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2001: A Space Odyssey Turns 55

55 years ago, a movie transformed science fiction films, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Written in collaboration with legendary science fiction author Arthur C. Clark, who has second billing for the screenplay and wrote the novelization, the movie is based on Clark’s short story “The Sentinel” in which an object is dug up on the moon and sends a signal to an unidentified alien world, leaving the main character to wonder who will receive the alarm that humans have left the Earth.

Other Sci-fi films have tackled serious questions such Forbidden Planet, with it’s exploration of the human mind and it’s powers, and The Day the Earth Stood Still, whose themes cover the human propensity for violence and war with a draconian solution.

2001 Delved into more than social warnings. It contemplated the existence, place and future of human beings. It also introduced HAL 9000, the artificial intelligent computer who speaks and acts as if human, and in the end succumbs to human foibles to tragic ends.

The meticulous detail Kubrick put into all his films produced ground breaking special effects that won an Oscar and continue to stand up to this day. There would have been no Star Wars, Silent Running or any other modern sci-fi movies without 2001. The measured pace of the spacecrafts contrast with whizzing space battles, yet create the reality of space travel as had never been seen before. Astronauts have said viewing 2001: A Space Odyssey is like being in space again.

I’ve viewed the film over two dozen times, first in Cinerama with its 180-degree screen that wraps around the audience and fills the peripheral vision with the illusion of three dimensions without glasses, then in standard theaters, drive-ins, scan-and-pan broadcast TV before wide screen, VHS, DVD and Blue-Ray, which I watched again this week.

It was one of the major influences on me as a youth and a reason I became a writer, a teller of stories that expand the imagination.

Chat-bots are sending false message around social media - beware

If you receive a direct message on social media that starts with, “Hi”, you are likely connected to a chat-bot, not a real person. Chat-bots are computer programs that troll social media for accounts on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. They then generate message to accounts in attempt to gather personal information, ask for money or hack into accounts.

I spend 45 years in the computer field, decades of which involved physical and online security and privacy. I’ve engaged with some of these chats to see where they led.

After “Hi”, they ask how you you’re doing. If you make a response like, “Fine, I’m going on vacation to The gulf” the bot will say something like, “I’ve been to the gulf. What will you do?” A response like “Snorkeling” will cause the chat-bot to say, “That sounds like fun. Do you enjoy snorkeling?” It will ask questions and give responses in what can seem a conversion with a real person. The goal of the criminals who use chat-bots is to get personal information from you about where you live and what you do. The more data it collects, the more it can build a psychological profile of you to sell or use to exploit you.

Eventually, the conversation will get around to, “I’ve got something I want to ask you. Do you have WhatsApp so we can chat?” If it were a real person and they actually had a question they could just ask it in the direct message. You will often be asked to give an email address, a phone number or send money for some cause or problem.

These chat-bot messages can be found across social media. They may appear to come from a friend or follower. If you see the patterns above it may be a chatbot and your friend's account has been hacked. Look for the warning signs and be cautious.