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Science fiction inspires real science

When the film 2001: A Space Odyssey premiered in 1968, it stunned audiences and the world with its vision of the future. Director Stanley Kubrick and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke had combined forces to create the most realistic space adventure ever made.

One effect of the film was to inspire many people to pursue careers in space exploration, artificial intelligence, and other fields. Some of those people, featured here, are bringing us closer to the film's vision of the future.

See below for streaming video interviews with 5 artists and scientists. In addition, an online discussion area is provided to allow you to post your own comments, or respond to the questions raised in the interview.

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Dr. William Clancey is a computer scientist specializing in artificial intelligence (AI). He is currently working with the NASA Ames Research Center's Haughton-Mars Project, where he leads a project in human-centered computing. The author of many publications, his six books include Contemplating Minds: A Forum for Artificial Intelligence (1994, with S. Smoliar and M. Stefik) and Situated Cognition: On Human Knowledge and Computer Representation (1997).

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Dr. Rosalind W. Picard is an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory. She directs research in computing that relates to emotion. Her research includes the development of wearable computers, like a music player that chooses music based on your mood and a computer that responds to your frustration with a carefully chosen expression of artificial empathy. Dr. Picard wrote the chapter "Does HAL Cry Digital Tears?" in Hal's Legacy, edited by David Stork. Her book, Affective Computing (1997), lays the groundwork for developing machines with emotional intelligence.

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Dr. David Stork is chief scientist at Ricoh Innovations, Inc. and consulting associate professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University. He holds over a dozen patents. His deepest interests are in adaptive pattern recognition by machines and humans and novel uses of the Internet. Dr. Stork is the author of many papers and book chapters and the editor of Hal's Legacy: 2001's Computer as Dream and Reality (1997).

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Dennis Gonzales is a longtime Internet enthusiast and Web designer. At the U.S. Geological Survey he taught students and scientists to share information via the Web. More recently, at the NASA Ames Research Center he administered the Internet-based distribution of technical papers to the public. In 1999, Gonzales organized the "2001: A Space Odyssey Collectibles Exhibit" at the San Mateo Public Library.

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Robert McCall is a renowned artist and chronicler of aviation and aerospace technology from World War II through the construction of the International Space Station. In the 1960s his illustrations for Life Magazine caught the eye of film director Stanley Kubrick and led to McCall's memorable poster art for 2001: A Space Odyssey. In his Arizona studio, he continues to produce luminous visions of what our future in space might look like.

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