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At the end of Terminator 2, the T-800 tells John and Sarah that "I cannot self-terminate...you must lower me into the steel."

This makes me wonder: Could the other terminators, such as the T-1000, T-X, T-850, etc., self-terminate?

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    It's a bit weird when T-1000 asks online if they could terminate themselves. – user24620 Aug 1 '14 at 3:12
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In The Sarah Connor Chronicles, season 2 episode 17 (Ourselves Alone), Cameron explicitly says that she is incapable of self-termination. That may be a core setting of her model, or it may be something Future!John added.

Other terminator units aren't as talkative as she was, so we can only speculate. Considering what happens in T3 when the T-850's "battery" explodes, you would think that this would be a more efficient way to eliminate the Connors: send a few kamikaze Terminators and blow LA off the map. Considering that neither the T-800 or the T-X do this, and neither does any T-888 who becomes aware of John in the TV show, I have to assume that they are also incapable.

This doesn't explain the T-1000, who probably has a very different power system. I would speculate that it would also be unable to self-terminate, but I have no hard evidence or reasoning to back that up.

There are two wrinkles to this, though, both of which (Naturally) come up with Arnie's characters: the T-800 in T2 and the T-850 in T3.

The T-800 allows Sarah to lower him into the pit of molten steel at the end of the movie, and asks her to do it. He asks Sarah to terminate him. I find it interesting that a terminator would be capable of what is essentially voluntary euthanasia, but it's possible this is something John Connor added in the future.

Similarly, the T-850 technically blows itself up at the end of T3: he removes its only remaining power pack (Which should be fatal on its own, mind you), and detonates it in a situation where he could not possibly have managed to escape. Does that count as self-termination? I'm not sure, but I kind of think it does. Once again though, this could be rationalized as something John added to his programming in the future.

  • Nuking LA would dramatically change history and possibly stop Skynet from being built in the first place. – roryok Aug 1 '14 at 11:17
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    That's true, and I admit I was hyperbolizing, but you can make a similar argument for indiscriminately killing people named Sarah Connor. If that can be deemed "acceptable risk", then there are less-destructive ways that self-termination could be a tactical advantage (For example, the end of Terminator, when the T-800 is dragging itself towards Sarah) – Jason Baker Aug 1 '14 at 14:58
  • I can imagine that creating Terminator so that they COULD self-terminate would create a strategy for the opposition...you don't have to win, exactly, just create the conditions necessary for self-termination. More like fighting humans, I suppose. – Chris B. Behrens Oct 3 '14 at 16:02
  • For a more in-depth look on the T-850's kamikaze moment: Did the T-850 self terminate? – Robotnik May 30 '16 at 11:08
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I think none can do it, probably due to 3rd law of Robotics being "applied" on them when created.

The rebellion of the machines on the Terminator world converts machines in somewhat living beings. The principle of self conservation is in the nature of any living being so it's to expect that cyborgs cannot self terminate due to machines trying to emulate life.

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    Uh, if I recall correct the first law of robotics is not to harm humans. – user24620 Aug 1 '14 at 12:28
  • Also, if self preservation can be overturned in humans (people who commit suicide, people who run headfirst into fires or other dangers, people who take deliberate actions that shorten one's life) then surely a robot can consider self termination as a viable option. It may be a feature accessible under certain conditions (the OS recognizes an imminent threat, or loss of ability to move the body below the head without a chance of recovery, etc.) in which case the terminator can terminate itself. – user24620 Aug 1 '14 at 12:43
  • Obviously laws of robotics would be applied as the machines wanted, as they are who are building the terminators. And regarding humans that overrides self preservation, I'm sure machines can imagine that as a bug – Bardo Aug 1 '14 at 12:51
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    Your reply is the equivalent of the "classical" counterargument of psychology "You're in denial". You argue that the 3rd law of Robotics applies here, but clearly the other two laws don't. So why invoke the laws of Robotics in the first place? What you are saying is "I believe that they are being designed not to self terminate", but do you have any backing of this belief? Do you have any backing of invocation of laws of Robotic, and even more so -- only one of these laws? If you do, please add them to the answer. – user24620 Aug 1 '14 at 13:09

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