Brown CS News

`2001: HAL's Legacy'

Last week the 4th floor of our building here was invaded by a 6-8-person TV crew and all their voluminous gear that was making a film for PBS showing next year, `2001: HAL's Legacy'. Interviews with Professors Andy van Dam and Eugene Charniak were taped for this project, which compares the achievements in computer science and technology portrayed in the 1968 movie `2001: A Space Odyssey' with what has actually been done. Writer Arthur C. Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick were widely praised at the time for trying to `get the science right'. How closely, the project asks, does the future they envisioned then match developments in information technology 33 years later?

What brought this project to Brown CS? Part of the answer is that its writer, David Stork, had heard Andy lecture some years ago and had also read his graphics text. It may also have been the intriguing contrast between the expectations 30 years ago and the achievements now in Eugene's and Andy's two fields. The '60s were a heady time for AI and high hopes were held for natural language processing -- as embodied in HAL's ability to communicate with all-but-human facility. Yet the intervening 33 years have shown how extremely difficult such problems are. In contrast, computer graphics, evident in the original movie only in primitive forms little beyond the then state of the art, is now well on its way to what's viewed as its next stage of development, full 3D immersive environments of the type simulated in Brown's Cave.

Whether any of the Brown footage will survive the editing process is something we won't know, of course, until the film is aired sometime in 2001. Until then, we look forward to seeing our CS faculty in HAL's company!

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