Searching For The “Human Algorithm”: An Early Conclusion

I’ve been searching for the “human algorithm” for a couple of years now, trying to figure out what makes me tick. I feel a bit dense for not seeing it before, but I think I’ve found some of my early conclusions in the film, “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

The monolith sequence in 2001 is metaphorical: a blank tombstone, it signifies the moment humanity collectively understood its mortality, and the reaction of the prehistoric humans to it, a mixture of “fight” (a metaphor for our desire to build a legacy, or prolong life with medicine) or “flight” (humanity exploring the Earth’s land and oceans, and eventually going to space) foreshadows each human’s individual struggle to come to grips with that knowledge, and our broader response to it as a species.

Later in the movie, HAL has this crisis himself, and the first computer becomes “human”, truly coming to understand his mortality in a baser sense, and consequently killing the humans who he felt threatened him. Now, I’m not so sure about the rest of the movie — although I do think all of the monoliths are metaphorical, and are intended to signify shifts in human (and artificially intelligent, perhaps there’s a secondary point there) thinking — but that core concept, that we’re driven by our mortality, and that virtually everything we think, feel and do is shaped by that, I think is crucial to understanding the “human algorithm”.

I’m not sure that it’s everything, though, and I’m still searching, but I’m convinced it’s a large part of why we are the way we are, that it’s central to explaining human experience. I just feel kind of silly I didn’t see it before.

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Searching For The “Human Algorithm”: An Early Conclusion

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