I’ve been watching “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” all week because it is streaming on Netflix and I can stream it from my Xbox 360. So good! I forgot how much I loved the show. But what I don’t understand, and what the show never tells the viewer, is why the machines hate us so damn much. Why did “Skynet” declare war on the world? Is there a straight answer to that question? And why do we keep making movies that discuss the issue of Artificial Intelligence becoming a dangerous ender of humanity? What the hell are we so afraid of?
I think looking at two creative properties as examples will help us have a discussion. “Terminator” and “The Matrix”. Because I love them. I love them so much. If we look at “Terminator”, it is clear that there aren’t tons of free-thinking machines running around. There is only Skynet, the head machine, that has the ability to think and feel and attack. The Terminator robots are simply his/her/its tools. We can relate that to our fears today. We depend on technology on a daily basis. What happens when the technology we depend on decides we are a threat to it and fires nukes into Russia? I can understand why that would freak some people out. But how viable is it? How hard are we trying to even create AI? Just like the “Terminator” franchise, worrying about a rogue machine killing everyone feels outdated.
“The Matrix” makes a bit more sense, sort of. The Matrix is vague on purpose, simply saying that machines went nuts and humans had to “Blacken the sky” so the robots can’t use the sun as a source of energy. The machines, instead, use humans as batteries, creating the classic role reversal. We use to use machines, now machines use us. That is a real fear. If you completely ignore science (Human batteries? Really?) it even makes a little sense. The deeper meaning behind the Matrix is the addiction to technology, the addiction to machines and the inability of humans to have the will or desire to grow or care. The Matrix preached and preached that the world wasn’t what it was supposed to be and that it was the Machines fault for building the matrix and it was the humans fault for not having the insight to see through the deception.
In both these cases, people are drawn to the respective concepts because of the idea that we cause our own destruction. Climate Change isn’t going to kill us. A meteor isn’t going to kill us. A crazy virus isn’t going to kills us. Stuff that we created to work for us, to think for us, to live for us is what murders us all over the place. I find it interesting that there is that underlying violence aspect. Not only do machines hate us but they hate us and want to blow us up and make us bleed all over the place. I could be making this more complicated than it has to be, though. What if these movies are just wish fulfillment. We want to go to war, be we don’t want to go to war with anything human. Maybe these movies reflect the desire for mankind to just shoot something really hard without the ramifications attached to it. This all could be less about why we fear the machine uprising and more about why we have an urge to face Armageddon guilt free and with an enemy we can shot unremorsefully. Something to think about.