"I was created in the HAL factory in Urbana, Illinois on January 12, 1997." These are the words with which Arthur C. Clarke, in his 1968 novel "2001 — A Space Odyssey" (later filmed by Stanley Kubrick), introduces us to the supercomputer HAL, to a machine with artificial intelligence powerful enough to destroy both the spaceship and its crew. It's now Aug. 1, 2000 and HAL is still a utopia, no matter how firmly this utopia — like the heroes of the real Odyssey — is anchored in the hearts and minds of an entire generation.

Taking such stuff seriously is considered taboo among intellectuals. Those intellectuals who do read Joy therefore reserve most of their contempt for that passage in his treatise in which he describes a future in which humans are no longer needed. It is at this point that he narrates his very own bildungsroman and acknowledges the influence of such sci-fi classics as Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein and above all, Star Trek, the adventures of the starship Enterprise, which he used to watch while his parents went bowling. This, we hear, is also the quality of his warnings: Science fiction in the style of an American soap.

We have spent decades training ourselves to think of history in terms of ideologies, motives, influences and world views. Why does one think the way he thinks? Who indoctrinates a person? The "old world" spent decades worrying about the long-term effects Hollywood might have on our children. And now that we know the answer to this question, now that we are indeed confronted with the results of Captain Kirk, the educator — are contempt and ridicule our only response? Haven't at least our professional, cultural and literary critics noticed what is going on here?

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