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RE: The Monolith was an "early warning" system and something else....

The monolith, initially functioned as an intelligence inducer. In the 'Dawn of Mankind' scenes the monolith taught those primitive hominids to build tools. By touching the monolith, the apes become more aware....and eventually evolve into human beings.

Eons later human-kind finds a monolith on the moon. The monolith sends a message to Jupiter. Human-kind travels to Jupiter where the larger monolith was in orbit about that planet. One surviving human comes into contact with that orbiting monolith and begins a journey through some sort of portal (perhaps a wormhole) to a distant planet where the human goes through yet another evolution. This much tells us that the monolith makers were still interested in human development. Or perhaps it is just a program that the monoliths run. We don't know.

Further clues can be found in the movie 2010 and then in Clarke's novels; 2061 and finally 3001. In the novel 2061 human-kind assumes that the monolith makers aren't interested any more in the human specie. Or maybe that the monolith makers just aren't around anymore. But they're not certain, mostly.

Even more answers to be found in the novel 3001, where Dr. Frank Poole is found dead, revived and lives out the rest of his life, one thousand years after his murder by Hal 9000.

Worth a read for those who need to know.
Clarke had a fairly infectious narative style. An easy read.

-Steve



Edits: 02/19/17

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