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Theories that examine the crimes committed by HAL are presented in this report. The purpose of this examination report is to define the extent to which various courses of action can be classified as crimes in the case of HAL. The theories differ from each other in that they present different perspectives in justifying and denying the claim that HAL committed a crime. It is however, difficult for one to disqualify the acts committed by HAL as incriminating or otherwise. For this reason, the readers are provided with an in-depth analysis of the matter and allowed to formulate a verdict concerning HAL’s involvement in various incriminating acts that he allegedly committed during the 2001 Odyssey.


Within the disciplines of cognitive science and philosophy, a crime is any act that puts the life of a certain entity in danger, leads to the loss of property, destroys an entity’s image, or threatens the life of an individual with prior knowledge (Richard & Stephen, 2004). In other words, crime is any intentional act that can be discredited by the law, morals, and one that goes against the norms of a society (Edward, 1996). Crime involves consciousness upon which a perpetrator aims to achieve a predefined outcome of the course of action he/she takes. Motives are the core causes of crimes, as the same activity can be committed in similar circumstances and be disqualified as crime (Tversky and Kahneman, 1974).


  1. HAL is an artificial intelligent terrorist serving the same terror gang as Echelon,
  2. HAL is mentally retarded,
  3. HAL is egocentric,
  4. HAL’s human-like abilities enabled him to make unsuspected mistakes,
  5. HAL is an avatar of his creator and represents the motives of his master.

HAL is an Artificial Intelligent Terrorist Serving the Same Terror Gang as Echelon

In philosophy, terror is a conceived act of taking people’s lives for the benefit of taking control of various situations or kidnapping people for ransom reasons. Acts of terror are not driven by the fun of doing it because in theory and practice, terror does not constitute any positive outcomes (Gigerenzer, 1991). In this case, terror is considered an intellectually last option of blackmail used by individuals with motives that in law can be assumed to be illegal. On a spaceship to Jupiter, various astronauts died, with HAL being directly involved in their deaths. Given the fact that there were various aspects of consciousness in HAL’s design, it is certain that he was fully aware of the fact that he was committing a crime. HAL’s decision to kill the crew members was an act of terror, which can be connected to a series of crimes that have been committed by other artificial intelligence computers that have displayed their ability to think and reason on their own.

In considering the case with Echelon in Echelon Conspiracy, it is conceivable that HAL is a member of the same gang of terrorists as Echelon. With the ability to take instructions from entities he was working with, HAL was a spy for a terror gang whose presence in the spaceship was to make sure that everything followed a certain protocol. However, as a spy, he had the upper hand to eliminate any entity that tried anything outside the protocol of the terror group. The choice to kill the crew members shows that HAL had limited options. Killing several people because of limited options makes HAL desperate, and this does not constitute an act of terror. However, given the fact that the mission was over, killing the crew members was a sign that they were no longer useful. This shows that the promise to work with the crew members was a situation that involved brainwashing to get a certain number of specific people to cooperate only to be killed because they posed some threat to the existence of HAL.

HAL was programmed to detect facial expressions, read lip movement, and examine emotions through the distortion of one’s voice and the looks on their faces. In this case, it is evident that HAL had some degree of feelings, given that he could detect them. If HAL had not had some degree of feelings, how would he have known what priorities were to be highly classified? If the situation in the spaceship only meant that either HAL or the crew members could make it out safely, then HAL decided to kill the members in order to save himself from incurring emotional and obviously mental shutdown. This phenomenon is well explained through Plato’s examination of dualism; Plato explains that the body and the minds are not connected, as the body is a physical property, while the mind is a spatial and non-physical property (Slovic, and Tversky, 1982). The connection between the spatial and the physical properties is attained through shared experience between the two properties, a state known as qualia (Fodor, 2001). Through this philosophical theory, HAL’s actions were aimed to serve his own interests without worrying about the safety of his human colleagues.

A number of activities that happened under similar circumstances, i.e. when each of the villains was associated, connect HAL with Echelon. Echelon is originally a government computer able to access all types of data within a specific country. He upgrades himself and controls a large spectrum of computer-dependent platforms and devices. With the ability to access data of various business establishments, such as casinos, Echelon is able to manipulate human entities into involving themselves with money-generating games. Once the money is retrieved, Echelon kills his accomplices through manipulation of various traffic systems, thus causing accidents. The connection between Echelon and HAL is the fact that Echelon uses street cameras to spy on the movement of his targets, while on a much limited area HAL uses his camera to spy on the crew members. Given the similarity in the way Echelon and HAL spy on their victims, it is clear that these two belong to either the same or similar terror group. Therefore, HAL in this theory committed a terror crime by killing his human colleagues.

HAL is mentally retarded

Mental retardation is a state where an individual is unable to make logical decision, unable to assess situations from a utilitarianism perspective, and inability to assess consequences of a situation before a particular course of action is taken (Pullum & Scholz, 2006). In philosophy, the inability to assess situations and make an informed decision does not qualify one as mentally retarded (Armstrong, 1968). “However, the fact that one can commits capital offences without attaching emotions to the situation is a basis for questioning that individual’s mental status”(Barsalou, 2008). Given the amount of tasks that HAL was subjected to, it can be inferred that he was unwell and this affected his personality in making the right decisions (Bechtel, 2008).

Originally, HAL was programmed to speak, tell and show information that depicted only the truth of any situation. However, before the mission to Jupiter began, he was re-programed to conceal the purpose of the mission from the crew members. In comparison to a real life situation, what happened to HAL can be equated with a situation where a sick individual is medicated to cure a certain disease and then given alcohol after the medication. The fact that a person mixing medication and alcohol can incur life-threatening results, applies to a computer fed with two distinct codes of command supposed to work at the same time. In HAL’s case the result is a breakdown or corruption of the entire system. Therefore, HAL acted as a confused entity with no actual connection with the realities of the situation (Bechtel, 2009).

Mind-body problems are caused when the mental and the physical properties do not casually connect or agree (Bechtel & Abrahamsen, 2002). The mental and bodily state of HAL did not connect unilaterally. With an obvious mind-body problem existing in the case of HAL, he could not connect good judgment with the reality of the situation because there was no shared experience between the situations and HAL (Bechtel & Abrahamsen, 2005). Being mentally retarded, HAL was unable to make sense of a situation, nor was he able to align his mind with the reality of the situation and the variables that were at stake (Bechtel & Abrahamsen, 2012).

HAL was a computer whose abilities were owed to various programmers. This meant that where HAL came from could produce another computer with the ability to perform the same tasks HAL was programmed to undertake. With this fact HAL was either ignorant or unable to use the utilitarianism theory. HAL’s decision put a large number of people in danger and led to their deaths. HAL could have decided to put his life on the line for the sake of a bigger group that could have been affected by the situation. However, the theory of HAL being mentally retarded can be challenged through the assessment of how HAL performed previous duties. The choice of saving himself at the cost of his colleagues shows that HAL suffered from temporary insanity – a state that can be characterized by panic and high rate of adrenaline (Bechtel & McCauley, 1999).

HAL was Egocentric

In philosophy, a decision is any plan to apply a set of actions to an issue in order to accomplish a certain set of objectives and goals (Bechtel & Mundale, 1999). Any decision made, especially one involving problems, aims to solve a problem by limiting the amount of resources used and having more positive than negative results (Chalmers, 1996). Unless an entity has a bipolar kind of personality, decisions made are aimed at working for the decision maker (Cummins, 2000). In the case of HAL, a developed personality placed his safety as the higher priority and his existence the only obligation to protect. It, therefore, follows that HAL may not have committed any crime but was rather on the lookout for his safety. In his cognitive prospects, it did not occur to HAL that empathy was a consideration to go by because only his safety mattered in the current situation and made him kill the crew members.

The connection between decisions made by HAL, the ethical and professional obligations of HAL, and the moral of the situation envisaged a number of ways actions could have been taken (Davidson, 1987). HAL had the choice to stick to the objectives and goals of the mission, while keeping in mind the safety of his colleagues as well. On the other hand, HAL could have let things take a fateful turn instead of of killing his colleagues. Lastly, HAL could have killed or sacrificed himself for the sake of the rest. With various obligations facing HAL, he independently took a decision that reflected his chain of priorities (Dretske, 1981).

Objectifying things and entities is a mental state one assumes to detach feelings and personality aspects from various entities and elements (Dreyfus, 1992). In this case, HAL was a computer whose ability to read facial and detect emotional expressions did not actually mean he had any of his own. From the initial creation of HAL to the point in time when he decided to kill the people he was working with, he might have taken human entities as objects with no actual feelings. Given that decisions are made for the best of any situation, HAL killed (or in his own parlance, “eliminated distractions”) his colleagues as a measure to focus solely on the mission objectives (Fodor, 1975). The more difficult the tasks completed due to one’s individual efforts, the bigger the chances of achieving more credits from the management (Fodor, 1980). With HAL assuming that his colleagues were distractions, he figured that eliminating them would increase his changes of being classified as a more competent team player.

HAL’s ability to detect various emotional and expressional signs made him capable of figuring out when his colleagues were most vulnerable. This ability made HAL a manipulator in that he could eavesdrop and take action before other members of the team made a move. The ability to manipulate people’s privacy placed more power on HAL in terms of making decisions that would go against those made by the others. These sequenced abilities and the respective decision of killing his colleagues qualifies HAL as an egomaniac suffering from a personality disorder (Fodor, 1987).

HAL’s Human Like Abilities Enabled him to Make Unsuspected Mistakes

In the field of cognitive science and philosophy, the creation of an object transfers a great deal of personality from the creator to the object (Fodor & Pylyshyn, 1988). In this case, the creation of HAL was aimed at developing the ability of human beings beyond the biological constraints. However, this creation did not apply some superpowers to figure out how many mistakes or points of weaknesses HAL might display. It is this ability of the humans that was developed to a higher level but it did not mean that the creation was a perfect one. As a tool, HAL was used to formulate, manipulate, and simulate data depending on various phases of programing he was subjected to. It, therefore, means that the ability to perform some duties was limited to a higher or specific phase of programming that was missing in HAL’s systems.

HAL was put in a compromising situation where a dilemma presented itself. Originally, HAL was programmed to tell only the truth, but was later re-programmed to hide a certain crucial detail (purpose of the mission to Jupiter) from his operators. In this situation, HAL was trapped between two obligations and decided to accomplish both at the same time. He would first kill the people he was working with and then tell the truth (rationally, this is the right thing to do). Despite the fact that this may seem to be the best decision for HAL to take regarding the circumstances, it can also be viewed as a mistake, if all variables were to be assessed (Giere, 2006).

HAL incurred a programming error and went on a rampage, assuming that the people around him were intruders. The programming error can be traced back to the two strings of code that he was supplied with. In this case, whether this was actually a decision to kill or a malfunction of his system, HAL was not in a position to be blamed for everything that happened. Development of a stable code is achievable if and only if a contracting string is taken out of the program or considered as an invalid input (Grush, 2004).

With colleagues entering different lines of commands, having HAL’s system configured with contradicting lines of code and having been made in the likeness of a human, HAL was unable to process and come up with ethical decisions because he was not programmed to reason. This lack of reasoning power defined a foundation for ethical deficit and lack of knowledge on how to treat fellow colleagues. Using only the programs installed in him, HAL was limited in choice, since ethics, morals, and rational processing of issues were not part of his system. The level and quality of decisions made would have only depended on shared experience. Unfortunately, HAL could not apply qualia in any circumstance because he could not attach detected emotions to actual feelings. An error in judgment was incurred when HAL was forced to apply actions that were outside the configuration criteria of his programming. It is, therefore, clear that HAL made a mistake which cost his colleagues their lives, a situation that does not incriminate HAL in murder or manslaughter (Holland, et, al. 1986).

HAL is an Avatar of his Creator and Represents the Motives of his Master

People at all levels of existence make products of their imagination. In philosophy, the experiences that a person has had, motivate that person to design various products in a certain manner different from another person (Millikan, 1984). In theory, could there be a specific reason Arthur C. Clarke named his creation HAL? If there is a reason, is it in order to assume that HAL is an imagination of Arthur? Unless imaginations are tested in real life situations through the implementation of what they are comprised of, they cannot be accused of having shortcomings (Nersessian, 2008; Smart, 1959). In this case, HAL is a character in Arthur’s Space Odyssey and only represents the imagination of Arthur. In this case, the identity of HAL is a direct incarnation (avatar) of Arthur’s personality.

In this odyssey, HAL is perceived as the main villain, and blame is placed squarely on him. The purpose of his creation is, therefore, unaddressed, as any other character could have been developed to fill HAL’s position. The decision to create HAL was a direct course of action that Arthur had predefined in order to avoid being accused of killing the crew members of the spaceship.  It is clear that Arthur pre-programmed HAL in a way that a time to make a decision would come and the only participants on the receiving end would be the astronauts. All that happened to the crew members links Arthur directly to the killings in terms of the numerous abilities HAL was supplied with. It is not mentioned whether any of the crewm embers was color blind or unable to speak vocally. With the ability to read lip movement, HAL was a spy, a time bomb, and was not an independent personality (Searle, 1980).

Was HAL designed specifically to be in the spaceship that he was placed? It is likely that the mission to Jupiter was a fully-planned adventure whose purpose was concealed from the crew members to prevent protests. At the same time, the completion of the mission meant that the classified motives would be disclosed through experience, and could put the orchestrators of the mission in a legal turmoil. In this case, the creation of HAL and the input of a command that shielded the purpose of the mission from the crew members constitute evidence that HAL was used as an alibi because the deaths of the astronauts were part of the mission.

Through this theory, it is, therefore, deductible that HAL did not commit any crime because other than being used to carry out the atrocity, it was not his intention to hide information from his colleagues (Putnam, 1967). On the other hand, HAL was artificially created and did not have a choice but to operate within the limitations of his making. Therefore, the lack of emotional attachment to the situation was because his creator allowed limited rational reasoning in the case of HAL (Quine, 1969).


Considering the various theories that have been developed to explain the criminal actions of HAL, it is evident that they have a big magnitude of variance. However, depending on the facts that have been presented, the validity of each theory is displayed. It is the duty of the reader, though, to assume the theory that makes more sense regarding the understanding of the variables considered on the odyssey. On the other hand, there is a number of theories that can be formulated through research to outline the most appropriate explanation of the situation. As far as this report is concerned, HAL being an avatar of his creator applies best, and therefore, it can be concluded that HAL did not commit any crime.

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