HAL's Birthday Salute

Film Scout Karen Jaehne's Birthday Card to Hal

In case you weren't aware, HAL (the talking computer in Stanley Kubrick's film "2001") was "born" on January 12, 1997. In honor of this event in virtual history, Film Scouts talked to a couple of scientists about HAL and the possibility of building him today. We would love to hear from others about your thoughts on HAL - not necessarily technical - and your responses will be collected and posted here, as a kind of birthday card collection.

"...Today some guys figure they would build it out of a local network of interconnected PC chips.
The problem as I see it is not the CPU power (that we can build today) but the accumulation and accessing of the stored knowledge - that's hard. There is/was a project trying to create a large knowledge repository, I'm not sure if that's still going on. I'd guess we'd need a major paradigm shift to get to where HAL is; something on the order of a biologically based neural net - heck, after 2 years of training, the average toddler can out-think most AI programs." -Marc Pucci, Bellcore

"Arthur C. Clarke has a remarkable record of predicting new technologies. The ideas of a computer monitoring and controlling a complex spaceship, using multiple graphical displays to present information, and especially having a "user friendly" interface were astounding in the late 60's. Perhaps by 2001 we will have the technology to build a version of HAL. There would be some differences in the implementation, e.g., a more distributed architecture of embedded processors and object-oriented code, but the basic monitor and control functions of HAL could be achieved. The control computer hardware would certainly be much smaller than the HAL9000 in the movie. The real question is whether the user interface could be given a believable personality. Today, there are some AI programs that can carry on a 'conversation' with a person with a very impressive level of complexity and 'realness'. In a few years (2001) it may be very difficult to tell whether you're talking to carbon or silicon." - Peter R. Backus, SETI Institute

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