Analysis of HAL's guilt in 2001: A Space Odyssey
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. Google’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
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.