In the Terminator franchise, extermination camps are often mentioned. But from a machine-logic POV, wouldn't it make more sense to just kill all humans on sight, period? Or herd them into small areas and nuke them? (even today's military electronics are hardened against EMPs and Skynet wouldn't care about the environment.) IIRC, the reasoning behind ghettoization / concentration camps / extermination camps / gas "showers" is to misdirect or mislead people both inside and outside the country as to what was really going on. But Skynet doesn't have to worry about bad publicity, and can manufacture all the free labor it needs. Is there any in-universe explanation for keeping large groups prisoners?

  • Out of universe, experimentation on more effective killing techniques, interrogation, and slave labor have been performed in real life. For example, see Nazi Germany
    – atk
    Jul 12 '15 at 12:16
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    They could also do it to identify individuals on their most wanted list so they could verify when resistance leaders could be removed from the list. Jul 12 '15 at 19:27
  • We don't know what would make most logical sense to machines, as we aren't them.
    – Möoz
    Jun 19 '17 at 4:09
  • Squishy ingenuity. T-1000 was too dangerous to spar against. Jun 19 '20 at 0:55

The original script for The Terminator suggests that they were death camps. The implication is that the aim was to dispose of the humans with as much efficiency as possible:

Kyle: Most of us were rounded up, put in camps...for orderly disposal...Some of us were kept alive...to work. Loading bodies. The disposal units ran night and day. We were that close to going out forever...

In the novelisation for Terminator: Salvation, we learn that Skynet also attempted to extract information from some prisoners...

So they kept moving, continued to follow wordless directives, and speculated on the manner of their impending demise. Options ranged from the abrupt to the fanciful. A few fatalists even pointed out that their deaths were likely to be less painful than the destruction humans had inflicted on other humans down through history. Where people had all too often proven themselves sadistic, willing to inflict pain for pain’s sake, the machines were only efficient. Except in isolated instances where there was a specific desire to extract information from the otherwise reluctant prisoner, no machine would kill by torture. Not because they regarded the use of torture as immoral, but because they considered it an inefficient allocation of resources.

And it also appears that it had been conducting medical research on their human prisoners, presumably in the hopes of creating a more believable Terminator infiltration unit.

Everything except the blood that was draining off a metal table in the room’s center. Its smell contrasted sharply with that of the otherwise all-pervasive disinfectant. The latter was of course unnecessary for the protection of the machines. They made use of such chemicals because they did not want their specimens to become contaminated.

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    In TSCC they refer to the camp as "Century Work Camp". In the same breath they call it a slaughterhouse so there's no indication that it was anything other than a death camp.
    – Valorum
    Jul 12 '15 at 13:12
  • @Ernie - I'm happy to discuss this with you in chat.
    – Valorum
    Jul 24 '15 at 22:33
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    There was an episode of TSCC where Derek had a flashback to when he and other humans were being kept chained up in a house. There were T-700s there that kept dragging people down into the basement, presumably either to experiment on or interrogate.
    – Omegacron
    Jul 27 '15 at 15:33
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    Also in TSCC one Allison was shown to be interrogated by a Terminator clone of herself who was sent to deceive John Connor in the future.
    – Zommuter
    Oct 19 '16 at 18:11

Before reading this chain, I got the impression (and prefer the idea) that, above information, experimentation, or capture as being a more efficient method of killing enmass, prisoners were used more as human shields, the way Saddam Hussein used foreign contractors during the Gulf war, keeping prisoners close to strategic locations as a deterrent to US air strikes - you line the T800 production line with a thousand POW soldiers, it makes the command confirm much more of a moral issue that could even bring down a leadership if enough fighters found out and retaliated. That would be truly cold, mechanical logic in line with Skynet IMO.

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    Welcome to SciFi.SE! This is a sound assumption, but answers here are preferred to be backed up with evidence from within the story in question. If you could find evidence from a canon Terminator story to indicate that Skynet used human shields, that would greatly improve your answer.
    – F1Krazy
    Jan 27 '20 at 17:09

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