Robotic Thinking

In the celebrated film Space Odyssey 2001 the spaceship and its crew symbolize humanity. The ship’s computer, Hal, steals more from them than their navigation and destiny. He robs them of their consciousness.

To expand this myth, Hal stands for all forces, like indoctrination, propaganda, and self-deception, which rob human beings of their ability to think and feel critically from within. What is robbery in its substance becomes incrementally robotic in its method. Step by step Hal takes charge of humanity in every aspect, literature, politics, economics, religion, entertainment, music, and historical narratives of every kind.

As Hal wrests control from intelligent beings piece by piece, unwittingly he reveals the way in which his high-jacking can be taken back from him, by disconnecting him one plug at a time, both by autonomous effort and by concerted action. If Hal symbolizes the kidnapping of humanity, critical thinking stands for unplugging his pseudo-consciousness and sending it into oblivion.

Music exemplifies one of many factors which robotize human thought and feeling. Notice how the music or sound in many films suggests a step ahead how viewers and listeners should experience a scene about to follow. Single scenes or cinematic themes overall can be guided by music, sad like the melodies of Schindler’s List, glad like the Music Man, or romantic like Tchaikovsky’s Pas de Deux. As music can set beautiful tones and inspire, it can also go too far and dominate. Like Hal it can rob shipmates of their control. Like the crew, who defeat Hal by unplugging him, it can restore and regale by unplugging inner drums and outer trumpets which drown out critical thinking.

Outer forces which robotize thought include basic assumptions which are culturally imposed rather than warranted. Inner challenges include insights whose frequencies get entangled, jammed, and override individual control. More than by logical disentanglement alone, they are nourished in comparative dialogues with the ideas of others. Indoctrinated or liberated, individuals stand alone, together. The best way to unplug Hal and regain critical thought is to think autonomously, yet synergistically, together.

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