DAMON, WASHINGTON, 9 May 1986 — Today an advanced robot, “Number Five,” escaped the grounds of its maker, Nova Laboratories, and found its way to the home of animal rescue activist Stephanie Speck.
Short Circuit is quite possibly the dumbest film I have ever loved, but make no mistake about it, I do love this film. Darth Maul warned us that in searching for films for Future Now we’d find the dystopian visions far outnumbering the utopian ones, and he opined that these warnings could be helpful in contemplating the many social and cultural issues of our time. Another reason for the dystopian glut is quite simply that Hollywood needs “bad guys.” A film that celebrates not the “Terminator” potential of AI, but its humanity, is a rare gem.
Yes, Short Circuit is a “dumb comedy,” and yes its own paramilitary and bureaucratic “bad guys” are pretty cardboard, but it is also a film that almost effortlessly manages to envision a world of human rights non-chauvinistically applied as widely as possible. As an animal rights activist and “tree hugger,” Ally Sheedy’s Stephanie Speck might seem an unlikely champion for AI, but she recognizes the beauty of life and intelligence and intuitively defends it. Richard Stallman reflexively hated when passwords first came to the MIT computer lab because he didn’t want someone who sat at the computer yesterday to be able to control what someone sitting there today could do, and analogously Speck doesn’t want the laboratory or the scientist who “created” Number Five to be able to control its destiny or to “disassemble” it.
S H O R T . C I R C U I T
Category: Robotics, AI (sentience)
Running Time: 98:00
Studio: David Foster Productions, Producers Sales Organization (PSO), TriStar Pictures
Story: Number 5, one of a group of experimental military robots, undergoes a sudden transformation after being struck by lightning. He develops self-awareness, consciousness, and a fear of the reprogramming that awaits him back at the factory. With the help of a young woman, Number 5 tries to evade capture and convince his creator that he has truly become alive. — IMDB
Cast: Ally Sheedy, Steve Guttenberg
Director: John Badham
Writers: S.S. Wilson, Brent Maddock
Producers: Gregg Champion, Mark Damon, David Foster, Gary Foster, Dana Satler Hankins, John W. Hyde, Dennis E. Jones, Lawrence Turman
Score: David Shire
Cinematography: Nick McLean
Film Editing: Frank Morriss
Production Design: Dianne Wager