The "Rational" Terminator

I want to take a moment away from all the other stuff that's going on with CVAAS and Skeptical and Secular activism to make a quick observation about something that's purely fantasy - the Terminator franchise.

As a hard-core Science Fiction junkie I've watched all the Terminator movies - I save up episodes of the Sara Conner Chronicles and watch them in bursts - when I have a little time. I've been keeping up with the Terminator Alternate Reality Game.

But one thing keeps bugging me about the whole time travel aspect.

Forget that Time Travel isn't real, and that the best of physicists point out that there is little chance that humans will ever experience it. Forget that Terminators have to be wrapped in meat or "mimetic polyalloy" in order to successfully time travel.

The point is that these thinking machines CAN time travel, and they're missing their best bet - von Neumann machines.

Forget 2008, or even 1988 - instead the winning game strategy for these game-playing machines is to carpet-bomb resource rich areas around the planet with self-replicating, self-contained micro-factories - in one million BC.

In a couple of hundred years the machines from the future could transform the planet into wall-to-wall metal and concrete - completely displacing the niches of any annoyingly intelligent future animals.

And even if there is time travel restrictions that prevent machines from being sent back earlier than 1998, von Neumann machines - especially in nanomachine sizes - is still the winning game strategy. Drop them into resource rich areas with the instruction to burrow underground and multiply until they get to the point where world conquest becomes simple.

For efficient self-replicating factories this should only take a couple of years - and might only take months.

It might seem silly to apply rational thought to movies, but I do it all the time. I'm quite willing to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the show - even in the face of egregious science fallacies or flaws as long as the movie takes pains to point out which areas we will agree to ignore.

Flying people - fine. Spaceships that intercept threatening meteors - fine.

But if Superman picks up an office building, it should crumble to bits - not stay in one piece. Spaceships shouldn't make noises in space (and they really shouldn't bank when they turn either). And an explosive charge on the surface of a threatening meteor should make a bunch of smaller threatening meteors from gravel size up to house size.

I do pick at movies while I'm watching them, and still enjoy the movie. But sometimes the discrepancies are just too jarring and I fall completely out of my state of suspended disbelief. That's a mark of a bad movie.

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