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Deus ex Machina: AI Apocalypticism in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

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This article examines religious themes in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (T:TSCC). These were already present in the film franchise of which the programme is a spin-off, in particular, in parallels drawn between John Connor, the man prophesized to save humankind from destruction by intelligent machines, and the Christian messiah. However, the TV series revises these parallels in such a way that it is now Terminators, the apparent antagonists, who are repeatedly aligned with Christ and even with God. The article suggests that this change has been influenced by a movement which Robert Geraci terms ‘Apocalyptic AI’, the basic tenet of which is a belief in the imminent arrival of the ‘Singularity:’ the point at which artificial intelligence (AI) will surpass that of humans. Geraci argues that AI Apocalypticism, which has become increasingly popularized in recent years, has absorbed many aspects of Judaeo-Christian belief and rhetoric. Its adherents view AI as a quasi-divine entity capable of instigating the apocalypse, but which may also offer salvation, and is therefore an object of both fascination and fear. This, I will argue, is very much the case in T:TSCC, in which the Terminators are still frightening but may be essential to humanity’s survival.
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Keywords: TV; apocalypse; artificial intelligence; religion; science fiction; the Singularity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: De Montfort University

Publication date: April 1, 2014

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