Why “Terminator Vision” is Inaccurate Terminology


This is one of the possible results of congress enacting the Terminators as Secret Service Agents Act. The world could use fewer jerks.

I found this article on BBC today. Augmented Reality (AR) is a pretty sweet concept. The technology looks very cool, totally validating years of cyberpunk fiction. But there’s a problem with the article as written. And the problem stems not from any direct fault of the journalist, but from a dramatic misunderstanding of the nature of computers and robots.

The article mentions “Terminator Vision” and it is this very concept that is suspect here. By way of explaining, let’s build a mental concept of the flow of information inside of a Terminator’s computer-mind.

In the films (and indeed, in many robot films) when we, the viewers, see from the Terminator’s perspective, it’s a sort of infrared image with a text-based overlay. A Heads Up Display (HUD). I always passed it off as an abstraction, so we could relate, in some way, to how a Terminator relates to the world. However, it never occurred to me that someone would take that as literal. Why, exactly, would a Terminator need to generate this needless text in its image field? It doesn’t need to read it. It creates an unnecessary step in its data processing.

Here’s the algorithm that would be going through the CPU’s image analysis circuit:

  1. Input image from eye-cameras
  2. Analyze image thusly: separate out faces, identify them, identify weapons, identify surrounding structures and other objects
  3. Evaluate possible threat sources
  4. Evaluate possible actions based on threats, possibility for combat, and meaningful interactions with human companions (See Terminator 2: Judgment Day)
  5. Generate text cues
  6. Output: Overlay text cues on HUD for Terminator Higher Brain to then READ and presumably respond.

Why would the Terminator ever need to read this text in order to make an informed decision? The beauty of being a walking computer is the ability to evaluate raw data and process it without forming it into words. It’s faster and far more efficient. I can make allowances for, say, Robocop, who is actually a man with human eyes who might actually need a HUD in order to evaluate incoming data. In fact, any scenario involving a human inside a machine is going to necessitate some sort of AR technology. A cyborg’s lower and higher brain functions occur in the same place (unlike in humans). A cyborg doesn’t need the raw data to be filtered through a process, evaluated, and then passed back through the eyes. It’s ludicrous. Thus, the entire concept of “Terminator Vision” as a euphemism for AR is formed out of ignorance of computer technology. QED.

As for the recent American behavior at town hall meetings: grow up America. Read your history and study other countries. This country is far more likely to turn into Nazi Germany than Maoist China if continue to allow ourselves to be controlled by corporate interests. Don’t people understand that the government is a non-profit organization (or negative-profit, as the case may be)?

I don’t understand how people can allow themselves to be so closed minded about this issue. There is a certain income discrimination going on in health care in this country, and so many people are totally willing to let it continue. I mean, we all know that poor people don’t actually deserve health care, right? Right?

Anyway, one other thing:

Presumably, they would stay in Canada. Where they belong.


6 thoughts on “Why “Terminator Vision” is Inaccurate Terminology

  1. Solid. I enjoy particularly the idea of an SS terminator force. I’m going to be tossing out a piece called “The Rise of Nazi Obama.” this evening. Should address some of these concerns.

  2. Thank you. I have been decrying the heads up display of scrolling text in robot films for years. Finally a fellow advocate in the figt against these propagandist robot films.

  3. I can understand your reasoning up to a point but have to disagree.

    First off, the processed data isn’t “passed back through the eyes.” The visual stream goes from the eyes into the image pre-processor which essentially just digitizes the analog feed. The visual stream is then passed through all the various filters (which operate in parallel): threat assessment, nice clothing identifier, Sarah Conner looks hot today flag, etc. The filters paste the overlay data onto the visual stream before routing it to the final “high level” image processing stage of the brain. The filters also set various discrete bits that are routed to other parts of the brain, e.g. “threat detected”. But these discretes are meant more to stimulate certain cyborg modes, what we would call “emotions” or “feelings”. Such as “Protect/Serve” mode. Or in your sample picture, “Terminate with Extreme Prejudice” mode. Something similar in animals is the fight/flight instinct where an animal can start reacting to a threat even before it has processed it on an intellectual level.

    The fact is, it’s just too difficult to try to formulate precise commands based on the output of the filters, without having the visual stream referenced in it’s entirety. Look at your sample picture for instance, there are hundreds of jerks identified out of a crowd of potentially thousands, along with a conner-figure and fellow terminator. The place where “take out threat #1/#455 while protecting conner#1 at all costs, and accepting assistance of terminator#2, and disregarding one way or the other any other object in the scene” type command is generated in the ‘higher’ level executive function of the brain, not in the image stream at all. That’s exactly why terminators have a higher level executive function.

    Think of this analogy. We could dream in concepts, and this would probably be much more efficient, but then we wouldn’t have any direct way to reference the information we dream. That’s why we dream in visual images.

    To sum up, the text/icon overlayed video stream is sent to the ‘higher’ brain, along with the discrete ’emotion’ bits signaling that some specific action must be taken. Only then can a terminator know what to do.

    Plus it just looks cooler.

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