In the Terminator film series, Skynet autonomously precipitated World War III.
I follow the news closely and I see the very real possibility that World War III could be accidentally precipitated in the context of global tensions in the Middle East and Asia.
Today, war can be fought by simply knocking out your enemies' power grids. Imagine it. Every single nuclear plant in the affected area would begin nuclear meltdowns within a week given the very short duration of operations for backup generators. Chaos would reign and then people would panic utterly.
This article from The Washington Post revealing the uncertainty of rules of engagement for cyberwarfare also point to vulnerabilities for accidental cyberwars that could extinguish humanity entirely.
In cyberwarfare, rules of engagement still hard to define by Ellen Nakashima March 10, 2013 The Washington Post[Excerpted] When Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of the Pentagon’s Cyber Command, comes to the Hill on Tuesday, he will probably be asked to describe his plans for building a military force to defend the nation against cyberattacks.
President Obama last fall signed a classified directive that requires an “imminent” or ongoing threat of an attack that could result in death or damage to national security before a military cyber-action can be taken to thwart it.
....Administration officials have struggled in recent months to determine when Cyber Command, under new rules of engagement soon to be issued, should be empowered to neutralize an attack without presidential permission....
...Under the concept of anticipatory self-defense, “you don’t have to wait until they paralyze the server, because, once they do, the damage is done,” the official said. “But then the issue is, if you’re running around the world freezing servers of everybody you don’t like, it looks very offensive,” he added. “That looks preemptive.” [end]
Majia here: The article explains that the concept of anticipatory 'self-defense' is contested and may not be implemented.
However, this doctrine is based in the very same logic of Bush and Cheney's “1% Doctrine,” which legitimized pre-emptive action against foreign nations or peoples if there were even a 1% chance terrorists could attain “weapons of mass destruction.” (“America’s Longest,” 2006, p. 22). Hawks will definitely want anticipatory self-defense, just as they affirmed the 1% Doctrine.
Even if the US pursued a more prudential approach to cyber risk-management, the infrastructure built to enable a rapid response will be aggressive, not simply defensive.
That means that complex cyber-weapons are being developed and made-ready.
That sounds alot like Skynet.
Albeit, in Terminator, Skynet assumed consciousness and took control.
Yet the realization of AI is not necessary for accidental or ill-informed deployments.
Human error alone is capable of sabotaging most every technological system.
The escalating cyber-war could significantly forward the race toward human self-destruction.