April 19, 2011: Skynet becomes self-aware
If you have no idea what we're talking about, then you've likely not seen "The Terminator" -- the movie that not only catapulted Arnold Schwarzenegger from barbarian to super-star, but scared the bejeezus out of us with the idea that one day computers would get smarter than we are and eradicate the human race.
Sure, it sounds kind of hokey now -- 27 years after the movie first hit theaters. After all, our phones -- as James Cameron noted to TMZ -- are basically smarter than we are at this point. But back in 1984, when we were sizing up our Commodore 64s as big dummies, it seemed like a terrifying and totally possible -- if remote -- future.
Anyhow, per "Terminator" lore, the vast network of computers known as Skynet became self aware at 8:11 p.m. and slowly began a systematic campaign to rid the earth of humans. Somehow they weren't smart enough to do a better job than the average pest control guy does with roaches, so they resorted to creating "terminators" -- cyborgs that looked like 'roided-out bodybuilders, infiltrated our "nests" and then blasted our kind into bits.
This, of course, made it necessary for Michael Biehn to travel back in time to impregnate Linda Hamilton and (27 year old spoiler!) smoosh the terminator in some kind of metal-crushing press. Of course, he came back several times -- both on the big screen and on TV's "Sarah Connor Chronicles."
So how close are we to self-aware computers that decide man is the enemy? Well, according to the New Yorker's Adam Gopnik, computers are already as smart as we are. So, you know, not much of a threat.