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- "I think we've learned that it can do anything it wants - anything we can imagine - and a lot more."
- ―Dr. Rolf van der Berg about the Monolith in 2061: Odyssey Three
The Monolith is an extraterrestrial artifact designed to influence evolution.
It is unknown exactly who built the monolith, or what it really is. Presumably it's creators evolved to the point where they developed advanced space travel, and designed the monoliths with the intention of influencing and encouraging evolution, and they were placed on planets with species with the potential to evolve.
Dawn of ManEdit
One such monolith was found on Earth, in the continent of Africa, by a group of starving apes. The monolith inspired them to use bones as weapons, the first tools, in order to hunt other animals and to eat meat. These apes would ultimately evolve into Humans.
Over thousands of years humans evolved, until at last they managed to develop the technology to travel through space. A group of scientists in the Lunar research facility Clavius Base discovered unusual magnetic activity. They discovered another monolith buried under the surface of the moon, which transmitted a signal towards Jupiter.
Jupiter and Beyond the InfiniteEdit
The spaceship Discovery 1 was sent to Jupiter with the intention of investigating the transmission, but during the flight, the artificially intelligent computer malfunctioned, and killed the whole crew save for one man. When Discovery reached Jupiter, David Bowman, the last surviving astronaut, discovered another monolith in orbit around Jupiter. An attempt to examine it led him into a mysterious passage, and the monolith rapidly evolved him into the next stage of human evolution.
Monoliths in other worksEdit
In the video game Spore, one can use Monoliths to evolve creatures, tribes and planet-bound civilizations into Planetary Empires.
In The Simpsons episode #8F06 ("Lisa's Pony"), during one of Homer's (many) on-the-job dreams, while the other apes discover tools and working, an apefied Homer naps on the Monolith, tilting it a little bit, invented goofing-off.
In 2001: A Space Odyssey issue #8 (July 1977), a monolith gave sentience to a robot named X-51 (also known as "Mister Machine"). Before encountering the monolith, he is the only survivor of a series of robots, and raised as a human son of scientist Abel Stack, who was killed removing his auto-destruct mechanism. He eventually spun off his own title, Machine Man, which integrated him into the Marvel Universe. References from 2001 were mostly ignored, but in the final issue it was revealed that the creators of the monolith were the Celestials, who had sent it to help record vast amounts of data over the centuries.