Civic Imagination

SkyNet: the danger of Artificial Intelligence

In the near future Americans create an advanced artificial intelligence for the purposes of superior national defense. This AI, named “SkyNet,” and later simply called “the Machines,” is originally located within the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, in Colorado Springs, CO. It was trusted with managing US military resources, including the nuclear arsenal, cyber infrastructure, and certain military hardware and production. In building what was hoped to be the ultimate protector of the US and her allies, the US instead inadvertently creates and empowers an enemy hell-bent on destroying humanity. Through the evolution of the Terminator franchise, particular details of the story change in different timelines created when both the human resistance and the machines attempt to preempt the other with time travel. In each iteration, however, certain things remain consistent. Namely, it is that in one way or another advanced artificial intelligence is created by well-intentioned humans, and a catastrophic “judgment day” is inflicted on humanity by the Machines. The hero of the story is John Connor, who grows up knowing details of an apocalyptic future, told to him by his mother who is foretold the future by a resistance fighter sent back in time to protect her from assassination by a time-travelling terminator. John Connor is called on to become the leader of the human resistance against the machines. Through following his character story to story one learns that the main message imparted by the creators of the franchise is a message of warning. That is, artificial intelligence is dangerous, and humanity’s belief in its position at the top of the food chain is arrogant and naïve.

I've seen the Terminator movies many times starting in my tween years. Wrapping my head of time-travel and its paradoxes fascinated me, as does the predictions of dystopian future.

I think this fiction and other pieces in the genre can be used as warning to people or groups in our society that wish to create and entrust artificial intelligence. That perhaps humanity is better without it, as an AI might decide that the best way to protect us or the planet might not be the policy we would drastically different outcomes.

Artificial Intelligence, AI, dystopian future, social commentary, time travel, apocalypse genre

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