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.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer, World Traveller