The true meaning of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001

Responses to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey fall roughly into two camps

Damien Walter
2 min readAug 28, 2023

ONE — “This is a masterpiece”

TWO — “I liked the spaceships but the end is incomprehensible garbage”

The second video essay in Science Fiction : Writing the 21st Century Myth looks at Kubrick’s scifi classic because it played a unique part in the evolution of science fiction as a modern mythos.

Before 2001 science fiction was a scientific mythos. It charted the rise and rise of science and technology, and showed us how that technology would take humanity to the stars and beyond.

After 2001 science fiction became a psychedelic mythos. It was not new science, but a transformation of the psyche, that would take humankind beyond the stars.

Looking back over half a century to 1968, the year 2001 hit cinemas, it’s sad to see that neither vision has come even close to true.

We haven’t built the moonbase or the space station, both quite feasible, and space technology has become the plaything of opportunistic “billionaire” hucksters.

And if anything, the state of the human psyche has degraded. The transformation of human consciousness so many foresaw in the 60s turned into drug addiction and Instagram influencers.

By the year 2001 the movie 2001 was already starting to look over optimistic. From here in 2023 it seems delusional that old scifi ever had such high hopes for us.

More capitalism! More socialism! You know the problem is complex when the answers on offer from all sides are so utterly moribund. Whatever the cause of our civilisational slump, nobody seems to have anything like a plan.

Except…maybe members of the Science Fiction community? If I made you World President, what would you do to get humankind back on track towards Kubrick’s vision of our future?



Damien Walter

I tell stories about the future, technology and culture. Published by The Guardian, WIRED, BBC etc.