The Connors manage to prevent the creation of Skynet. Policies are put in place to prevent any A.I. from having complete control of military resources. All personnel and terminators sent to the past from different timeline(s) are killed in their own fashion…all except one: Cameron Phillips. If victory is gained and Cameron survives, what becomes of her?
I Know Now Why You Cry
Perhaps the most likely scenario, though perhaps also the most unsatisfying, is that Cameron does what “Uncle Bob” (a fan shorthand for the terminator/protector played by Arnold Schwartzenegger in Terminator 2) did: arrange for her own destruction so that there is no chance of future technology falling into misguided hands. If Cameron is mostly guided by hard-coded programming instructions, this would make sense. If John is safe and it’s certain that she is the only thing endangering John, then Cameron’s directive to protect John would pretty much necessitate her facilitating her own demise. After all, it worked for “Uncle Bob” (for a few years, at least).
I’m not so sure that would be the path that Cameron would take. From evidence, creative team comments, and wild speculation, it’s pretty much a given that Cameron is the most sentient of the terminators. She is also the most accurate simulacrum we know. “Uncle Bob” said, “I know now why you cry; but it is something I can never do.”
Cameron can cry. When she suffered her “malfunction” (as I mentioned before, I think it more like an after-effect of a severe concussion), Cameron’s only reference to her self was the Allison Young personality. In that short time, Cameron displayed a fairly complete set of human reactions, if not emotions. This speaks to Cameron being more advanced than “Uncle Bob” could hope to be.
Our question is whether Cameron is still an artificially intelligent robot, or if she is, in fact, an intelligent sentient being? If the former, then odds are she would sacrifice herself just as “Uncle Bob” did. But if the latter… well, what if she chooses life?
There Is No Fate But What We Make For Ourselves
What if, with all other future threats removed, Cameron chooses to be all that she can be? After all, on the base of the Statue of Liberty it reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
It’s an interesting proposition. Cameron has these possibilities open for her, and yet her whole raison de vivre has been to keep John safe. Can she go it alone without John, or is her life forever tied to his?
If Cameron is tied to John, that could complicate both of their lives. We do not yet know if terminators show age, either naturally or affected, but assuming they don’t, then the guise of Cameron being John’s older sister won’t last for long. While some shippers would likely be happy if Cameron became John’s wife, I don’t think that works, either, for the same lack-of-aging reason.
So, if Cameron needs to be in proximity to John, but isn’t wife or sister, then what? If John has no desire to have a romantic relationship with a human, then it doesn’t much matter. Cameron can just be a friend. However, John has shown a decidedly healthy libido, and it’s unlikely that he’d be happy having to live a monk’s life. As a result, Cameron would have to be “related” in some way that would make her cohabitation or other close proximity (say, next door) reasonable. Seems the likeliest scenario would be for her to be a daughter-like figure. Say a half-sibling he didn’t know about from his father’s side. Or perhaps simply an adopted daughter. In any event, it would have to be established that John feels responsible for her, and as long as she wants to stick around any other person in John’s life will just have to accept it.
Also, and this is a known problem of her directive, what happens when John dies…not because of Skynet, but because he’s only human? If John’s death means that Cameron’s life no longer has any purpose, then she would seem to be in a bit of a pickle unless that possibility had been directed into her by John before his death.
If Cameron finds herself able to free herself (more or less) from hovering around John, then what? For her own protection she can’t do anything that would cause undo attention to be brought to her. She certainly can’t be in close contact with dogs.
We have two clues. First, from “Self Made Man” we see how Cameron could be an outstanding researcher. She is dogged and thorough. Plus, she doesn’t sleep. She could set up her own data warehouse. Certainly this would be one way for her to make a living while also staying out of harm’s way.
On the other hand, in “Complications” we see a Cameron who seems to want to experience the world first-hand. To me, it seems that being a world traveler is something that would fully engage Cameron. She would not only see things instead of experiencing them via media, but she might also put to work her distaste of mysteries to solve some of the historical puzzles of the world.
Still, I don’t see Cameron doing this alone. In “Self Made Man” we also saw a Cameron who did have some desire to connect with someone else. Though there is still some disagreement as to her motivation, the fact is that she connected with Eric in the library. She’s connected with the Chola as well as with Jody (before Jody tried to frame her). Though a cyborg, Cameron does have at least a small desire to make social connections. Whether or not it is “emotional” or as part of her infiltration directive, the fact is that it’s there.
When Bad Things Happen To Good Cyborgs
One critical aspect of Cameron being the sole time-traveling survivor is what is to become of her when who/what she is becomes a threat in and of itself? If what “Uncle Bob” said still applies, Cameron is unable to commit suicide (i.e. “self terminate”). Since at the core of her being is the mandate to not alter technological evolution, Cameron has to make it likely, should she be discovered to be an advanced cyborg, or when she reaches the end of her warranty, that her “death” also includes complete destruction beyond recovery or repair.
Perhaps, for her own protection, and for humanity’s, she could ask John to create a self-destruct for her chip—one that can be overridden should it be necessary to remove the chip for a legitimate purpose. Of course the chip is only one problem to deal with, but it’s the most potentially devastating. I don’t see how a chip-less endo-skeleton would be as much of a future-altering cusp. Ideally, she’d have set up very specific cremation instructions that involve not natural gas, but thermite.
When Bad Cyborgs Happen To Good Things
There is another scenario that needs to be considered: what if Cameron, like Skynet before, decides that the world would be better off without humans on it? How much mischief could one cyborg cause?
It’s possible that she could just go to some A.I. company that has strong ties to the military industrial complex and tell them to remove her chip and study it—in effect re-establishing the scenario that created Skynet in the first place. Seems sort of iffy. Cameron tends to like plans that have a little bit more control as to the outcome.
She might go into research mode and become a cracker-jack programmer, electronics engineer, and analyst. Using those skills, she could take a cue from “Vick’s Chip” and construct an interface so that she could infiltrate/infect global computer networks. Cameron would then become not dissimilar to Skynet in Terminator 3.
Or, perhaps it would be easier to simply study biochemistry and microbiology to come up with a microbe that would become a global pandemic. It would probably be easier and would attract less attention. It would also leave the resources in place for Cameron to do what she thought was best in terms of either finding a successor to humans or to figure out how to propagate herself.
You Won, But The Game Is Not Over
One of humanity’s shortcomings, one apparently shared by the more cybernetically-inclined among us, is an amazing ability to focus on the journey and the destination, but not make any plans at all for what might come next. We’ve seen it repeatedly throughout history: wars get fought, but what happens after the war is decided and the spoils distributed is never considered.
Cameron’s future is just one such consequence that the Connors, or at least John, should give at least a little thought to. Cameron should bring it up as well: “If we win, if my job to protect you is completed, what happens to me?”
It would, of course, be in John’s best interest to tell Cameron that she’d be free to do what she wants. But he’d better be convincing, for we’ve seen that Cameron is very skilled at knowing when someone is not being truthful. With hope, Cameron might fight all that much harder, but if she thinks she might be betrayed in the end…well, isn’t that what started this whole paranoid self-aware computer problem in the first place?