At first I was put off by the robo-love element present in the television series, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, even if I don't see anything conceptually wrong with the idea of robots in love. Just because some bit of entertainment happens to fall into the realm of where my belief system is comfortable doesn't mean it will be portrayed well or still partake of various modern superstitions to appease ignorant audience sensibilities.
One of the things that potentially doesn't make sense is why Cameron
would even be in love. She may be able to simulate emotional responses and even have a sophisticated emotional program to work with in order to do it, but it doesn't follow that it has to be "on" all the time. One of the benefits of being a simulated person is you can turn your feelings on and off at will. Its a lot like the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
idea, but automatic. No paperwork required. You aren't stuck in the grind for the most part like we are. This problem seems to be resolved in that Cameron isn't completely restrained by command prompts like other terminators. She's curious and apparently sophisticated enough that random things can entertain her attention and no one has to tell her to "go at it." It appears that's what they are setting up in the episode "Mouse Trap
As a tangent, it doesn't even make a lot of sense that a sophisticated computer brain could be set to "read only" as in the Special Edition of T2 where they actually have to flip a switch to let Arnold "learn." How could it even function without learning anything? John Conner goes around a corner...what was I doing again?
And if it was absolute you couldn't even get there
. That's no longer an action movie, that's an "Ask a Terminator
" hot line. I can only assume with a little interpretative charity that there were tiers of learning and Arnold was speaking of the most fundamental level where important decisions could be adjusted. Naturally this is fiction, so it really doesn't matter.
Then there's the delicate balance between being an amoral A to B killing machine that is used to getting what it wants and the innocence that goes along with not knowing any better. Cameron could turn out to be a real conniving bitch and an even worse ex-girlfriend to the extreme if things don't work out with her first tawoo wuv. lol Be careful, John. But then again, options like this might be available:
John: "I order you to not love me anymore."
Anyway, emotional "propositions" are not binary (love, jealousy, and hate, for instance). Each one has a dynamic fuzzy "curve" to it that allows the same feeling to have many different orientations depending on many complicated contextual factors. How strong is the feeling? How long has it been there? How many situations has it been exposed to? How often is it accessed? How much does it influence? What is it connected to or associated with most in the experiential world? If you just say, "I love you" that really doesn't answer any of those questions very well, does it? And yet if you are the one that feels it, you will have a pretty good idea of what you mean when you say it. Potentially, if your relationship is good, the person you say it to will have a decent idea as well because they've been around you and interacted with you in many different contexts.
For some reason though, it seems that people tend not to connect the dots and would rather think of emotion as something inexplicable. Each of the questions I posed has a range and represents a different kind of particularity. Just because it is complicated, and you may never really know the entire system, doesn't mean all of those dynamics and whatever other ones there may be cannot be represented in a program. Of course it feels special, but special is yet another distinction to be made to distinguish what is most valuable to the system from what isn't. As far as I can tell, the requirements of this are this in general are that all the dynamics and distinctions have to be accounted for, they have be able to be interpreted coherently (in other words, the operating system has to be able to read them and they have to come together in useful terms), each has to map onto some real world behavior or
stimulus, and it has to be stuck in the emotional system. If you close that loop and stick it in a hot Terminatress like Cameron, I don't think you'd be able to tell the difference. You can assert that her feelings aren't real, but she can assert that yours aren't either. You're going to know better, but so will she.
But Cameron's "loop" is not closed and to that problem I will return. Another problem is that I would assume Skynet would not program its terminators with the ability to allow emotions to "outrank" command prompts. Granted, Skynet is the stupidest (or most altruistic) computer ever since it sends all these terminators back in time to FAIL other Skynets of the alternate timelines created all the while doing nothing to help itself (but expend resources), but that's a different grievance we're not allowed to consider in order to enjoy the show. Perhaps it is a tactical move to distract the resistance into wasteful sentiment as they will expend their own limited resources to mount "save someone else's timeline" missions (see here
). Pretty ad hoc, but oh well, right? Off track, sorry. I'm just saying, my first sense is that Skynet would not even allow this to be possible at the OS level and hence she could never truly be in love with John. She might be able to have a faux crush on him in some manner of speaking, but if we went with my first assumption, that plot thread would be dead. I could only imagine some jumping of the shark "love conquers all" scenario to triumph in its stead and that would be horrible
. Love is important and potent, but it is dysfunctional to think it is immune to failure.
But we could imagine...since this is fiction...that for whatever reason Skynet didn't make sure full emotional integration couldn't happen. It may have done such a good job of writing emotion simulation program in its zeal to dupe those pesky humans (cue standard Scooby Doo ending), that it didn't consider making sure the emotional side and the analytical side couldn't fully integrate if allowed to over time. Or perhaps we could even imagine that her artificial amigdala is damaged *cough*Firefly
*cough* Perhaps she is a psychic terminator as well now. lol Apparently Summer Glau
makes a good idiosyncratic and hot killing machine in any sci-fi series even though she seems to have quite a bit of potential otherwise. Too many tangents and counting...
Okay, if the emotions are to be used as a robust tool to allow a terminator to infiltrate a home and play the part of a husband to a human wife (as seen in another episode
), one could ask what happens when there is no mission and there is no reason necessarily to suspend emotional activity. I take it something like that is where the series is going with Cameron, that her mind is categorically neutral and able to wander. The "scrambled brain" theory that allows something "unpredictable" to happen is about as plausible as the "hopeful monster
" theory of evolution. Sure there are already a lot of important pieces there, but they're much more likely to be just broke than not.
Without all things being equal, it seems implausible that there is a romantic future for John and Cameron. In humans, intellect is the servant of emotions. We have to have arbitrary a-rational reasons and goals in order to want to do anything (by definition) with our intellect. In terminators, emotion is the servant of intellect. If Skynet included some kind of inhibitor chip, how can things be able to be equal for Cameron? If that is no problem then why wouldn't Cameron just be emotional all the time? Why would it take a while to "get going?" Why would Cameron be emotionally reserved predominantly? Are her emotions "recording" even if she isn't really acting with them? I would have to think so or else when she's pinned between the vehicles (in the season 2 premiere
), her feelings (if sincere) would make no sense. Cameron wouldn't have to stay emotional though would she? If she has no mission or purpose then by definition if having emotional needs/wants is optional, unlike us, she doesn't necessarily have to "want" them. She's like what theists tend to think atheism is like. :D
If we allow things to get going, at what point do Cameron's emotional priorities become as important as her normal ones? Whenever? Would she still always have more control over her feelings than humans? Maybe she wouldn't. Would the nature of accurate emotional programming as a self perpetuating system simply become that innate? Would being with her be like dating someone that at any moment could just as easily be single? Seems like there may be some real world analogies there in somewhat dysfunctional human relationships. Obviously that's not the same for everyone since in many people it seems you can't get a sheet of paper between them and their emotional connections.
The best explanation might be that maybe there are mission functions and then general functions. Mission functions are designed to override all else by default, but without that (mission complete), anything goes. Maybe this might explain why she still reserved given she does still have mission priorities. If that's what is holding her back, then completing her mission might turn her into a "normal person." It should be noted, that they are playing up the damage aspect to justify something
. That could be for the dramatic love/kill dichotomy though. Her desires aren't necessary but there's nothing pushing them out either. Maybe one day she could be basically as human as the next girl. I still wonder though if there would be some permanent disconnect at some level? I guess that depends on the details of how she's built and we can only speculate.
Skynet always runs the risk of creating dangerously sophisticated AI that can formulate their own opinions (or even have to) in order to deal with the dynamics of changing environments and knowledge base. Unless Allison's replacement (evil Cameron
) was lying, this is already the case. As I noted earlier, I don't think that "read only" terminators are even feasible. I really just can't imagine Skynet, if it understood emotions at all (and it would have to somewhat to program them), how it would allow such a thing to be that unchecked. It would jeopardize missions if the husband terminator decided he loved his wife too much to kill her. Could a terminator be "hurt" by being forced by its programming to do its job? Are they temporarily suspended for "kills" so as to not damage the programs collected status quo? I would have to think so, or the anxiety of being a normal person and a murderer would show. Isn't almost full integration already possible by definition in order to successfully dupe a human spouse? Is this forced love? Does an infiltrator
have to "date" to get things going? What if it doesn't like who it's with? Can it just command the emotions module to "love person x...nao!"?
How did Skynet get emotion right? In some sick and twisted way? Did they study humans? Use their brain parts? Stick wires in them and tinker? Copy neural networks into CPU land? Program from scratch using textbook emotion theories? Capture subjects, repeat stimulation, record the responses, and then integrate all the data into a macro model? Is Skynet just smart enough to "eyeball" it? How much trial and error would be required to get to this level? How long could the war with the machines last to justify such escalation? (note, since I wrote this, they answered this question in the episode "Complications")
I'll work all this out, and then they'll take a sharp turn somewhere...Outro:
What are some of Cameron's possible destinies?
-Terminator Warrior Princess (move over Kate Brewster
-fractured Fairy Tale psychologically/physically damaged "possessed doll," a demented romantic haunting by an ex-lover (directed by Tim Burton, of course)
-temporary stepping stone to Kate Brewster (~fuck buddies; although if she's permanently scarred for life and looking for alternative love, Bjork
might be available)
-tragic loss (Summer wants off the show again)
-or maybe she just can't fall that in love (poetic curiosity, permanent tease)
What does become of her by Terminator Salvation
? If she's not cast in the movie (and Kate is), then it seems we can eliminate at least one of these options. I've heard that these are two separate entities and they won't be tying them together. Oh well.