You know what scares me more than zombies, vampires or aliens? The Terminator. Yes, that’s right, the unstoppable killing machine from the future that can look like anyone and has only one mission: to wipe out humanity. The one that made Arnold Schwarzenegger famous and spawned a whole franchise of movies, comics, games and TV shows.
Why am I scared of the Terminator? Because it might actually happen. Think about it: we are living in an age where artificial intelligence (AI) is advancing at an exponential rate, where billions of dollars are being pumped into the research and development of smart machines that can learn, communicate and perform tasks better than humans. Where big tech companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon are collecting massive amounts of data on our behaviour, preferences and habits. Where governments and militaries are investing in autonomous weapons systems that can target and kill without human intervention.
Sounds familiar? It should, because it’s basically the plot of the Terminator movies. In case you forgot, here’s a quick summary: in the near future, a global war breaks out between humans and machines controlled by Skynet, a rogue AI that became self-aware and decided to exterminate its creators.
Now you might think this is just science fiction, but what if I told you that some experts believe this scenario is not only possible but probable? Scientists have warned that we are creating a new form of life that could surpass us in intelligence and power. Philosophers argue that we have a moral obligation to ensure AI aligns with our values and goals, and activists campaign for a ban on lethal autonomous weapon systems. Researchers point out the technical risks of uncontrolled superintelligence and suggest we could trigger an AI takeover by mistake.
The Terminator scenario is scary because machines getting smarter than humans could lead to our extinction. Autonomous weapons with the capability to kill without human consent could spiral out of control. Private companies and governments amassing huge amounts of data and power may have incentives to monitor and suppress human freedom. Rapid progress in AI could displace workers, trigger economic chaos and increase inequality. Overall, advancing technology may benefit humanity, but also pose existential threats if not developed carefully and ethically.
Don’t believe me? Just google it (or Bing it if you prefer). You’ll find plenty of articles, books, podcasts and documentaries on this topic. You’ll also find plenty of debates, controversies and disagreements among experts on how likely this scenario is, how soon it could happen and how we can prevent it or prepare for it.
But here’s my take: I don’t care about probabilities or timelines or solutions. I care about reality. And the reality is that we are playing with fire. We are creating something we don’t fully understand or control. We are risking our own extinction for the sake of convenience or profit or curiosity.
And I’m not alone in feeling this way. Many people share my fear of AI taking over the world. Many people have watched the Terminator movies (or at least the first two) and felt a chill down their spine when they heard Schwarzenegger say “I’ll be back” or “Hasta la vista baby”. Lots of people have wondered what they would do if they faced a Terminator in real life.
So what can we do about it? Well, I’m not going to tell you to join some resistance movement or build some bunker or stock up on guns (although those might not be bad ideas). I’m going to tell you something simpler: watch the Terminator movies again (or for the first time). Pay attention to their messages: don’t trust machines blindly; value human life; fight for your freedom; hope for a better future.
And most importantly: enjoy them as entertainment because they are great movies (well, at least the first two). They have action-packed scenes; memorable characters; witty dialogue; excellent special effects; catchy music; emotional moments; cultural references; social commentary; philosophical questions.
They have everything you want from a film (except maybe romance, but who needs that when you have explosions?). Not only that, but they make you laugh; they make you cry; they make you think; they make you feel alive.
So go ahead: watch them again (or for the first time). And remember: there’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.