Stephen Wolfram Q&A

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Some collected questions and answers by Stephen Wolfram

Questions may be edited for brevity; see links for full questions.

February 6, 1998

From: Interview by David Stork, Hal's Legacy: 2001's Computer as Dream and Reality

What struck you most about 2001: A Space Odyssey watching it now, in your adulthood?

Well, it seemed a lot shorter than when I was a kid. It also seemed to make a lot more sense. I guess I now at least think I understand how all the pieces are supposed to fit together. And they really raise some very interesting questions. But let’s talk about that later.

Another thing that struck me a lot watching 2001 this evening was how emotionally cold it is. I don’t think I noticed that at all when I was a kid. But seeing the movie now I was just amazed at how little human emotion there is in it. I think HAL was the most emotive of the bunch in the end.

When I was a kid I guess I had this vague idea that scientists were the kind of emotionless characters that are portrayed in the movie. They never seemed to get excited about anything. Maybe that’s a bit of what’s wrong with science, actually. For most people there’s so little passion in it. Just get the data, analyze it from 9 to 5, and so on. Kubrick may have had that exactly right.

Anyway, you ask what struck me about the movie. Another thing is how rich almost every scene is. There were so many details. So many things that someone must have really thought about. It’s a damned good piece of work. And I suppose what’s nice about it is that enough people think that every scene has really been studied carefully. And people are even writing books about what happened in the movie. Like this one, I guess!

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