‘Terminator’ is back! AI experts do a reality check

'Terminator: Dark Fate'
The killer robot in “Terminator: Dark Fate,” played by Gabriel Luna, can split into a human-looking ectoskeleton at left, and a metallic endoskeleton at right. (Paramount Pictures Photo)

He promised he’d be back — and 35 years after Arnold Schwarzenegger created what’s now a cliche for artificial intelligence gone wrong in the first “Terminator” movie, the cinematic nightmares about time-traveling killer robots have returned to the big screen.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” also marks the return of writer/producer James Cameron — who directed the first two movies in the franchise, but wasn’t involved in the three sequels that followed. Cameron skips over those films and reboots the saga with an alternate timeline for the robo-apocalypse.

Although monstrous machines have figured in movie plots since Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” in 1927, Schwarzenegger’s performance in “The Terminator” set the stage for worries about out-of-control intelligent machines.

Billionaire techie Elon Musk is among the best-known doomsayers. “I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see robots going down the street, killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” Musk said in 2017.

On the other side of the debate, Oren Etzioni, the CEO of Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, or AI2, keeps telling people to calm down. “Even though AI is more and more being used, I want to reassure people that Skynet and Terminator are not around the corner for many, many reasons,” he told GeekWire in 2016.

Does the new “Terminator” movie update the saga with all the developments in AI, automation and robotics since 1984? How does “Dark Fate” stack up against the realities of our AI age? To get some informed perspectives, I invited two folks who work in the field to watch the movie with me — and share their thoughts afterward.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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