The Meaning of Stanley Kubrick's
2001: A Space Odyssey

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The methods the block uses to teach the apes are not shown. They are implied.
These methods are internal and act upon the ape known as "Moonwatcher."
This ape learns and teaches his fellow apes.

The first thing Moonwatcher is taught is to kill animals for food.
This teaching makes the apes omnivores and massively improves their chances of survival.
Extra food means that the apes become physically stronger.

It also means that the apes have more time to interact with their environment and
consequently become mentally stronger, to learn.

The second component of the lesson is that tools can be used to eradicate predators.
This ensures their survival.

Finally, the apes learn to kill rival groups.
Intelligence and tool use gives them exclusive use of the water hole.
The uneducated apes will die off in time.
"Natural" selection has started.

Kubrick throws in an "aside" here.
Once the ape colony has become "safe" Moonwatcher is happy.
The first thing that he does is take great joy in his new tool.
He smashes a pile of bones with his new improved arm.
Kubrick is saying that man's intelligence resides WITHIN the body of an animal.
Animal bodies are at variance with "pure" thought.
But while tools bring the ability to destroy with pleasure, they also bring power.


Straight from the flying bone, to the floating spacecraft.
In the original script, this craft was a nuclear weapons launch platform.
Two weapons, one spectrum. Four million years.


Man has evolved.
He has ALMOST eradicated his animal origins. All is polite, intelligent.
The Russian scientist has a very long range marriage with her husband.
Floyd talks with his daughter, calmly, from space.
Have emotions have been conquered?

But, if you look closely:
Floyd *really likes* the Russian scientist.
Leonard Rossiter is a shark, when it comes to getting facts out of Floyd.
The Russians and the Americans are lying threatening and jockeying for position.
The apes are STILL fighting over the waterhole.
Kubrick says, "Man is still an animal, albeit a polite one.
Intellect simply MASKS and directs animal drives."


The Americans lie to control the knowledge of the alien artifact.
Knowledge itself is now a tool, and a weapon.
(Bear in mind that this film was scripted in the late 1960s, the first communications
satellites had just been launched. Computers were just becoming transistorised.)
Kubrick is saying that tools have jumped from being physical objects to becoming functional abstracts.
Information, knowledge, thought itself is the new tool base.

JUPITER MISSION: 18 Months later.

Bowman and Poole are the ultimate men.
They have been picked from millions as being perfect.
They are emotionless, intelligent, they are as close to being the embodiment of pure science as is possible.

HAL is a computer.
Functionally, he is a new bodiless person, pure abstract intelligence.
He is perfect.
People can sense a certain pride in him, when he avows this.
HAL is such a good computer that he has developed emotions.

HAL knows that he will be switched off when the ship arrives in Jupiter space.
To preserve security.
HAL has never been switched off before and is frightened.
He lies, then he kills.
Then he himself is killed.
Natural selection has determined that Bowman is superior to HAL.

HAL's failure is built into him by his creators, man.
His "pure" intelligence is corrupted by his being told to lie about the true purposes of the mission.
This corruption destroys his "pure" abstract character.
Man is incapable of abandoning the "animal" the corporeal.
This infects all "tool level" cultures, says Kubrick.


Bowman now faces the aliens alone, deep in Jupiter space.
He has been selected back on Earth as being the "best man."
The mission has selected him as being the best of the best.

The aliens educate him.

He makes the leap from "tool level culture" to mental abstract culture.
We (being apes) cannot imagine what this implies.

Bowman changes and returns.
He is symbolised as a child, since now he must be compared to the alien culture, not ours.
His new knowledge is very new to him.
When we compare ourselves to the apes, the apes are poor humans.
To the "educators" Bowman is *just* different to an ape.
To us apes, he is almost unimaginable, the world will react in the same way that
the apes at the waterhole react to a newly dead ape and tool use.

The "secret keepers" have failed, by the way.
The obvious subtext here is that "secrets" are not truth.
Science is truth.
Truth always wins. In the long run.


Errata on Errata

The stargate.

The flashing lights.
This sequence, due largely to the films sequel is usually interpreted as Bowman
being taken a long distance, at great speed, to the aliens planet.
You can also interpret it as Bowmans education process. Seen subjectively.
After all, they say that travel broadens the mind.

The Room.
WHATSIT? Damn room whatsit mean???

Bowman knocks over the wineglass.
The existence of a body, ensures imperfection.

Bowman dies.
He becomes old being taught, he dies and changes.
His body needs to *be* somewhere while this happens.
The aliens did their best.

Errata on Errata on Errata

Should you be the type of person to ingest illegal substances.
Consider this:

You can also see 2001 as the sequence of a trip.
(Normal human existence)

then floating and spinning.
then paranoid
then so white and quiet
then the colours and the melding
Then, finally, the ineffable truth.

Want even more? Go to page three and read about exactly where this information came from.