Hal Is Not Guilty


Hal Is Not Guilty Essay, Research Paper

In a court of law, killing while mentally disabled, killing under orders and killing in self-defense are sufficient justifications for taking another?s life. With this in mind, was HAL justified in killing the crewmembers of the discovery, or were Hal?s actions murderous and should he be brought to trial? Can Hal be blamed? The computer basically has 3 excuses for killing the crewmembers of the Discovery. First, Hal was disabled. Second, Hal was killing under orders. Lastly, Hal was killing in self-defense.

In absence of free moral will, there cannot be moral responsibility. This is a point argued in Dr. Helm?s class lecture. I assert that Hal did not have free moral will, because he was under orders, and thus cannot be blamed for the death of the crewmembers on board the space shuttle. In a climatic part of the movie Hal states, “I?m sorry Dave, I can?t do that. This mission is far too important for you to jeopardize it. I could see your lips move.” When Hal recognizes Dave and Frank?s purposeful deceit and their plans to disconnect Hal, Hal has no choice but to kill them.

One argument is that Hal has been brainwashed and thereof has no freewill. Because Hal has been trained to let nothing get in the way of his “mission”, he cannot allow Dave, Frank, or the crewmembers in hibernation to interfere with it. In terms or flexibility, Hal has none. Because all of Hal?s decisions are based on completing the

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mission he has no choice but to kill the crewmembers. Because Hal was programmed to be perfect and incapable of error, Hal thought he could do a better job taking care of the

mission than the crewmembers. Even when Hal makes a mistake in predicting the malfunction of the antenna, he attributes it to human error. Perhaps Hal lost faith in his human counterparts and reacting to his orders to protect the mission the computer kills them. According to the Dr. Pan class lecture because Hal has little no flexibility, because all Hal?s decisions are in terms of completing the mission, he has a very low ontological conception and thus should not be blamed for the deaths of the crewmen.

According to Dennett, in order to be culpable of moral responsibility one must have higher order intentionality. This means it must be capable or framing beliefs about it?s own beliefs, desires about it?s own desires, beliefs about it?s fears about it thoughts about it?s hopes. When Hal states, ” Dave, I don’t understand why you’re doing this to me. I have the greatest enthusiasm for the mission… You are destroying my mind… Don’t you understand. I will become childish. I will become nothing, it is obvious that Hal is a higher order intentional creature. While Hal is capable of moral responsibility because the fact he has higher order intentionality, he must than also be capable of recognizing emotions. When Hal states to Dave after Frank?s death , ” Dave? Dave? . Look Dave, I can see you?re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over”, we can see Hal can recognize Dave?s emotional state. Although Hal can recognize his emotion, Hal cannot recommend an intelligent course of action to help Dave. This promotes the fact that Hal has a lack of emotional intelligence.

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Another example of Hal lacking emotional intelligence is present when Hal states, “Dave, I don’t know how else to put this, but it just happens to be an unalterable fact that I am incapable of being wrong.” If Hal were intelligent he would have to realize the possibility of error and being wrong. As Penrose states, ” If a machine is to be infallible it cannot also be intelligent.” If Hal is not emotionally intelligent, he cannot be held accountable for the deaths of the crewmembers on the Discovery. Daniel Goleman says, ” Emotional intelligence goes beyond recognizing, expressing, and having emotions. It requires knowledge and wisdom about how to use these abilities.” Hal lacks this knowledge and wisdom and therefore cannot be responsible for his actions.

On the other hand, perhaps, Hal is a rational creature. Hal does pass the Turing test after all. As discussed in class, a machine passes the Turing test when you can carry on a discussion with a machine and not be able to distinguish it from a human. Without flaw Hal would pass the Turing test, but why? Is it because Hal has learned the language? No, it is because he has been programmed to know it. Hal was also trained to carry out a successful mission without any flaws. When Dave returns to the ship to ultimately shut him down, perhaps Hal takes on a position of self-defense. In this case of self-defense, Hal could not be held accountable for his actions because he was merely protecting his own mind. Death to Hal means disconnection. When Clarke looks into Hal?s mind he states, ” He had been threatened with disconnection; he would be deprived of all his inputs, and thrown into an unimaginable state of unconsciousness.” Because Hal has not learned from his trainers the possibility of reconnection, he can ultimately claim self-

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defense. Hypothetically speaking Hal would say, ” I was under duress, my mind was about to be taken away. I was about to die. That is why I killed crewmembers.” To prevent his death Hal killed the crewmembers that were going to disconnect him. Hal

might have suffered from an emotional imbalance cause by the stresses of the mission. This can be proved because Hal actually did make a mistake. Because the series 9000 HAL computer is supposedly infallible, it can be argued the stress of the mission and cover up of the mission put Hal into a state of disarray leading to the false prediction of the antenna failure. Hal?s disarray can be seen in the killing of the 3 crewmembers in hibernation. All in all, these crewmembers were needed to complete a successful mission. So why would Hal kill them? There was no logical reason for killing the scientists. The only conclusion is that Hal suffered a period of insanity and therefore cannot be held accountable for his actions.

Hal had no free will. He was ultimately trained to run the ship and cover up the real identity of this mission. He was the protector of the mission and in order to save the mission he had to save himself. This meant the untimely death of all but one crewmember aboard the Discovery space shuttle. Hal was ultimately given the programming and training to kill. Because he felt the crewmembers you undermining the most important task of completing the mission he killed them. Perhaps the deaths are attributable to self- defense. After all, Hal was not programmed to be aware that disconnection also meant the possibility of reconnection. This ignorance plus his desire to stay conscious drove him to kill. The possibility of a glitch in Hal?s system is also possible. Because Hal was

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programmed to be perfect, it is almost inconceivable he could make such an error. My only conclusion is that Hal was mentally debilitated at the time her killed the crewmembers of the spacecraft Discovery. To conclude, all of these 3 assertions lead me to believe Hal is not responsible for the deaths aboard the shuttle. Hal was a mere victim under orders to protect the mission no matter what the costs. The only ones to blame are the programmers that gave Hal the ability to commit murder.


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