Is AI about to become Skynet? Why Experts Say ‘Terminator 2′ Dramatically Influenced the Direction of AI Research’

Terminator 2: (Illustration by Kyle McCauley for Yahoo/Photo: Everett Collection)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day helped inspire the landscape of modern AI technology, experts say. Does this mean we are about to see a world run by machines? (Illustration by Kyle McCauley for Yahoo/Photo: Everett Collection)

More than three decades after blowing up theaters, James Cameron Terminator 2: Judgment Day remains not only a cinematic milestone but also a prophetic vision for some – including star Arnold Schwarzenegger – who believe the sci-fi blockbuster may have spurred the evolution of modern artificial intelligence.

Released July 3, 1991, the sequel to Cameron’s 1984 action classic Saw Schwarzenegger’s return as a T-800 cybernetic organism (a machine comprising both organic and biomechatronic body parts) sent back in time from a future where an AI defense network called Skynet has become self-aware and quickly unleashes a nuclear war to wipe out humanity.

The T-800’s mission: to protect a young John Connor (Edward Furlong), the future leader of the human resistance, from a more advanced Terminator, the shape-shifting T-1000 (Robert Patrick), sent to assassinate the teenager. Alongside John’s mother, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), the trio set out to destroy Skynet in 1991 today before it’s too late.

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Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, Edward Furlong as John Connor (background) and Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-800 Terminator in James Cameron Terminator 2: Judgment Day. (Photo: Paramount Pictures via Getty Images)

The plot may have seemed far-fetched 30 years ago, but with the rise of machine learning platforms like ChatGPT, TensorFlow, and PyTorch, we couldn’t help but wonder: just how Is modern AI close to becoming Skynet?

Here’s what some of the greatest minds in artificial technology had to say.

Where did Skynet go wrong?

As shown in the film, Skynet is an artificial intelligence system created for the US military and designed to control the country’s nuclear arsenal and defense network, enabling faster and more effective responses to international military threats. However, once the system has acquired the ability to learn and improve, it becomes self-aware. When its creators attempt to disable it, Skynet sees humanity as an enemy and decides to unleash a nuclear holocaust to eliminate the threat.

According to AI experts, Skynet did exactly what it was designed to do: eliminate threats. Faced with the possibility of extinction, the system went into survival mode, similar to what a human or other organism would do. And since its creators designed Skynet with virtually no ethical limitations, the system as it was designed sought to eradicate the enemy.

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As shown in the film, an 800-series Terminator wields an M95A1 Phased Plasma Rifle in 2029, when the machines began taking over the world. (Photo: Paramount Pictures via Getty Images)

It won’t happen anytime soon, assures Yulin Wang, technology analyst at IDTechEx specializing in robotics, who says industry leaders see these scenarios as examples of what not TO DO.

“Some movies, like T2, have indirectly contributed to establishing regulations surrounding the use and commercialization of AI,” he told Yahoo Entertainment. “This is one of the impacts on society caused by science fiction films.”

Indeed, Elon Musk and tech leaders have argued for a pause in the development of systems beyond the capabilities of ChatGPT-4. [the latest model]. In May, ChatGPT founder Sam Altman spoke to Congress about considering similar measures while the European Union in June created a commission focused on AI regulation.

“Given the rapid evolution of technology that surpasses any other historical precedent, the development of AI can progress rapidly,” Wang said. “It is not inconceivable to envisage the emergence of a system comparable in complexity to Skynet within the next two decades.”

Can AI turn against us?

Jürgen Schmidhubera German computer scientist often touted as the “father of modern AI”, says the last thing AI systems want is to harm humans – yet.

“Hollywood loves AIs that enslave humans. It’s silly,” he told Yahoo Entertainment. “A super-intelligent AI that can quickly build superhuman robots to satisfy all of its goals won’t be interested in enslaving humans, just like humans aren’t interested in enslaving cacti.”

To that end, he admits, scientists are creating machines so advanced that they will eventually need strict regulations to limit their range. One thing is certain, however: today’s machines are designed to help humans, not replace them.

“My lab has released AIs based on artificial neural networks that not only slavishly mimic humans, but set their own goals,” he says. “Like babies and scientists, they invent their own experiments to understand how the world works and what can be done about it. Without this freedom, they would not become more and more general problem solvers.

Alex J. Champandardbrain behind the biggest online hub for AI games,, who worked as a senior AI programmer at Rockstar for years, says the depiction of machines in movies and video games can skew the public perception of technology.

T2 significantly influenced the direction of AI research,” he says. “There is a strong irrational fear of [AI], but real life isn’t as dramatic. Turns out the Terminator is just going to take our jobs.”

What is T2 be right about AI?

Unlike previous decades, autonomous systems and weapons now have the ability to select and engage targets without human intervention, such as in the scenes of T2 where Terminators use tools like facial recognition to locate allies and enemies in a crowd. They gain additional knowledge about their surroundings by using sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell, just like humans.

As Wang explains that similar humanoids are being developed by Tesla as well as companies in Japan, Saudi Arabia and China. But endowing them with human qualities, like that of the Terminator, remains a challenge.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - JULY 6, 2023 - Spectators look at Tesla

Spectators look at Tesla’s ‘Optimus’ humanoid robot during the 2023 World Artificial Intelligence Conference. The humanoid is equipped with the same fully autonomous computer and visual neural network system as Tesla cars. He can also use motion capture to “learn” humans. (Photo: CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

“It’s well known that humans possess inherent flaws, including behaviors such as lying and cheating,” he says. “If these negative human traits were to be learned by robots with extremely powerful computational and physical abilities, the consequences could indeed be disastrous. Conversely, if robots were to acquire and appropriately use positive traits such as friendliness, helpfulness, and kindness, the potential benefits to society would be truly remarkable and beyond imagination.

Additionally, the tools and gadgets throughout the film that might seem like pure science fiction at the time are quite common today, Wang notes. This includes unmanned vehicles and drones operating remotely or autonomously, as well as autonomous surveillance systems, cybersecurity and command/control systems that process data in real time to improve human decision-making, which are all featured by Schwarzenegger in the film.

Such inventions testify to the imagination of designers inspired by science fiction, agrees Champandard, but it is important to know that machines do not come up with new ideas on their own. They need a little help from us.

“Learning AI today is now done by assimilating large amounts of data and learning from it en masse,” he says. “It’s not very human, but can serve as a substitute. So instead of learning on the fly, AI systems can simply recall past situations from training data and use them. »

Can AI develop consciousness?

It’s important to differentiate consciousness from intelligence, Schmidhuber points out. Consciousness, which is not accessible to machines, is a state of self-awareness, while intelligence is an ability to learn, understand and ultimately apply this knowledge to adapt to new situations.

Still, “we’re getting closer” to AIs becoming as sophisticated as human scientists, he says, noting that computing is becoming “10 times cheaper” every few years.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger (as Terminator T-800) reveals the metallic endoskeleton of his forearm and hand T2. (Photo: Paramount Pictures via Getty Images)

“The 21st century will see inexpensive computers with a thousand times the raw computing power of all human brains combined,” he continues. “Soon there will be millions, billions and trillions of such devices. Almost all intelligence will be outside the human brain.

It may sound daunting, but Schmidhuber says the amount of intelligence gained in various gadgets and machines will help us perform mundane tasks more efficiently.

“AI will continue to make human life longer, healthier and easier,” he says. “AI will likely play a much more overt role in future society than it does now. Expect more interactions with machines and automated systems.

‘Hes people who are people’s greatest enemies

Machines declaring war on humans is a terrifying thought, but experts say we shouldn’t let sci-fi movies deter us from exploring the potential of AI.

“Due to the limited knowledge of the underlying technology and the influence of entertainment media, there is a sense of apprehension about the development of AI,” says Wang. “The current state of AI is a far cry from Skynet’s fictional system.”

“Unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger’s films, there won’t be a lot of direct goal conflicts between ‘us’ and ‘them’.” predicts Schmidhuber. “Humans and others are mostly interested in similar beings with whom they share goals, so they have a reason to compete and/or collaborate.

“Just as humans are primarily interested in other humans, super-intelligent AIs will be primarily interested in other super-intelligent AIs,” he continues. “It’s people who are people’s greatest enemies, but also their best friends. Similar for autonomous AIs. In the long run, humans will be shielded to some extent by AI’s disinterest in humans.

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