Saturday, February 25, 2012

Knowledge Is Power - But Are We Ready For It?

This week, the film class got to see Forbidden Planet.  It's a fun one - and their first one in color.  (I trick them by moving back to B&W next week, but shhhhhh!)  I like so much in this movie - we're finally out among the stars instead of staying at home on Earth (and that's us in the flying saucer.  Maybe we got the design from the Roswell crash site).  We meet one of the most recognizable characters in science fiction - Robby the Robot - and we see Asimov's Laws of Robotics in action.  There are similarities to point out between this tale and Shakespeare's The Tempest, with Planet using Clarke's Law and advanced scientific knowledge substituting for Prospero's magics.  (Sites selling research papers love this one - I guess it seems hip.  See here.  And here.  Write your own stuff!)  And - oh, yes - "monsters from the Id!"  That never fails to get some good discussion going as we talk about what our own monsters from the Id might look and act like.

(Personally, I like this one best - a monster who knows what he wants and when he wants it.  NOW!!)

Key to Planet is the conflict posed by the existence of advanced knowledge.  Are we ready to handle the consequences of using that knowledge?  Who is charged with making that determination?  What gives them to right to decide for the rest of us?  And just how stable are those making these decision-makers to begin with?  Who, as Juvenal wondered, watches the Watchmen?

All good questions, especially in the post-WW2 world that had seen the destructive force of the atomic bomb and the sheer inhumanity of Nazi death camps and of experimentation sites such as Unit 731.  Genies are very difficult to put back into bottles, after all.  And maybe some knowledge needs to stay on a very high shelf from grasping hands.

COMING SOON:  Next week, the film class goes back one year from Planet to see what was going on at home while the United Planets Cruiser C-57D was far, far away.  Things were tense.  America was in the deep freeze of a Cold War with the Soviets and neighbors spied on neighbors for any hint of un-American behavior.  Can't let those Reds get a toehold or soon everything that we know and hold dear will be stripped away!  One key to safety was to conform.  Twilight Zone would do some very interesting things with this theme in 1960's "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" (which uses a few props from Planet), but first the aliens came to the small California town of Santa Mira.  Get ready for Invasion of the Body Snatchers!

1 comment:

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