Quote: Arthur C. Clarke

The sixth member of the crew cared for none of these things, for it was not human. It was the highly advanced HAL 9000 computer, the brain and nervous system of the ship.

Hal (for Heuristic programmed ALgorithmic computer, no less) was a masterwork of the third computer breakthrough. These seemed to occur at intervals of twenty years, and the thought that another one was now imminent already worried a great many people...

Whether HAL could actually think was a question which had been settled by the British mathematician Alan Turing back in the 1940s. Turing had pointed out that, if one could carry out a prolonged conversation with a machine - whether by typewriter or microphone was immaterial - without being able to distinguish between its replies and those by a man might give, then the machine was thinking, by any sensible definition of the word. Hal could pass the Turing test with ease...

And then, if there was no reply from Earth, HAL would take what measures he deemed necessary to safeguard the hsip and to continue the mission - whose real purpose he alone knew, and which his human colleagues could never have guessed.

Poole and Bowman had often humorously referred to themselves as caretakers or janitors aboard a ship that could really run itself. They would have been astonished, and more than a little indignant, to discover how much truth that jest contained.

2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968

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