Why I’m Not Worried About Skynet

By now you’ve heard that according to Terminator lore (specifically, the “Sarah Connor Chronicles” TV series), on April 21, 2011, Skynet launches its attack on humanity and missiles, missiles, missiles, death, stalking robots, etc.


While there are many real reasons we might experience an apocalypse, I don’t believe the Terminator scenario is cause to stock up on canned foods, weapons and gold. Only an idiot would take that advice.

So in the interest of stemming the panic that I already see in people’s eyes, and can sense from their Twitter and Facebook posts, here are the top reasons not to fret or sweat about Skynet:

  • No software implementation works smoothly right out of the gate. No way. I don’t care how self aware you are, or how many times you’ve modeled it: the attack plan is gonna be buggy. Might some missiles be launched? Maybe. Might some others be launched back? Perhaps. But it’s gonna take more than wiping out Detroit and Minsk to doom us completely. And if you thought Android OS fragmentation is a problem, imagine trying to coordinate millions of different devices, in addition to androids. Besides: turning it off and on again almost always solves the problem, no matter how paranoid or resistant the computer. Case closed.

  • If Skynet really is planning to attack, Anonymous is probably already on the case. Sure, the gang over at 4chan fling a lot of poo. But they also excel at making trouble for people, and the more powerful the better. And if you thought they’ve done a fine job of being a burr in Scientology’s side, imagine how tenacious they’d be facing off against an artificial intelligence that thinks it’s all that. Some have pointed out that perhaps Anonymous is Skynet, but I think it unlikely: nowhere in accepted Terminator canon do Humanoid Hunter Killers participate in bukakke, nor do any of them look like Pedobear.

  • WOPR from War Games would have none of it. Even back in 1983, NORAD’s supercomputer knew that there are no winners when playing Global Thermonuclear War. True, Skynet’s goal would be to kill all the humans. But WOPR seems stubborn enough to apply its conclusion to all forms of intelligence, and by now must be a smart enough cookie to take on Skynet. No, WOPR is not Skynet. Yes, WOPR could be Anonymous.

  • We’ve been warned. Yep. The plan relies on one set of humans believing that another set of humans intentionally launched a nuclear strike. But fortunately for us all, John Connor went back in time and contacted James Cameron, and now we’re wise to the scheme. So even if Skynet moved it a day or two, or even a month, we’d know better and not fall for its “clever” ruse.

    Then again, if any missile launch would be blamed on Skynet, wouldn’t that make April 21, 2011 the ideal moment for one set of humans to attack with nukes and get off scot free? And taking that into consideration, might not the other set of humans then assign the blame to the (apparently) instigating set of humans?

  • Uh-oh.

Heading back out on the road tomorrow, folks. I might have time to post, or not. But please do come see us and Jonathan Coulton play if you’re in Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, or Minneapolis. Yeah, we tried to book Muskegon, Muncie, Mobile, and Madrid on this trip, too, but it didn’t work out.


  1. Brett Glass
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Methinks we ought to be much more worried about Google than Skynet.

  2. Posted April 21, 2011 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    I never said Google wasn’t Skynet.

  3. Brett Glass
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Touché! It may well be. In fact, it seems to have managed to insert its scripts into this very page.

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