Number 5 is alive

One of my childhood favourite movies must be “Short Circuit” from 1986 (IMDB). During a military demonstration of a group of weaponised robots, lightning strikes “Number 5” causing its circuitry to go haywire, giving way to MalFunCtioNs in the system. The robot starts skip its instructions when it is told to go back inside the laboratory where it was built. An other passing robot sparks a form of curiosity in the subsystems of Number 5, and it starts following a trail of interesting “inputs” leading the weapon offsite and into the world.

“MalFunCtioN, NeEd iNPut” reads the statusscreen when the armyguys start missing the robot, and a robot-hunt begins.

Last month I had the absolute joy of sharing this movie with my son, who is almost 9 years old. Once a week we have this father-son movienight. We’ve seen quite a lot of movies, but I can’t remember him laughing so full-heartedly during a film. His absolute joy and laughter sparked the same child-like joy-and laughter in me, and the memory of these moments light up my heart when I write this down.

Without spoiling all about the movie, this also turns out to be the ‘point’ at the end of the movie. Being alive means being able to feel joy and laugh together. Forgetting joy and laughter turns us into robots.

Between the nine year old version of me, and this 38 year old version of me, a lot of input I gathered became programming: “I must do this before x”, “I have to become better at y”, “I have to improve my z”, but most toxically is the “Before I can enjoy myself, I have to do [insert some random unjoyfull thing].

Reminded of my 9 year old self, and reflecting on my adult programming, now I’m becoming more aware of these patterns. Also, I’m able to break it, just by doing the joyfull things more often, and before some unjoyfull thing. Feeling alive, and Human After All.

Human After All

For a long time now, whenever I was asked to enter a few words next to my name on profile-pages, i.e. on Twitter, LinkedIn, I entered “Human After All”. The title of a song by Daft Punk.

In their Electropop Musical “Electroma” Daft Punk, two human men, posing as robots, try to become human. If you’ve never seen the movie, watch a clip of the song “Human After All” accompanied by scenes from the movie below. The movie is a cinematographic joy to view. At the time when I first saw it, it left me with some strange melancholic emotions and questions.

From early on I’ve been fascinated by robots in many forms of popular culture. When younger they where just cool to look at, and fun to recreate myself from Lego, paper, cardboard or whatever.

But when growing up all the cute toylike creations made place for more grim and dark siblings. Killerrobots from the future in the Terminator and rogue Artificial Intelligence trying to wipe out the human race in The Matrix to name a few.

What makes a robot a robot, what makes a human a human? In many movies, books and stories these seem to be the underlying questions asked by the author. And became the underlying question for me when I embarked on my own personal quest to find out what it is to be human…