Morbius, Krells, the Forbidden Planet, and I.Q. Versus Smartness


Forbidden Planet – 1956

The whole idea of I.Q. (Intelligence Quotient) testing is controversial. And the corollaries even more so: education, success, survival, and creative talent. There is also a certain inevitability associated with I.Q. because it seems to be mostly genetic in origin. Add race, sex, and geography into the equation and the results get even more complicated. Then there is the whole question of nature versus nurture, are we products of our genetic makeup or our environment? And if both then how much of each. I’m not convinced that science can adequately answer these questions today.

In the 1956 science fiction classic, Forbidden Planet, Morbius  demonstrates the wonders of Krell technology. Nothing was more impressive than the Krell I.Q. machine. It not only measured I.Q. but could actually increase I.Q. with repeated use. Unfortunately, it could also kill the puny human brain. Morbius increased his overall intelligence, by using the Krell I.Q. machine, to such an extent that it enabled him to create another classic character in Hollywood cinematography: Robbie the robot. These were heady times (pun intended) for this young ten-year old lad sitting in his local theater.

My personal belief is that having a high I.Q. is a nice thing to have (thanks mom & dad), but in no way guarantees: a stellar education, success, survival, or even creative talent. History is full of modest intellects (average I.Q. test performance) who’ve achieved major success in life, and soaring intellects that have crashed & burned. Sometimes you can be too intelligent for your own good. Intellect is of limited value if you can’t actualize it (actually do something productive with it). I believe there is a difference between intelligence and smart. Given a choice I’ll chose smart every time.

I.Q. testing (in my opinion) is only a predictor of potential and not a guarantor of results. Its been argued (effectively) that I.Q. testing can be racially, geographically, and even gender biased. I’ve known intelligent people who are dumb as stones, and smart people (as opposed to overly intelligent people) who seem brilliant by comparison. The world-renowned physicist Albert Einstein is often cited as the poster child for being overly bright without having day-to-day common sense. I’m not sure I would totally agree with that assessment after reading many biographies of the genius, but I understand the point trying to be made.

To talk openly and honestly about one’s I.Q. is pretentious and a social gaffe (a faux pas) as viewed by many. I get it, the only people who would be willing to share their I.Q. results would be those that were actually tested, and dare I say it, tested rather high. Not many people would be willing to share the fact their I.Q. score was 78 (well maybe Sarah Palin). There does seem to be a new trend in society, unfortunately, to flaunt one’s ignorance, as if somehow it’s a badge of honor (instead of a disgrace). There are reasons for innate intelligence, but there is no excuse (in my book) for voluntary ignorance.

I wish we had the I.Q. machine of the ancient, alien Krells, it would come in handy about now. A little more intelligence and smartness in our world would be a good thing. The founding father’s notion of a representative democracy in the United States was to send our best & brightest to Washington to govern in an intelligent way over the many. One person, one vote sounds good (and would be the democratic ideal), but I’m dubious and fear the antithesis might be the reality. The breakdown comes about when trying to identify the best & brightest, who makes that decision and with what criteria in mind.

I will end with a bit of self disclosure. My parents were very intelligent, so I benefited from their genetic gene pool. I have been I.Q. tested three times in my life, once in the military and twice in corporate America. In the Marine Corps I tested at 125 (which placed me in the upper percentile of recruits), and my last test score in civilian life was 135 (this was quite a few years ago). So I’m intelligent, but not particularly well-educated (I never went beyond high school). However, I made the choice early on not to be ignorant. My curiosity, coupled with my drive to succeed, compelled me to be smart beyond my intelligence. If you want more information about I.Q. and testing click here at Learn More.

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Stephen F. Dennstedt

Photographer, Writer, World Traveller

Cusco, Peru

8 responses to “Morbius, Krells, the Forbidden Planet, and I.Q. Versus Smartness

  1. Jim’s hierarchy of intelligence:

    Data – a collection of datum (objective information about a thing). Examples: Hill, Barn, Red
    Information – A collection of data with something with correlation. Example: The barn at the top of that hill is red.
    Knowlege – something interesting or important. Example. Barns are typically painted red because red pigment (derived from rust) is cheap to produce in bulk.
    Wisdom – application of knowledge with experience. Example: I never managed to pick up a chick at a bar because I knew that red paint was cheap.

  2. Great post. I’m actually a member of MENSA, but I very often forget where I’ve parked my car or how to get to places I’ve been often. I like to think that my hard drive is full of important stuff, but I could just be absent minded.

    • I figured you were a pretty bright guy. What I like about you is you don’t try to get a free pass with your intellect (and you don’t bully people with it). I think innate intelligence is a gift, but being smart is hard work. You appear to have actualized your intellectual potential with hard work, discipline and perseverance. I thank my parents for the gift of intelligence, but everything else I attained through hard work. I’ve witnessed many super intellects crash & burn over the years.

      • All of those years of being called a smart ass when I was a kid have helped me hone my craft. I work with some brilliant people at my firm, but they sometimes have the common sense of a piece of driftwood. Thanks for the kind words. I only bully people that defend Donald Trump because, well, no explanation needed. 🙂 It’s not really bullying. It’s just stating facts.

  3. The world is full of “educated derelicts”.

    I was moving along with your words on Forbidden Planet, the Krell and more just fine until you demonstrated an ignorance that shows an intelligence deficiency which really disturbed me that some one who has a liking for this bold intelligent ground breaking forward looking film could be so petty and simple minded.

    You may not like Sarah Palin but she is a very successful women in her own right!

    Not only a mother with a healthy family, she was elected governor of the state of Alaska by individuals that live on the *** frontier *** .

    These individuals have little in common with progressives in the Bay Area or coast people or the 9 to 5 types that get most of their information in 30 second sound bytes on NPR.

    If they had to, they could find their own food, build their own shelters and build strong communities that may be based in a faith that they believe, not you. Allowing them to be individual, not members of some sheeple society.

    Much of the “educated” population does little thinking outside of their own box.

    Frontiers people are not influenced by “political correctness” as the real world does not allow that BS.

    Have you ever lived on the frontier or near it? People that do have a different perspective and are not idiots as you imply in your uneducated statement about Sarah Palin having an IQ of “78” .

    Apparently, your “intelligence” is very limited to your surroundings and not much use in the real world.

    Your obviously limited in your world view.

    Wisdom is what is important.

    And that is severely lacking within the population.

    Have a nice apoplectic moment…

  4. At best, It’s only a primary indicator of mechanical; yes, mechanical, logical potential. IQ scores alone mean nothing if the person merely uses it as proof to convince others how smart they are. Mine is 135 and I learned this the hard way.

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