Friendly AI doesn't mean following Asimov's Three Laws
Feb 28, 2011
When I first heard about the Terminator TV-series it sounded pretty boring. Just a rehash of the movies. That might have been the reason that not enough people watched it, which got it killed after two seasons. Shame, as it’s one of the smartest science fiction series I’ve seen in years. Using the end of the second movie as a starting point, but still referencing events from the third (the death of Sarah due to cancer), it goes along expected paths (Terminators from the future try to help Skynet by killing people in the past), but manages to break entirely new ground. A major plotline is about the creation of a friendly AI that might one day help against Skynet.
This is not a friendly AI like Data, a machine pining to be human. Even the non-antagonistic machines in the Sarah Connor Chronicles can be ruthless killing machines, not inhibited by the framework of the human mind. They want to understand us, but that doesn’t mean they want to be us. You want true post-humans on TV, watch this series. Most overly optimistic science fiction about the post-human condition forgets what it actually means, to go beyond human. It’s an entirely different frame of mind, one most humans can’t cope with or even accept. Most of the characters on the show, despite knowing for example what Cameron is, still act as if she were human, anthropomorphizing her every step of the way, framing her actions in a human narrative.
When James Allison tried to teach the friendly AI human values, he forgot that there was a third option beyond Skynet’s genocidal tendencies and his own values. John Henry could change the rules and make up his own mind about which rules he wanted to follow. If the series had been allowed to go on, it might have been interesting to see how Henry’s morality developed (if you wonder why that might be interesting, consider embodied cognition and all its implications for an artificial being like Henry). Now we’ll never know. But those two season were pure gold.
An interesting enough idea, but the execution just bored me to tears, even though they had Summer Glau (River from Firefly) playing the Terminator! I really, really tried to get into it, but I couldn't. Plus, if you're a purist, this show's continuity completely disrupts the entire Terminator universe.
Based on the phenomenally popular Terminator movie franchise, the Fox network's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was NOT a sequel to the third theatrical film in the series, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines--nor could it have been, since (SPOILER ALERT!) that particular epic ended with the destruction of civilization and the death of the heroine. Instead, the Fox TV series picked up the action where the second of the three films, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, left off, going its merry way as if Terminator 3 never existed. After the reprogrammed T-800 Model 101 Terminator (the role played in the second film by Arnold Schwarzenegger) had sacrificed itself to save humanity, Sarah Connor (Lena Headey) and her 15-year-old son John (Thomas Dekker)--who was destined to grow up and lead a resistance movement against the rulers of post-apocalyptic Earth--were stalked by the futuristic agents of the covert US government project Skynet. Just as the titular robotic villain of the original 1984 Terminator movie had sent been back into time to kill Sarah Connor so that John would never be born, so too had the bad guys travelled backward to 2007 to knock off both John and Sarah. Fighting fire with fire, the Connors became fugitives from the law, dedicating themselves to preventing Skynet from being created--and, ultimately, from devastating the earth in a nuclear holocaust. They were aided by Connor's mysterious classmate Cameron Phillips (Summer Glau), who was actually a "good" ...