James Cameron’s best sci-fi film on HBO Max reveals a modern-day threat to society

“I’ll be back.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s murderous cyborg uttered these infamous words in the sci-fi action classic, The Terminator. That’s right, the killer robot came back next Terminator 2 — but his words also have a more ominous tone today, when killer robots are actually poised to hit the city streets.

Cities like San Francisco have considered deploying police robots equipped with explosives, which means we’re now expanding the realm of military robots from the battlefield into our everyday lives. But just how dangerous are these robots to humans – and is a future where intelligent robots take revenge on humans inevitable?

Inverse spoke to experts to find out if the robot-human collides Terminator 2 they are a distant threat — or hammering at our front door.

“There is a real danger to humans from some military robots designed with malicious intent,” says futurist Andrew Curry. Inverse.

Reel Science it is one Inverse series that reveals the real (and fake) science behind your favorite movies and TV.

Are killer robots really real?

The real killer robots are nothing like the ones inside Terminator 2, but they exist – and potentially threaten human society – experts say. Tri-Star Images

In a word: yes. We’ve seen killer robots used in a variety of military applications, from the controversial use of autonomous drones in the war in Afghanistan to the British developing a full-scale unmanned naval training operation. Curry calls such military drones “flying robots.”

Most uses of killer robots have been in the military, but in 2016, a deadly robot took out an armed sniper in Dallas. Some say killer robots can help prevent human casualties by putting machines rather than people at risk — like the robot dogs briefly used by the NYPD and then removed from their duties in New York amid backlash.

“A police force might decide to send in a bunch of robots to try to take down a bunch of criminals in some critical situation, where it’s judged that the risk to the police is too high to want to send in human officers,” Sven Nyholm, assistant professor of philosophy at Utrecht University and author of the book Humans and Robots: Ethics, Agency and Anthropomorphism, says Inverse.

Curry also says there are robots that are simply used to clear mines and do not use lethal force. However, activist groups such as Stop Killer Robots support the implementation of lethal robots, citing ethical concerns.

“There’s a very lively debate about this in military and security circles, and there are activist groups trying to create a code of conduct around the use of such robots against humans,” Curry explains.

Are there ‘smart’ killer robots in our future?

In Terminator 2John Connor reprograms one of the killer robots and sends it back in time to protect his younger self. Tri-Star Images

Right now, most killer robots aren’t particularly “intelligent” – and many require humans to control them, like autonomous drones. But as AI technology advances and is incorporated into robotics, more and more people are sounding the alarm about intelligent robots – like what we see in Finisher franchise — threatening people. Other AI experts worry about smart robots replicating existing biases in law enforcement, such as targeting people with darker skin.

“Machines don’t see us as humans, just another piece of code to be processed and sorted,” writes Stop Killer Robots on its website.

But experts say there’s a big leap between the killer robots we see in law enforcement today and the sophisticated futuristic robots in Terminator 2which can basically mimic humans — to some extent.

“I think it’s important to make a distinction between whether robots will be (soon) because they’re going to be super-intelligent in general, on the one hand, and if they’re going to become super-competent with respect to some narrower task or set of tasks.” says Nyholm.

So-called general artificial intelligence – in which robots can perform a range of flexible tasks in different functions – is still difficult to achieve. Instead, AI can perform a number of narrowly defined tasks very well, such as a military robot searching for hidden explosives. So the same robot that can kill people effectively would be useless at talking like a human.

“It may be possible – in the near future – to build robots that are highly intelligent with respect to some narrow task/set of tasks,” Nyholm says.

However, Nyholm believes that AI does not need to be intelligent to harm us. They can harm us by accident by doing things no human would do—even if they’re not meant to harm humans—or by design, like military robots.

“It’s to be expected that AI technologies that usually work very well—and generally benefit human beings—will sometimes underperform and harm human beings,” Nyholm says.

Will robots inevitably clash with humans?

Robots probably won’t take revenge on humans – but that doesn’t mean they can’t hurt us. Shutterstock

Although the reprogrammed Terminator subsequently protects young John Connor, the robots are generally tools of the super-intelligent AI Skynet sent to destroy humanity. But experts don’t think a robot uprising is actually on the cards.

“As for political robots going rogue, that’s a bit of a deep myth of industrial civilization, going back to Frankenstein. That’s less likely to happen,” says Curry.

Nyholm agrees, laying out his general premise Terminator 2 firmly in the realm of science fiction.

“What is less likely – and should be considered science fiction – is that there will be a large-scale conflict between an army of robots on the one hand and human beings on the other, where the two are supposed to be members of the same group,” adds Nyholm.

But that doesn’t mean robots don’t pose a threat to humans – far from it. In fact, robots are already unintentionally harming people. Curry shows self-driving cars causing accidents because they can’t process road conditions. Nyholm also says that a police robot might accidentally harm one of the officers it’s helping instead of the criminals it’s supposed to catch.

Even creepier, Nyholm says a robot-human war could happen — but not in the way Terminator 2 shows. Conversely, a technologically advanced nation like the US can send robots to fight humans in a country with fewer technological resources.

“So on one side of an armed conflict there would be mostly robots on the front lines while on the other side there would be mostly humans on the front lines,” Nyholm says.

Terminator 2: JJudgement day now streaming on HBO Max.

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