12 Jul 2009

Essays on 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001 is the first in a series of novels based on a variance of the external influences theory promoted by certain groups of scientists.  Unlike most variants, however, the external influence in 2001 is giant monoliths.  The novel 2001 begins with a monolith taking interest in particular man-apes at an unknown point in ancient history.  Under the influences of the monolith, these prehistoric men learned to fashion tools and weapons, transforming them from nomadic gatherers into hunters.  Though not made clear, the basis of 2001 is that the rapid development of mankind might be an implication of continued intervention by the monoliths, which next make an appearance when “discovered” buried on the moon.  When struck by sunlight, the lunar monolith emits a powerful signal towards Saturn, the purpose of which is unknown.

The 2001 timeline jumps to a short distance in the future when an exploration ship is making the journey to Saturn.  With most of the crew in cryogenic sleep, the two men awake are assisted by the ship’s computer, known as “Hal.”  As the 2001 story continues, it becomes clear that something is wrong with Hal, causing the deaths of all but one crewman who survives by shutting Hal down.  The crewman, Bowman, re-establishes contact with Earth and learns what the true mission is, exploration of Japetus, one of the moons of Saturn.  Upon reaching Japetus, Bowman finds another monolith and is pulled into it, finding himself transported to a far away location.  He is somehow transformed into a being of pure energy and returns to Earth, just in time to destroy a nuclear warhead, saving Earth from destruction.

  • The story 2001 uses a literary technique similar to “Deus ex machina” or “God from the machine.”  Describe the meaning of this and explain how it is used in 2001.  What similarities does this have to other stories using this technique?  What differences are there?
  • The story 2001 relies heavily on the concept of artificial intelligence and on self-aware computer systems.  Consider and discuss the moral and ethical implications of artificial intelligence.  Can such a machine be held responsible for criminal acts such as murder?

2001 gives many opportunities for essay topics.  From the theories of external forces influencing the direction of mankind’s development to the potential of artificial intelligence allowing computers to possess the human emotions of guilt at not telling an important secret and consciously committing murder to protect itself.  Finding and developing arguments on these topics can be challenging to students.  As professional writers, we can assist in the creation of essays based on 2001 and many other novels.  For assistance, contact our agency today.

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