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T3 review: Part III

Contrary to what I’d read, the film did cover some new ground thematically. In T1, the future really is carved in stone. Everybody plays their part in a timeline that proves itself completely self-contained and immutable. In T2, the characters manage to break the cycle and stave off the nuclear holocaust that would have set John Connor on the path to his glorious destiny as the savior of the human race. In T3, John does not know what point his life serves now that humanity no longer needs his heroic services, but he can hardly feel disappointment over the fact that he, his mother, and his cyborg protector have saved humanity from nuclear devastation, enslavement, and decades of misery and hardship.

Then the time-traveling robo-hitmen show up again, carnage ensues, and when the film settles down to take a breather, Arnie explains with poetic terseness, “Judgment Day is inevitable. You only postponed it.”

And I thought, ‘Yeah, given the mindless escalation of our military might and our headlong plunge into robotics and AI technology (funded and directed primarily by the military), Judgment Day does seem inevitable. “We” are barreling full steam ahead with the development of autonomous cybernetic killing machines that we expect to exterminate certain humans and protect others. It boggles my tiny human mind that any rational being could seriously cling to the fantasy that these autonomous and increasingly efficient cybernetic killers will see any meaningful difference between “us” humans, who must be defended, and “them” humans, who must be annihilated. And yet, what AI researcher is going to turn down a blank check from the military that will allow him to pursue his life’s passion? And even if a few pioneers in the field do turn down the big research dollars, plenty of eager beavers will step up to take the money.’

The train of thought the movie inspired in me brought up more than just the obvious associations, like Bill Joy’s infamous Wired magazine meditation Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us, but also the work of Dr. Laurence J. Peter (author of The Peter Principle and The Peter Prescription) who carefully distinguishes between having a direction and having an objective. The current technological rush to create our own executioners is an example of mindless escalation by a society with direction but no clear objective. Dr. Peter writes:

An objective is a description of what things will be like when a goal has been achieved. It is a statement identifying the intended conditions for the conclusion of an activity.

An objective is different from a direction. It is really a destination. To make more money is a direction, not an objective. A man whose ambition is to make more money has a direction but not an objective. Presumably his escalatory behavior will only come to rest when he has acquired all the money in the world.

In a war being fought without an objective, body counts may be used as an indication of direction. Unless the number of persons killed is related to the achievement of an objective, the escalation of killing will cease only when all those persons presumed to be the enemy are dead.

Usually something will intervene to stop the perpetuation of continuous escalation. Death ends the escalation of the financially ambitious individual. The participants in the war tire of the struggle and find a way out.

The lack of rationally constructed objectives is evident in many of man’s enterprises. Unfortunately, he does not need worthwhile objectives to keep him striving. All he needs is direction, even if it is escalation for escalation’s sake or self-destructive escalation to oblivion.

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