Arthur C. Clarke heads off into the stars

Arthur C. Clarke wrote one of the most chillingly poignant death scenes of all time. Not for a human being, but for HAL 9000, the wayward computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, which Clarke and Stanley Kubrick adapted for the landmark 1968 film the latter directed. As doomed astronaut David Bowman disconnects the machine, HAL moans, “My mind is going,” and slowly spirals back into a childlike state, reliving earlier times with a song: “Daisy, Daisy … give me your answer truuue,” before slipping into the void. The sequence is a pop-culture and cinema classic. It serves as both a cautionary tale about technology and a commentary on our evolving humanity: That which reasons, speaks, serves and interacts, for better or worse, lives. If you love (or hate) your iPhone or BlackBerry, you know what I mean. Clarke distilled the experience 40 years ago, when computers filled rooms and the moon landings were yet to come. Arthur C. Clarke died yesterday at age 90.

—Posted by David Gianatasio