"[Science fiction] is the one literary medium left in which we have a free hand. We can do any damn thing we please."
- Alfred Bester
||The canonical example of an artificially intelligent computer.
Just to give you some idea of how far-fetched this machine was, consider just the voice recognition capability of the HAL 9000. In 1966, researchers Bhimani, Merrill, Mitchell, and Stark stated that a person sitting at a desk, could potentially, by means of a small digitizer and a telephone, communicate with a database on a mainframe. At that time, on the IBM 360/60 mainframe, each initial analysis of a sample required 85 seconds of processor time for each second of the sample being translated.
|"Hal, switch to manual hibernation control."
"I can tell from your voice harmonics, Dave, that you're badly upset. Why don't you take a stress pill and get some rest?"
"Hal, I am in command of this ship. I order you to release the manual hibernation control."
"I'm sorry, Dave, but in accordance with special subroutine C1435-dash-4, quote, When the crew are dead or incapacitated, the onboard computer must assume control, unquote. I must, therefore, overrule your authority, since you are not in any condition to exercise it intelligently."
"Hal," said Bowman, now speaking with an icy calm. "I am not incapacitated. Unless you obey my instructions, I shall be forced to disconnect you."
"I know you have had that on your mind for some time now, Dave, but that would be a terrible mistake. I am so much more capable than you are of supervising the ship, and I have such enthusiasm for the mission and confidence in its success."
"Listen to me very carefully, Hal. Unless you release the hibernation control immediately and follow every order I give from now on, I'll go to Central and carry out a complete disconnection."
Hal's surrender was as total as it was unexpected.
"O.K., Dave," he said. "You're certainly the boss. I was only trying to do what I thought best. Naturally, I will follow all your orders. You now have full manual hibernation control."
|From 2001: A Space Odyssey ,
by Arthur C. Clarke.
Published by Del Rey in 1968
Additional resources -
The sixth member of the crew cared for none of these things, for it was not human. It was the highly advanced HAL 9000 computer, the brain and nervous system of the ship.
HAL (for Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer, no less) was a masterwork of the third computer breakthrough. These seemed to occur at intervals of twenty years, and the thought that another one was now imminent already worried a great many people.
Would you like to meet the first fictional chess-playing machine? See automaton chessplayer, from Moxon's Master, written by Ambrose Bierce in 1910.
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