James Cameron: Machines are a more valid threat now than when I made 'Terminator'

Nicole Sinclair
Markets Correspondent

James Cameron, director of the sci-fi thriller The Terminator acknowledges that a takeover by machines is a significant risk to the economy.

“I think it’s a much more valid threat than it was when Terminator was made in 1984,” he said. “Now we’re facing job displacement due to automation.”

Terminator features a cyborg assassin, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, which travels back in time to kill the mother of John Connor, the boy who grows up to lead the resistance against the machines. In Cameron’s portrayal of the future, the machines are initially developed by humans to advance society. However, this came with all sorts of unintended consequences.

Job displacement became a hot-button issue during the recent U.S. presidential race. President Donald Trump’s platform blamed unfavorable labor market conditions on globalization and immigration.

Cameron argued that it was actually automation that was displacing workers, which is the leading explanation among economists.

“Everyone’s always talking about ‘those damn foreigners taking our jobs,'” he said. “Guess what guys, it’s not foreigners, it’s robots.”

He also pointed to the rise of artificial intelligence, which he characterized as “a significant threat.”

The Terminator (Source: IMDB)

Pandora World of Avatar

The Terminator came up during a conversation Yahoo Finance had with Cameron, who was participating at the grand opening for Pandora World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

The park is based on James Cameron’s box office hit Avatar and its upcoming sequels. It welcomes guests to the land of Pandora years after the human conflict with the native Na’vi inhabitants, depicted in the first film, has ended.

This is “literally a dream come true,” Cameron told Yahoo Finance. “A lot of my imagery for the movie came from dreams I had as a teenager.”

Disney CEO Bob Iger came to Cameron saying Disney wanted to do a land based on his vision. So, Iger turned it over to them.

“The Imagineering team brought it to life,” Cameron said. “My animators [at Lightstorm Entertainment] worked very closely with the Imagineering team. But I didn’t try to guide it or micromanage it.”

Bob Iger and James Cameron attend the Pandora The World Of Avatar Dedication on May 23, 2017. (Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)

Cameron’s films often employ science fiction to illustrate the potential long-term consequences our actions can have on society, the economy, and the environment. Avatar is one of them.

Cameron said that the appreciation and conservation of the land is key. Disney’s Connect to Protect mobile adventure allows guests to participate in conservation missions with a digital scientist while exploring the world of Pandora.

“There’s a great sort of narrative that has meaning for us here on planet Earth in the early part of the 21st century,” Cameron said. “We’re pretty much steam rolling nature as fast as we can.”

3D Technology driving viewers to theaters

Avatar became known for its innovative 3D technology, and Cameron said appetite from viewers is still strong but that it’s not as unique anymore.

“3D has just become one of the ways that we watch movies. I said at that time [of making the first Avatar film] that my goal was to make 3D unremarkable… Meaning no one goes to see a movie because it’s in color, you expect it to be in color. Today, big tentpole movies are all in 3D… so we succeeded. The revolution is over.”

Cameron added he doesn’t think movie-going is dead, despite reports that fewer people are going out to the theater.

“People have been pronouncing the theater business dead since I started 40 years ago,” he said. “I think it’s a social thing… We need to go out. We need to have group bonding. We need to feel like we have group bonding.”

Cameron added that certain films will attract more viewers, noting that he and Iger discussed the need for more tentpole films.

“People make a decision,” he said. “There’s a certain type of film they want to watch in the theater…. An Avatar film is the type of film that people will make the effort to go to theaters… We need those types of films more and more,” he said.

Nicole Sinclair is markets correspondent at Yahoo Finance

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