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couldn’t comprehend this distinction, this ignorance

might be excusable. We might blame his trainers—

for not briefing him sufficiently about the existence

and reversibility of the comatose state. In the book,

Clarke looks into HAL’s mind and says, “He had been

threatened with disconnection; he would be deprived

of all his inputs, and thrown into an unimaginable

state of unconsciousness”. That might be grounds

enough to justify HAL’s course of self-defense.

But there is one final theme for counsel to present

to the jury. If HAL believed (we can’t be sure on what

grounds) that his being rendered comatose would

jeopardize the whole mission, then he would be in

exactly the same moral dilemma as a human being in

that predicament. Not surprisingly, we figure out the

answer to our question by figuring out what would be

true if we put ourselves in HAL’s place. If I believed

the mission to which my life was devoted was more

important, in the last analysis, than anything else,

what would I do?

So he would protect himself, with all the weapons at

his command. Without rancor— but without pity—

he would remove the source of his frustrations. And

then, following the orders that had been given to him

in case of the ultimate emergency, he would continue

the mission—unhindered, and alone.

HAL 9000