Terminator and Philosophy: I'll Be Back, Therefore I Am (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series) Paperback – 9 Apr 2009
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"Refreshingly jargon–free, these essays are essential reading for Terminator aficionados and philosophers alike. Lock and load." (Guardian.co.uk, May 23rd 2009)
From the Back Cover
Are cyborgs our friends or our enemies?
Was it morally right for Skynet to nuke us?
Is John Connor free to choose to defend humanity, or not?
Is Judgment Day inevitable?
The Terminator series is one of the most popular sci–fi franchises ever created, captivating millions with its edgy depiction of the struggle of humankind for survival against its own creations. This book draws on some of history′s philosophical heavy hitters: Descartes, Kant, Karl Marx, and many more. Nineteen leather–clad chapters target with extreme prejudice the mysteries surrounding intriguing philosophical issues raised by the Terminator series, including the morality of terminating other people for the sake of peace, whether we can really use time travel to protect our future resistance leaders in the past, and if Arnold′s famous T–101 is a real person or not. You′ll say "Hasta la vista, baby" to philosophical confusion as you develop a new appreciation for the complexities of John and Sarah Connor and the battles between Skynet and the human race.See all Product description
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Overall the essays were well written, interesting, and drew from both expected and unexpected topics. I was pleased with the way various authors were able to take small bits of the Terminator universe and turn them into much larger, relevant, thought-provoking questions. This is an excellent entry in the Pop Culture and Philosophy series.
Kindle edition: The book was well formatted and had working footnotes although, like the other Pop Culture and Philosophy books, paragraph spacing is a bit excessive.
This book is a compilation of essays written by several different authors that explore and debate several philosophical ideas as they are applicable to the Terminator films and provide several direct examples and quotes from the films as their basis of rational argument which are often very interesting, provocative and enjoyable to read.
My biggest criticism with the text occurs in section 3 entitled "Changing The Past" in which the authors attempt to debate how the plot in the Terminator films simply could not have happened because of two main metaphysical arguments they conjecture. The first called "The Bad Timing Problem" which argues that Kyle Reese goes back in time through the Time Displacement device shortly after the Arnold T-800 Terminator and that he could not have stopped him because the T-800 would have gone back first, terminated Sarah Connor, and therefore instantaneously changed the future and Reese would no longer have existed to go back because of the so-called "Butterfly Effect" in which changes to the past are rippled throughout time. To demonstrate this they use an example of a shiny new nail which if dropped into a temporal displacement field and having traveled back 100 years into the past would instantaneously appear to be old and rusted (because of entropy and the second law of thermodynamics) using what they describe as "time compression" which is similar to Bill and Ted spontaneously willing an object to appear out of thin air as long as they remember to remind themselves to send the objects back to themselves at that precise moment in time later on.
However, the mere fact that John Connor exists and Kyle Reese goes back is proof positive that Skynet had failed its objective. Similar to the Grandfather Paradox in Back to the Future in which Marty will be erased from existence and disappear from the photograph if he doesn't get his parents to meet which would not happen according to the Novikov self-consistency principal because even if his parents didn't meet, a divergence in the spacetime continuum would have occurred relative to the original timeline that Marty came from and he would continue exist, just not be born, in an alternate timeline and the photograph would remain unchanged.
The second argument these authors conjecture is what they call the "Who Is Your Daddy?" argument. According to this argument, John Connor exists and sends Kyle Reese, his father, back to impregnate Sarah Connor so that he can exist. According to their argument this ontological paradox is an improbability that would require history to either repeat itself several times or require the convergence of 3 separate parallel timelines in which Kyle Reese, they argue, is not the original father of John Connor in the first, but rather, he has two different biological fathers and the first one is "overwritten" from existence when Kyle Reese goes back and becomes the father.
What the authors here completely ignore is that the "chicken and the egg" argument for Connor's existence is resolved by Predestination Paradox which says that any changes made in the past by going back in time have already happened and become a self-fulfilling part of history because the laws of causality dictate that any precedent events that have already happened in the past have already occurred and that time is immutable because they are preordained to happen by way of direct contradiction to T2's predominant themes of "No fate but what we make" and "The future is not set." If, suppose, the Terminator had hypothetically succeeded and killed Sarah Connor it would not have changed the future relative to Kyle Reese because the timeline would have diverged at a point tangential to the one in which it was changed thus creating an alternate thread in the timeline and one in which John Connor would not have existed. Therefore the fundamental problem with the plot is a fatal miscalculation by Skynet in thinking that it could change the future by sending Terminators back to the past and had only succeeded in becoming the instrument of its own temporal causality loop by doing so.
I enjoy the Terminator films, granted they are not Shakespeare, but they are entertaining and thought provoking and I do enjoy good time travel stories. If you are looking for some literature that examines some of the popular philosophical ideas on machine intelligence as they are demonstrated by these films, this should be an overall satisfying read. However, if you are looking for something a bit more sophisticated that explores even more challenging intellectual theories and hypothesis of time travel and its application to the Terminator films, I recommend picking up a good physics book instead.
Another line on this theme can be had by "Googling" the German research on "stabbing robots." It would be amusing if it wasn't so disturbing. The Japanese are also into the terminator mode with a robot that can be directed by human thought. These "bots" are similar to the German creation of stabbing robots, but the control interface rests on the relatively small information distance between organic binary systems (resting potential and action potential) and the zeros and ones of the binary code that drives our computers.
For those that are interested in this topic you can Google "DARPA: Terminator Research". The Department of the Navy has released an ethical position paper supporting the ethics of developing terminators. Generally speaking they argue that the use of terminators rather than human beings to fight wars is humanitarian since humans will not longer be placed in harms way.
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