Is “The Forbidden Planet” Still Off Limits?

In The Forbidden Planet, scientist Dr. Morbius, discovers on a remote planet of course, an ancient civilization, the Krell, which has been extinct for thousands of years.  Left behind is a vast machine the Krell developed that allowed them to enhance their mental capabilities far beyond normal.  Finding the Krell machine still operable, Morbius soon learns that the machine not only increases his mental and intellectual functions, it also brings into the real world his dark side, manifesting from the unreachable depths of his unconscious mind a creature that eventually kills his entire team and threatens the astronauts sent to rescue him and his daughter.  And of course, being a movie from the 1950s, there is the love interest between Morbius’ daughter and the rescue team commander.  But that is beside the point here.  So, movin’ on . . .

What we also have is the cinematic introduction of Robby the Robot, who later becomes a star and develops his own cult following.  In The Forbidden Planet, Robby is portrayed as a robot of course, but endowed with limited emotions and the ability to basically do anything from making whiskey to moving a house off its foundations.  Of course, he is programmed to self destruct should he be ordered to hurt or kill a human being, which is a clever way to imply he has a conscience and understands good from evil.

So why have I subjected my readers to this?  I think this is a great example of how AI can achieve both good and evil, depending upon how it is used.  Of course, the same can be said of just about anything; a pencil for example.  But what we have here are two opposing points of view of AI.  First, there is Robby.  He is a robot designed to act as a tool to assist humans in manual labor and other things.  He has been programmed with a limited array of emotions which in the film are displayed via warnings of danger and so on.  Robby is an example of where AI is today.  Second, we have the machine the Krell left behind.  True, it also was designed to help the Krell in a huge variety of tasks and was extremely powerful in that task.  The apparent unintended result of this machine was that it developed the capability, by design or otherwise, to tap into the deep-seated, unconscious emotions of the Krell.  The bad ending for them comes when the machine converts those destructive emotions into real-world manifestations.  Dr. Morbius picks up on this and to his eventual dismay and ultimate destruction, finds the machine doing the same to him.

I just wanted to share this as another facet of our discussions on AI and how it can be used, or misused.  In the future, I believe the questions faced by the Krell and Dr. Morbius will have to be answered.  I know, I know, that sounds a bit extreme.  But I have noticed that sometimes Hollywood comes up with something that may seem like fantasy now, but in years to come becomes all too real.

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