In the 1984 movie Terminator, an artificially intelligent (AI) defense network called Skynet becomes self-aware and promptly starts a global nuclear war in order to wipe out humanity.
The film utilizes humanity's biggest fears at the time: nuclear annihilation and a robot Arnold Schwarzenegger that's been sent back in time. Our fears and ideas about artificial intelligence have changed somewhat in the last (oh god) 37 years, however – and the director of Terminator has given an update on how he thinks Skynet could feasibly take over the world, with no need to have access to a nuclear arsenal at all.
In an interview with BBC News, James Cameron has spoken of how Skynet could instead merely use fake media and deep fakes in order to make humanity take ourselves out.
"If Skynet wanted to take over and wipe us out, it would actually look a lot like what's going on right now," Cameron said in the interview.
"It's not going to have to wipe out the entire biosphere and environment with nuclear weapons to do it, it's going to be so much easier and less energy required to just turn our minds against ourselves."
The director, who has worked with advanced special effects in films like Avatar, believes that deepfakes could be used to stir up tension and cause damage before the news cycle has had time to debunk whatever the video may be.
“All Skynet would have to do is just deepfake a bunch of people, pit them against each other, stir up a lot of foment and then just run this gigantic deepfake on humanity,”
A fairly convincing deep fake, but still identifiable as a fake.
Cameron doesn't believe that the technology is good enough yet to fool the world – or enough of it, anyway – but thinks that over time that will change. When it does, he fears that people are not skeptical enough of what the media they see to guard themselves against it. The director is also concerned about who will be in control of AI when it does emerge.
"I'm always skeptical of new technology and we all should be. Every single advance in technology that has ever been created has been weaponized. I say this to AI scientists all the time and they say 'no no no, we've got this under control. We just give the AIs the right goals,'" he explained.
"So who's deciding what those goals are? The people who put up the money for research, right? Which are all either big business or defense. So you're going to teach these new sentient entities to be either greedy or murderous."
To add needless ambiguity to the interview, he ended with "I mean I could be a projection of an AI right now."