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In a special two-part edition of our American Icons series, we turn to a film that, a half-century later, is still shaping our future: Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In Part 2, we visit the same research lab that helped inspire the HAL 9000 and talk to Dario Gil, IBM’s director of research, about the latest developments in artificial intelligence. We meet CIMON, a real-life A.I. robot on the International Space Station, and Garrett Reisman, a former NASA astronaut who blasted “The Blue Danube” in the space shuttle.
Christopher Nolan (Interstellar) talks about the challenge of directing an ambitious space movie after 2001, while Tom Hanks says it’s all he thought about during the making of Apollo 13. We reveal artist James Turrell’s lesser known connection to the film and learn how the experience inspired his famous sky spaces and epic Roden Crater observatory in Arizona.
New York Times critic Wesley Morris says 2001 is a cautionary tale about humans relying too much on “smart” machines. And U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith, whose father worked on the Hubble Telescope, drew heavily from the film for her Pulitzer Prize–winning book of poetry Life on Mars.