Thursday, November 18, 2010

Forbidden Planet Coming True?...

Did this sci-fi film predict many of the imminent future technological breakthroughs that approach?  We think so.
In 1956, Warner Brothers produced a landmark sci-fi film named Forbidden Planet.  The movie was a first in many areas.  It was the first movie to have a totally synthetic soundtrack produced by synthesizers of the day.  It was the first to take place in an alien planet very fram from Earth.  It was the first to use a robot that had a personality and not just a person in tin can box.  Of course it had the cliche romance seen expected of any hollywood movie of the day.  The movie takes place in the last "decade of the 21st century."  But, as time passes, the film becomes more prophetic, at least when it comes to the technologies that are now imminently before us.  The basic plot of the film is an Earth ship many years in the future seeks a lost expedition on a planet that is seemingly isolated.  It discovers survivors in the form of a Dr, Morbius and his daughter.  The rest of the expedition were hideously murdered, twenty years earlier, by a force that apparently still exists on the planet, yet remains dormant since those days.  We will cover some of the things that this movie predicted in technology, that, at the time it was made, seemed far fetched, but, now, are within our view of the possible.

This planet, had been the home of a very advanced race of beings called the Krell.  They were according to Morbius, one million years ahead of the human race.  

The One Machine - The Internet of Things With An Unlimited Power Source
The Great Machine

"...prepare your minds for a new scale of physical scientific values gentleman." Dr. Morbius

This machine as described by the earthling that studied (Dr. Morbius) as huge.  This machine, stretches 40 miles from east to west.  It has 7,800 floors from top to bottom.  It has 400 ventilations shafts.  The machine can repair itself.  It has functioned for 2,000 centuries, replacing worn parts.  It is powered by units sunk 50 miles into the heart of the planet.  The planet is its energy source, with 9,200 nuclear reactors working in tandem.  Basically, it has unlimited power.

click to enlarge
As for a knowledge base, the Krell had terminals, that contained their enitre body of knowledge from their earliest beginnings to their last days.  According to Morbius, "...a sheer bulk surpassing many million earthly libraries."  This information is intantly accessible.  It reminds one of Google's vision to have every book ever printed available to all people instantly, searchable and digitized.  This democratization of knowledge is essential to the advancement of any civilization.  Without it, certain portions of the society may advance, those with the access to the knowledge, but, for that civilization to truly achieve extreme sophistication, it cannot abandon any of its members to a second class status.

click to enlarge
For education they used a "plastic educator."  It was used to "condition and train" their young.  It was a kind of mind and machine interface similar to the attempts now being made to build a communication bridge between the human brain and a computer.  This would revolutionize education.  Does anyone not think that our present slow process of educating children, will be effective in the explosive-ever-expanding-knowledge of our information age?  This plastic educator has the ability to transform thoughts from the brain into a 3D holographic living image from second to second.  The image can be manipulated by the brain to be whatever is desired.   Interestingly enough, when the the Captain and the ship's doctor see this holographic image, they declare the Frankenstonian phrase, "it's alive."  With this phrase they admit in their minds, that the distinction between living and non-living things can be very slight, in certain situations.  In a sense the hologram does live, states Morbius, since it is living inside his mind from second to second.  If you will notice, there are no implanted electrodes.  The unit simply touches the brain.  All brain-computer interfaces are heading in this direction.

But what is this machine for?  Morbius explains that the Krell in their last days had been applying their entire effort to eliminating "physical instrumentalities." And this is the ultimate goal for all of science it seems to us.  To be able to produce a reality from a mere thought.  Our minds creating ex nihilio (out of nothing) as the Bible said God had done.   To do this a massive amount of energy would be needed to transform matter.  This machine was created to supply that power, as well as to provide the interface with the Krell brains.

This film anticipated nanotechnology by speaking about the ability of the Krell, to produce, matter millions of times denser than our strongest metals.  In an example, of this characteristic, Morbius, has the Captain, point his weapon at a Krell wall.  Not only does the weapon not disintegrate it, the metal is not even warm, thus demonstrating its ability to absorb heat at many times that of normal metals.  This control over subatomic particles allowed the Krell to create extremely dense metals.  Right now, through the breakthroughs of nanoscience, we are at the threshold of the beginning of this kind of technological revolution.  Nanotechnology has the potential of eliminating human hunger and poverty.

"household disintegrator"
The basis of nanotechnology, it seems to us (we are no experts), is, the manipulation and transformation of atoms into different molecular structures.  Right now, we are only at the very beginning of this, having been able to move atoms around.  We have not even produced a viable nano-assembler yet.  But with sufficient time and technological prowess, it is not impossible to imagine that machine, of sufficient sophistication, will be able to change molecular structure almost instantly.  In this film, a common "household disintegrator" is demonstrated which ends all need for trash bags and landfills.  The device changes the atomic and molecular structure of an item into something else that does not require disposal.  Some of the claims that nanotechnology has made has been greeted by skepticism in quarters of the scientific community.  David R. Forrest, en engineer specializing in molecular manufacturing, states:
"...the scientific community has been less than embracing of these ideas.  The most vocal critics claim that this technology is either so distant in the future that we need not concern ourselves, or fundamentally impossible and will never happen.  The engineering community has been for the most part silent about the controversy, which is a significant omission because the proposed technology has very little to do with new science and everything to do with engineering analysis, design, and construction.***
This is not to say, of course, that the things presented in this film are near term, but it would be unwise to laugh at their possibilities.

"...the heights they had reached, but then, seemingly on the threshold of some supreme accomplishment, which was to have crowned their entire history, this all but divine race perished in a single night." Dr. Morbius
How A Civilization Can Destroy Itself
That a machine of the size, as that one found on that planet, which can connect to a brain, and using a very advanced form of nanotechnology, instantly transform matter, would make us as near gods.  This is where the invisible creature that attacks the mother ship at the end of the movie, is scientifically conceivable.

The question remains, and it is one this film tries to answer, is man ready for all the power this technology will give him?  Will he create the very instruments of his own destruction like the Krell did?  How will we do?  The Krell according to this story, had long before abolished all crime, poverty, injustice, and war.  We have not even come close to that yet.  But for the Krell despite these amazing cultural accomplishments, their subconscious minds had not dramatically changed.  The machine which they created connected to their entire mind.  Will we do better when we create computers that surpass our entire racial intelligence?  Will they look at us as their creators?  These issues and others are what will make Forbidden Planet a timeless classic.

For sci-fi buffs, the rumor is that there a follow up to this movie that will create a franchise.  The director being spoken about is no other than James Cameron from Avatar.  The script for this movie has been written by one of the foremost sci-fi writers currently, J. Michael Straczynski.  Stay tuned for more details.


Anonymous said...

I see lot of marvelous things when the human kind as a whole awakes to the possibilities of science.

The Zeitgeist Movement and the Venus Project seems to be the ideal direction we need, to make such "fictional" things happens.

Check it out:

PlusUltraTech said...

Thanks! I am aware of the movement. I will check the site out.