2001: A Spaced Odyssey

January 5, 2001

Thirty-three years ago an extraordinarily talented filmmaker named Stanley Kubrick and a science-fiction author, inventor, and philosopher named Arthur C. Clarke teamed up to make the ultimate science fiction movie. It was a broad vision spanning humanity’s early origins to its possible future, a cinematic accomplishment of such power and depth that only about five people in the world understand it. Its stunning cinematography and minimal plot continue to inspire film critics to call it one of their favorite films–especially now that it’s on video and they can fast-forward through all the boring parts. Fans of the film speak in such reverent awe of its complexity and scope that when asked what it’s about, they can only say, "Two and a half hours."

Spanning from the period when our early ancestors first learned to beat the crap out of each other to the year 2001, the film explores our humanity and makes predictions for the future. Unfortunately the visionary optimism of Kubrick and Clarke overshot the mark on a few occasions. In honor of the new millennium, and Stanley Kubrick who unfortunately passed away in 1999, here’s a rundown of some of those predictions, and the dull realities:

2001 the movie: Commercial flights to space stations and the moon are available.
2001 the reality: Commercials about flights into space are used to advertise airlines.

2001 the movie: A three-minute phone call from the Moon to Earth costs $1.70.
2001 the reality: A company that offered world-wide cell phone service for the bargain price of $5000 per year went bankrupt. But with 10-10-something or other you can still talk up to twenty minutes for just 99 cents.

2001 the movie: A space station has a lounge, phone booths, squat red chairs designed to make sitting as uncomfortable as possible, and vast stretches of empty space which, presumably, will eventually be covered with advertisements like, "Surf Ganymede!" 
2001 the reality: Space Station Mir has all the comforts of home, including a kitchen, sleeping quarters, numerous electrical fires, and a leak through which all breathable air is steadily escaping into space.

2001 the movie: The "zero gravity toilet" has more instructions than a do-it-yourself satellite TV kit.
2001 the reality: Bathroom humor is rarely mentioned on space flights.

2001 the movie: A supercomputer has been built that can talk, recognize faces and voices, read lips, and kill anyone who crosses it.
2001 the reality: A supercomputer has been built that can beat a human at chess…assuming the human is so stressed he makes an incredibly stupid mistake early in the game.

2001 the movie: There are multiple human habitations on the moon.
2001 the reality: The last manned mission to the moon was in 1972–just four years after the theatrical release of "2001".

2001 the movie: Manned spaceflights to Jupiter are possible.
2001 the reality: NASA regularly sends unmanned probes to Mars…and loses them.

2001 the movie: Astronauts can be put into hibernation for long voyages.
2001 the reality: After the Mars-probes mishaps, astronauts are wary of letting NASA scientists "put them to sleep".

2001 the movie: Scientists discover an ancient alien artifact on the moon, but guard the secret carefully.
2001 the reality: Just a few years ago scientists were convinced they had found fossilized bacteria in a Martian rock, and blabbed about it to everyone. In a recent, very quiet press release, the scientists said, "Oh, wait, it’s really just a rock."

2001 the movie: A mysterious alien object sends an astronaut on a bizarre journey and finally transforms him into the next stage of human evolution, the "Star Child".
2001 the reality: Television shows and conspiracy theories about aliens and government coverups give adults something to build their lives around while living in their parents’ basements.

2001 the movie: All significant events in human development are accompanied by a selection from Richard Strauss’s "Also Sprach Zarathustra".
2001 the reality: disco is making a comeback.

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