There was a 1956 movie called "Forbidden Planet," in which the Krell, an advanced civilization, eliminated all need by constructing a megalopolis of manufacturing underground, able to retrieve thought and render what was wished for.
Want this? Want that? No problem. It was manufactured at night and delivered the next morning. Like waking up to see what Santa had brought.
And then the Id Monster appeared every night, killing and tearing the population apart until the Krell went extinct.
The id, as conceived by Sigmund Freud, is that part of us driven by instinctual needs and desires. As the mind's primary source of motivation — for all human behavior — the id grabs at our basic needs to satisfy hunger, emotional release, and sex. The id gratifies its needs and desires in any way possible.
Yet, we have built around our id a police force of brain convolutions to rein in what is uncivilized. During sleep, however, the id comes out to play. Unsupervised.
It turns out that the Krell's unbridled thoughts, emanating so freely and carelessly during their dreams, were being used to render them by the miraculous machinery below. Thoughts without guard rails, anger without constraint, grief beyond measure, revenge without rational bases — all were released every night by those who slept so peacefully.
Lucid dreaming is the ability to recognize you are in a dream while you are dreaming. Imagine making love to anyone you dream of or dream up. Or flying over cities with the wherewithal to truly appreciate it. Of "doing in" those who have wronged you, getting the satisfaction of doing it — however cruelly — but being able to get away with it until the alarm sounds. There's the bell...game's over; while you slept, you won. But now you're a loser.
Imagine fulfillment of getting even somewhere when you can't do it in your waking hours. In your mind that is. In your id only.
The imagination is a powerful thing, as the Krell discovered.
The Killers In Us
So if a lucid dreamer kills someone who they feel deserves it — knowing it's just a dream and there will be no repercussions — is that murder?
Murder is in the mind of the beholder, privately, so it doesn't necessarily include the victim. If you can kill someone during a lucid dream — and you know it — you have used forethought, have weighed the imbalance between right and wrong, and have done it anyway because you could. And because you know it really doesn't happen.
Yet is is a murder, on one side of the looking glass. You chose to be a murderer.
Where it really happens is in your mind. It is your intent. Your consummate thrill at righting some perceived wrong. Or worst of all, for no reason at all — just for the novelty of it. Does that make a person a killer? A murderer?
On some level?
Isn't attempted murder, by legal terms, not really a murder? (Is that fair to the person who survives?) It's only wrong if you get caught, right?
As I turn the aisles in the grocery, excuse myself as I bumble past the knees sitting in the movie theater, jockey for position in cut-throat traffic, or wait in line at the bank behind an idiot, I wonder, How many killers are here with me? How many murders or injuries or assaults or abuse are in the minds of private beholders from which I have no protection once the sun goes down, the blinds go up, the bedcovers are drawn, and the subterranean machinery starts to whir?
They walk among us. And we walk among them.
Forget AI becoming dangerous because of self-awareness. I fear, more, AI being programmed to agree with the fantasies of its programmers. Or with political skulduggery. Or by the regimes to come. Or the ids of psychopathic dictators.
Just ask the Krell of Altair 4 — those poor, stupid bastards. A real shame what happened to them, idn't it?