1978: Congressional Testimony

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Congressional Testimony
James Cameron's Terminator 3 was the REALLY prophetic one. That's why Skynet sent a robot back to the 1990s to prevent him from ever making it, ultimately handing the franchise over to other directors.
Title text: James Cameron's Terminator 3 was the REALLY prophetic one. That's why Skynet sent a robot back to the 1990s to prevent him from ever making it, ultimately handing the franchise over to other directors.


Megan and Cueball are discussing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's upcoming testimony before Congress. The prepared testimony was released on the day this comic was released--see Congress releases Mark Zuckerberg's prepared testimony ahead of Wednesday's hearing. Facebook is facing questions on the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal involving the collection of personal information of up to 87 million Facebook users by the political targeting firm Cambridge Analytica.

Megan then starts talking about re-watching The Terminator. The plot of the film concerns a killer robot, sent back from a post-apocalyptic future on an assassination mission. The premise of the film is that a future computer system, known as Skynet, was built to control America's nuclear weapons systems. This computer system became self aware and attempted to kill off humanity. The eponymous Terminator was sent back in time to prevent the birth of a human resistance leader, by killing his mother before he was born. In the movie, the Terminator looked up the mother's name (Sarah Connor) in the phone book of a phone booth to find her address.

This film was one of the defining depictions of malicious and dangerous artificial intelligence in American popular culture. The premise of the original film was that the system achieved self-awareness and launched its initial attacks in the 1990's (though later entries in the franchise altered this timeline). Going by the first film, we would expect AI to already threaten humanity. Instead, the aforementioned congressional hearings suggest that the technological threats come instead from social media companies, with their mass collection of private information.

Megan comments on the irony of real life versus fictional expectations. While we do currently make computer-controlled weaponry and humanoid robots, neither appears to present a real danger to the average person (at least, not yet). It likely seemed logical that the greatest danger would be a future weapons system, which could be said to have "evolved" from weapons of the past. By the same token, telephone directories could be seen as the forerunner of modern social media, such as Facebook, (in that they constituted a collection of personal information, used to allow people to contact and communicate with one another). While the film featured a phone book as a plot point (and shows it being used maliciously), the existence of the directory itself wasn't treated as a threat. Megan and Cueball are struck by the fact that the technological descendants of phone directories appear to be more dangerous than the weapons and robotic technologies we've developed

The title text makes the claim that James Cameron, who directed the first two films, was planning to make a third movie in the 1990s, which would have been the really prophetic one (i.e. the one that would have mirrored our present day most closely). Therefore, Skynet, having seen the result of this movie, wished to prevent the movie from ever being made, sending yet another robot back in time to prevent Cameron from directing it. Instead, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was released in 2003 and directed by Jonathan Mostow. Although Cameron is credited for writing it, he only created the characters. Since then three other movies have been made, all with different directors, and all critically panned compared to the Cameron films.


[Megan and Cueball sitting against a leafless tree; they are on opposite sides.]
Megan: Mark Zuckerberg is testifying before Congress this week.
Cueball: Should be interesting.
[Beat panel.]
Megan: I recently re-watched Terminator.
Cueball: Yeah?
Megan: It's weird that the thing that evolved into Skynet wasn't our nuclear launch systems or our humanoid robots.
Megan: It was the phone book where the Terminator looked up Sarah Connor's address.
Cueball: Funny how things turn out.

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We should change the logs and stuff so it looks like this page was created before the comic came out (say, on 2018-04-07) Blacksilver (talk) 15:54, 9 April 2018 (UTC)

I was about to change the bot to Mark Zuckerberg's terminator double, but somebody was faster. Ah well. 15:24, 9 April 2018 (UTC)

Damn that's actually better than what I put. Cgrimes85 (talk) 15:25, 9 April 2018 (UTC)

Not sure it has anything to do with the comic, but I think the blob near the top of the tree is a squirrel's nest. You can see the squirrel climbing down the trunk in the 2nd panel, there's something on the left branch in the 3rd panel (squirrel or bird?), and I think the squirrel is climbing back into the nest in the final panel (a tail hanging down from the nest?). Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 16:32, 9 April 2018 (UTC)

That had me curious, too. I think you're right about what you described, and it seems to me it's just a bit of artistic flair. 14:07, 10 April 2018 (UTC)

I'm still confused about "the phone book becomes skynet". Any thoughts? Cgrimes85 (talk) 17:54, 9 April 2018 (UTC)

The way I interpreted it, megan is referring to the Facebook glitch that caused it to "turn against its creators", not the actual skynet in the film. She is pointing out that it is ironic that the code running our nuclear launch facilities and robots isn't what is causing the most difficulties, but the code for helping people communicate. I am also reminded of comic 1539: Planning, specifically its title text. 18:21, 9 April 2018 (UTC)
Arnold finds Sarah through the phonebook, antics ensue, resulting in parts of Arnold being left behind, which (according to Terminator 2) led to and fed the research and development that became Skynet. If no phonebooks existed - like today - Arnold wouldn't have been able to find Sarah, and wouldn't have left parts which could be found, etc. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:43, 10 April 2018 (UTC)
I disagree with this interpretation, which now appears in the explanation as well. Megan is clearly stating that SkyNet did not originate from any weapon or robotic system but instead from the system that provided info sharing to all of the parts of the government. It was only later that it was elevated to the functionality that eventually caused the system to take control of those systems away from the humans and eliminate them. This is a commentary on how this is the same function currently being served by Facebook. It doesn't need to be any more complicated than that! Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 22:43, 9 April 2018 (UTC)

I came here hoping someone who knows the movies would explain this to me, but I suspect the "phonebook" = Assbook. Yngvadottir (talk) 18:17, 9 April 2018 (UTC)

In the first Terminator, like it says in the explanation, the Terminator (played by Arnold) travels back in time to hunt down Sarah Conner. He finds a phonebook in which he finds 3 Sarah Conners, killing the two others before finally finding the one he was looking for. In the end he gets mostly destroyed. In Terminator 2, a reprogrammed-into-a-good-guy Arnold travels back in time (landing something like 16 years later), and reports that the previous Terminator's arm and CPU chip were found by a company who's been reverse engineering it since, and this research will lead them to creating Skynet (the artificial intelligence who's the primary adversary in the future that's trying to wipe out mankind and created the Terminators to do so). So if the first Arnie hadn't found a phonebook, he wouldn't have been destroyed in a way that would lead to creating Skynet. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:43, 10 April 2018 (UTC)

Right now there are 3 (well, 4) listed thoughts on what Randall is trying to say:

It is unclear if Randall is:

  • 1. Commenting on his lack of interest in the news regarding yet another internet tool being used for purposes for which it was not intended by comparing it to the much more interesting movie "Terminator".
  • 2. Pointing out that using programs in ways for which they are not originally designed is actually quite common in both reality and fiction.
  • 3. Pointing out that Facebook stores names and phone numbers and could thus be considered to have a phone book database...
  • 4. All of the above

My initial interpretation, and what I still find most likely, is None of the above. MY interpretation is that Randall (and for him Megan) is likening this Facebook thing to the phonebook, that it's how a Terminator will now find Sarah Conner and start the cycle portrayed in the movies. Seeing as Randall likes to be fatalistic and paranoid. :) Before this, there haven't been phonebooks any more, so we've accidentally protected ourselves from the events of Terminator, but now with the information leak, if a Terminator travelled back to now, he'd once again be able to get contact information. In fact, wasn't it only a few comics ago where Randall put a Terminator timeline, where he said most people are afraid of the moment AI and killer robots turn on us, while the time HE worries about is the time before that, but after computers are able to MAKE killer robots? NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:43, 10 April 2018 (UTC)

I agree with you, but with the main point of the comic being that Facebook or a system like it could evolve into a Skynet-like intelligence in the future. I think that's the real concern for him! Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 13:14, 10 April 2018 (UTC)
Yes. A phone book is a tool to look up people and make connections. With technological advances, the phone book turns into Facebook. And Facebook itself is the evil Skynet that has turned around to harm humans. In reality it is the business interests of Facebook's management that is selling data of the users. So don't blame the computers. But the analogy makes a good comic. Make no mistake about it. The users of Facebook are not its customers, the users are the product to be sold to the advertisers and others who pay the bills. Rtanenbaum (talk) 14:11, 10 April 2018 (UTC)
Which is of course not limited to Facebook. There is saying that if you are not paying for something, you are not customer, you are product ... as if paying would protect you from that. -- Hkmaly (talk) 20:12, 10 April 2018 (UTC)

OK, I've updated the explanation to reflect our general consensus and removed the incomplete tag! This one's done, I think Berets (talk) 03:19, 26 May 2018 (UTC)

I love that the exclamation point in technologica! hasn't been noticed, and it has been 5 years. (talk) 14:19, 8 December 2023 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
The word "technological" doesn't even appear outside this comments page, and the only version with a "!" is yours. (And you haven't corrected it, if it was there.) And why are we indented, already? 17:24, 8 December 2023 (UTC)