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The Terminator Timeline Explained The Rise Of A.I. According To Arnold Schwarzenegger

As it has grown, branched off, and faced a few retcons over the years, the "Terminator" franchise timeline has fallen under some serious criticism from fans. It's messy, doesn't make a lot of sense, and isn't worth trying to sort out in the minds of many, thanks to all kinds of time travel plots and alternate universe creations. According to one of the few constants within it, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who plays various Terminators throughout the series, it's worth taking a second look at for at least one reason: it predicted the real-world rise of artificial intelligence. 

"in 'Terminator,' we talk about the machines becoming self-aware and they take over. Now over the course of decades, it has become a reality. So it's not any more fantasy or kind of futuristic. It is here today," Schwarzenegger said during his An Evening with Arnold Schwarzenegger event (via People). He adds that people have genuine fears over A.I. and that if we don't keep a firm grasp on it, such technology could advance to a level that it becomes self-aware. Thus, as Schwarzenegger warns, it could take over in no time.

There's no denying that there are genuine concerns to be had over the advancement of A.I. and the profound impact it could have on society. At the same time, how accurate is Schwarzenegger's claim regarding real-life A.I. and the "Terminator" franchise?

The Terminator Timeline Explained

The complicated "Terminator" timeline — or timelines, depending on how you look at it — can be difficult to follow, but thankfully, to compare it to Arnold Schwarzenegger's claim about modern A.I., we don't have to go too deep into the weeds. The basic gist is that the company Cyberdyne Systems created an A.I. known as Skynet. It then gained self-awareness, and when its creators attempted to shut it down, it turned nuclear weaponry against humanity in an event dubbed "Judgement Day." Fast forward to the late 2020s, the human resistance led by John Connor manages to defeat Skynet, prompting it to send time-traveling Terminators back to the past at various points in hopes of eliminating him and his mother, Sarah.

Overall, it's plain to see that Schwarzenegger's assessment of real A.I. and the actual "Terminator" series don't quite line up. Still, it's worth taking a look at the story of Cyberdyne to use it as a cautionary tale. It started out as a run-of-the-mill tech company that, as revealed in "Terminator 2: Judgement Day," used pieces of the broken T-800 Terminator (Schwarzenegger) from "The Terminator" to develop Skynet. Willfully ignoring the dangers before them, the folks at Cyberdyne went ahead with their research, driven by profit, a love of science, and their uncompromising hubris.

For the sake of the entire world, we can only hope that the real companies delving into A.I. are aware of the risks. A.I. art generators and the ChatGPT bot may seem like novel creations now, but theoretically, they can go off the rails with ease. If they do, those that created them could walk a similar road as the folks at Cyberdyne if they're not careful.