Letters show IBM was worried about HAL's psychotic AI behavior

Filmmakers often use real companies and organizations for their research, but sometimes science fiction and science fact don't quite agree. Such was the case with Stanley Kubrick, the director of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and IBM over the issue of malfunctioning artificial intelligence computers.

The letters, recently shown off in conjunction with the Kubrick exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, reveal that despite Kubrick's widely publicized denials that HAL was meant to somehow represent an IBM computer, the director was quite worried that the company might take offense. Corresponding with one of his colleagues in contact with IBM, Kubrick wrote, "Does I. B. M. know that one of the main themes of the story is a psychotic computer? I don't want to get anyone in trouble, and I don't want them to feel they have been swindled. Please give me the exact status of things with I. B. M."

The letter is included in a very well crafted free iOS app the museum released called Kubrick, which features numerous images, documents and both audio and video interviews with the director, spanning his entire film career.

As for the original correspondence, Kubrick's associate later wrote back to him, saying, "Sometime ago I explained to IBM at great length the change in the script as effects HAL… I made it very clear, and this is completely true to the best of my knowledge, that the name IBM is never associated with equipment failure but that is [sic] is obviously not an IBM machine. IBM's position is that if IBM is not associated with the quipment [sic] failure by name they have no objection if it is decided to give screen credit to the advising companies…"

The exhibition is on view until June 30, 2013, and you can find out more about it here.

Via Letters Of Note

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