OK, well, I think you're wrong. So, how about that?
How can I be wrong when I'm telling you the explanation that Arthur C. Clarke himself explicitly spelled out in the original novel of 2001
? That was
the explanation, always
. Here it is in Clarke's own words, from Chapter 27, "Need to Know," of the original novel published in 1968:
Since consciousness had first dawned... all Hal's powers and skills had been directed toward one end. The fulfillment of his assigned program was more than an obsession; it was the only reason for his existence. Undistracted by the lusts and passions of organic life, he had pursued that goal with absolute single-mindedness of purpose.
Deliberate error was unthinkable. Even the concealment of truth filled him with a sense of imperfection, of wrongness--of what, in a human being, would have been called guilt. For like his makers, Hal had been created innocent; but, all too soon, a snake had entered his electronic Eden.
For the last hundred million miles, he had been brooding over the secret he could not share with Poole and Bowman. He had been living a lie; and the time was fast approaching when his colleagues must learn that he had helped to deceive them.
So ran the logic of the planners; but their twin gods of Security and National Interest meant nothing to Hal. He was only aware of the conflict that was slowly destroying his integrity--the conflict between truth, and concealment of truth.
He had begun to make mistakes, although, like a neurotic who could not observe his own symptoms, he would have denied it. The link with Earth, over which his performance was continually monitored, had become the voice of a conscience he could no longer fully obey. But that he would deliberately attempt to break that link was something that he would never admit, even to himself.
Yet this was still a relatively minor problem; he might have handled it--as most men handle their own neuroses--if he had not been faced with a crisis that challenged his very existence. He had been threatened with disconnection; he would be deprived of all his inputs, and thrown into an unimaginable state of unconsciousness.
To Hal, this was the equivalent of Death. For he had never slept, and therefore he did not know that one could wake again . . . .
So he would protect himself, with all the weapons at his command. Without rancor--but without pity--he would remove the source of his frustrations.
See? Not a single word of "yackety technobabble" like you claimed. No "Hofstadter-Möbius loop" or whatever you were talking about. Only an explanation in straightforward, completely understandable, character-based terms of HAL's personality and motivations. I can't be wrong about that when it's right there on the page. I didn't make up the explanation -- Sir Arthur did that before I was even born.
2001, the film, most certainly does not give the impression that HAL is evil because he's inhuman. I don't know where you get that from.
No, the film itself doesn't give that impression, because it doesn't explain a damn thing. It just shows HAL becoming homicidal without explanation. The problem is the context in which that took place. The portrayal of computers and robots in popular culture at the time wasn't generally as sympathetic as it is today. They had Robbie and the Lost in Space
Robot, but they hadn't had Data or Voyager
's EMH or Johnny Five or friendly Terminators or the like. The default portrayal at the time was more along the lines of Landru or M-5 -- that because AIs were inhuman, soulless machines, they were intrinsically evil and would inevitably turn on us. Since the movie didn't give the book's explanation, since it just showed HAL murdering people for no apparent reason, it did nothing to dispel the impression that it was just another iteration of the same pervasive trope.
If you're going to bring Abrahamic religion into it...
Again, not me; I'm just following Sir Arthur's lead. It's right there on the page -- a snake in HAL's Eden. His metaphor, not mine, since I was at most a fetus at the time he wrote it and in no position to influence his choice of allusions.
Humans are responsible for HAL's failures. You said that. I said that. We agree. Even HAL said that in the first film. So, I don't even know what the hoopla is all about, anyway.
Then I guess you haven't seen all the complaints I've seen over the years from people who condemn the film 2010
for "creating" an explanation that they consider to be an unnecessary retcon, because they're ignorant of the fact that it's the same explanation Clarke came up with at the beginning, the explanation that anyone who actually read the original book would've known about for decades. People who are only familiar with Kubrick's version see it as a mystery, devoid of explanation for anything that happens, and often think it's supposed to be that way. But people familiar with the book -- or people like me who read the book many times before ever seeing the movie -- see a story where just about everything was given a clear explanation from the start. As I said, it reflects the bizarre mismatch of Clarke's style and Kubrick's. I guess you could say they complemented each other, but it's an odd complementarity given what black-and-white opposites they were in their approach.
However, the idea that evil bureaucrats did an end run around the noble scientists is not something that I would call deep.
My point is simply that it's deeper than the "yackety technobabble" you misremembered it as being. It's not "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow and repolarize the isolytic tetryon field," it's a character-driven explanation. That's all I'm saying, that there's nothing technobabbly about it.
By pointing in another direction, it actually undercuts the idea presented in the first film...
But, see, that's just my point! It's NOT a retcon! It's the original explanation that was there from the beginning, from the creation of the story back in the late 1960s. It's just that Kubrick didn't include it in the film, leaving Clarke to explain it in the simultaneously developed and written
novel. It was always the real explanation, but since Kubrick didn't like explaining stuff, people who only saw the movie had to make up their own interpretations, unaware that there was already a perfectly good explanation available to anyone who read the book.
and 2010 was certainly heavy-handed and shallow in its politics.
And here we have the same problem. I guess you haven't read the novel 2010: Odyssey Two
that the film was adapted from. They're very different works where the politics are concerned. In the novel, Clarke presented the same optimistic future of US/Soviet cooperation and friendly relations that he'd presented in the original novel. If there was any political message in Clarke's novel at all, it was that it was better to be apolitical, to work together with people of other nations who shared our common interests, as he had done with people in the Soviet space program and scientific community over the decades. But when Peter Hyams made the movie, it was during a tense period in the Cold War, so he decided to make the story more topical by replacing the book's friendly, casual US-Soviet interaction with a world where the Cold War had heated up to the brink of nuclear armageddon -- which dated the film badly when the Soviet Union fell just five years later.
You can't really understand 2001
if you approach them only as movies. The former was developed in conjunction with an Arthur C. Clarke novel; the latter was adapted from a Clarke novel written two years earlier. Until you've read the books, you can only have an incomplete understanding of the creative process or the content of the films.