Sunday, November 19, 2006


Space-Time Continuum

I caught 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen at the Loew's last night, complete with a live introduction by Keir Dullea ("I'm sorry, Dave..."). It was as impressive as ever, and not too terribly dated, except for the title, of course. (Maybe it's Kubrick's typo? Maybe the title is actually 2100: A Space Odyssey?) It's interesting -- to me at least -- to note all the predictions the film made that haven't come true:

--Our space program is truly pathetic compared to what Clarke and Kubrick thought it might be like by 2001. No giant, wheel-like space station, complete with artificial gravity, a Hilton hotel and a Howard Johnson's. No moon base.
--Kubrick apparently thought that women would still be wearing bouffant hairstyles in the 21st century.
--He thought the Soviet Union would still be around.
--Picturephones were commonplace in Kubrick's 2001, and easy enough for four-year-old girls to operate. They were provided by the Bell System (remember that?), which still used its old liberty-bell symbol from the 60s.
--Pan Am was not only still in business, but had expanded its operations to Earth orbit.
--Talking computers possessed enough intelligence to have nervous breakdowns and become homicidal. We can be thankful that some things haven't advanced too far, I suppose.
--Seems it was harder to conceive of black people in space than it was to conceive of black slabs manipulating human evolution.

Kubrick got many things right, though. A few:

--The spaceships and most of the interiors and furnishings look as modern today as they did in 1968.
--Men had abandoned neckties, which is pretty much true today (except my son still has to wear one to school).
--Flat, square-cornered video screens are everywhere. The computer graphics on those screen are close to what we see today.
--People use credit cards.
--Biometric ID -- in the form of voice-print identification -- is used. I think that exists today, though it's not widely used yet.
--The astronauts appear to have something like laptop computers, or actually more like e-book readers, which can display video as well as text. We're almost there.

2001 did indeed prove to be a pivotal, disruptive year, though not in the way Kubrick imagined. I wonder if we would have preferred his universe.

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