skype.

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Posted: 03 September 2012 02:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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GdB - 02 September 2012 11:57 PM

Star wars is not science fiction. It is just war adventures in a technical-magical landscape.

2001 is science fiction. It is a relief even now to see it, in a time that movies seem to be evaluated on basis of the fast cuts, explosions, and shootings: the more the better.

And in 2001 there are no blanks to fill in, except the open end.

I agree, 2001 deserves the name of “science” fiction in many respects.

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Posted: 03 September 2012 05:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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[Star wars is not science fiction. It is just war adventures in a technical-magical landscape.

2001 is science fiction. It is a relief even now to see it, in a time that movies seem to be evaluated on basis of the fast cuts, explosions, and shootings: the more the better.

And in 2001 there are no blanks to fill in, except the open end.


/quote]

GbB, are you angry because Lucas mislabeled parsecs? Or maybe I was being too inclusive by mentioning Lucas’s work. Call it what you will the special effects were stunning for the time even though the plot was space cowboyish and heavily borrowed from World War II. And the force fit neatly into a religious animistic concept. Also, the serialization left the audience wanting more. I’ll say it was an amalgam of sci-fi and movie magic.


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Posted: 03 September 2012 05:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Thevillageatheist - 03 September 2012 05:00 AM

GbB, are you angry because Lucas mislabeled parsecs?

Am I angry? I’ve seen Star Wars too, and it is amusing, and the special effects are specially great when the sheer size of some objects is suggested, like the Death Star. But… the whole story could have been told in another historical and geographical setting: not in a galaxy far, far away, but e.g. in our middle ages. Add a few fantasy creatures to it, and you are done: you’ve got a childish and simplistic mimicry of the ‘Lord of the Rings’.

In 2001 the use of ‘science’ is essential in the fiction.

AND I AM NOT ANGRY!!!  vampire

PS no idea how Lucas misuses parsecs…

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